The Weekends 27-52

From Chapter 27, we travel along the south coast before making our way up the dramatic east coast ending the fantastic journey on the majestic golden sands of Tain and Dornoch.

 

Fish and Ships

  • Artists’ colony
  • Victorian internet
  • High drama

This fascinating weekend combines the quaint former fishing villages of the Cornish Riviera with the harsh reality of fishing for a living along Cornwall’s south coast.

From Newlyn it’s a short bus ride to quaint Mousehole, a tourist attraction that rhymes with ‘cows’ll’.

Getting to the Point

  • Coves
  • Cliffs
  • Communications

For cliff top walks with ever-changing views, for fishing coves and sandy beaches, a long weekend around Lizard Point, the most southerly tip of mainland Britain, is a perfect change of scene.

Much of this wild and spectacular coast is owned, and made accessible, by The National Trust. From Gunwalloe in the west to Lankidden in the east, from lifeboat stations to wireless stations, there’s fascinating variety all the way.

Gardeners’ Delight

  • Heaven on earth
  • Feng shui design
  • D-Day embarkation

A lush weekend lies in store with a visit to Glendurgan and Trebah, two of Cornwall’s greatest gardens, on the Helford River in Cornwall.

Secluded valleys, tidal creeks, stone quays and mudflats are all part of the romantic setting which inspired Daphne Du Maurier’s scandalous novel ‘Frenchman’s Creek’. Ancient oak woods offer tantalising glimpses of secret havens where a sophisticated French pirate might just anchor his sailing ship and creep ashore to seduce an English lady yearning for adventure.

Heads and Tails

  • Simple pleasures
  • Fishing villages
  • Operation tiger

South Hams in deepest Devon is a chocolate box world of thatched pastel cottages in steep wooded valleys, or combes. The rolling landscape invites you to slow down to explore country lanes, secret sandy beaches and exposed promontories with curious names like Gammon Head and Start Point, taken from the old English steort meaning tail.

Cliffhanger

  • Jurassic shores
  • Old rope
  • Fabulous food

From West Bay to the Isle of Portland in Dorset, Chesil beach extends 28 kilometres along a stretch of the Jurassic Coast, England’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site. The cliffs are up to 185 million years old and a treasure trove of weird stuff; one of the richest sources of Jurassic reptiles, fish and insects in the world.

Set in Stone

  • White Rock
  • Wave watching
  • Lighthouses

For extraordinary sculptures, a stony faced castle, sunsets, seafood and spectacular views of one of the world’s best storm beaches, make a trip to intriguing Portland in Dorset.

Situated at the very end of Chesil beach, scarred Portland has famously supplied the world with smooth, white durable limestone from up to eighty quarries on the island.

Island of Adventure

  • The Famous Five
  • A Victorian playground
  • An unsolved mystery

The Isle of Purbeck is forever associated with Enid Blyton. Throughout the 1950s, the prolific children’s author used the idyllic backdrop of Dorset coast and countryside in many of her books.

Corfe Castle inspired Kirrin Castle, Stoborough heath the ‘Mystery Moor’ and Brownsea Island is both ‘Whispering’ and ‘Keep Away Island’. Fans will be delighted to discover that much is unchanged and a visit to Purbeck is super fun, whatever your age.

In Retreat

  • Seven Sisters
  • skinny dipping
  • Cinque port

The relentless gnawing of the sea has created one of Britain’s most iconic landmarks; clean white chalk cliffs that are the full stop of mainland England. They are part of our national identity and taking time out to explore them is richly rewarding.

Teetering on the English Channel, Birling Gap, on top of the Seven Sisters cliffs, makes a good place to start. The small settlement is shrinking, due to coastal erosion. Between 1873 and 1997, eighty-nine metres of land fell into the sea. Much of the old coastguard station is gone and what remains is decidedly precarious.

Between the Birling Gap hotel and the coastguard station buildings there is a wooden stairway from the clifftop to the shore. To the west lies a patchy sandy beach where brave naturists skinny dip in the chilly English Channel.

The Beach Boys

  • Extraordinary fishermen
  • Hastings’ oldest quarter
  • Seaside traditions

In the early morning on Hastings shore you can witness a spectacle that’s part of our island heritage and likely to leave you in awe of the men who risk their lives at sea to put food on our tables. Just beneath the UK’s steepest funicular railway at East Hill is a shingle beach known as the stade. This place has been at the heart of the defining occupation of Hastings for generation upon generation - fishing.

Go Native

  • Oysters
  • Seduction
  • Shopping!

For a weekend of passion by the sea, take a tip from eighteenth century lover Casanova who devoured fifty shucked oysters a day and recorded 122 conquests in his diary. A weekend in Whitstable might be one you’ll never forget.

Whitstable’s native oysters are in their prime from September to the end of April and while you could lock yourself away with the molluscs for the whole weekend it would be a shame since there’s plenty to do in the sassy seaside town.

Yow Boys and Whoopers

  • Barges
  • Oysters
  • Island life

Spend a weekend exploring secret southeast Essex. Discover historic sailing barges at Hythe Quay on the river Blackwater in Maldon and tranquil muddy creeks around Mersea Island where there’s a real sense of getting away from it all.

The largest fleet of Thames sailing barges on the east coast is moored at lovely Hythe Quay. The handsome flat-bottomed barges float in as little as one metre of water, making them perfect for muddy creeks.

Life and Sole

  • Vintage chic
  • Wooden huts
  • Rowing boats

For a fashionably retro weekend, take yourself to Suffolk where Southwold’s wittily named, prettily painted beach huts epitomise the fun of classic English seaside holidays. With little regard for the weather, picnics are taken on a shingle beach in the shelter of a billowing windbreak and dips in the sea are obligatory, even if every one comes out numb.

Wild Goose Chase

  • Twitchers
  • Marshes
  • Seals

Shingle ridges, flinty villages, small ports, and big blue skies are just a few reasons to visit the open windswept landscape of North Norfolk. There’s easy walking on the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path and when you’re weary, you can ride the coastal hopper bus to supper.

In late autumn and winter, wave upon wave of wild geese abandon breeding grounds and the Norfolk sky fills with long distance travellers in search of rich coastal habitats. It’s thrilling to watch swarms of birds overhead, filling the air with beating wings and raucous honking as they endlessly shuffle position in their V shape squadrons.

Take Flight

  • Seabird extravaganza
  • England’s aviatrix
  • Exclusion zone

On the East Yorkshire coast there’s a pointy nose of land poking into the North Sea between Filey and Bridlington. The spectacular chalk cliffs of Flamborough Head peninsula play host to England’s largest sea bird colony. There are lighthouses, old and new and at magnificent Sewerby Hall, an intriguing exhibition celebrates highflying Amy Johnson, the first woman to fly alone from England to Australia in 1930.

The Coast Is Clear

  • Baytown
  • The Boggle
  • Breathtaking views

There’s no sign of the Prince of Thieves at Robin Hoods Bay in North Yorkshire, though the lovely fishing village takes his name.

This was the realm of eighteenth and nineteenth century smugglers whose highway was the sea. In Baytown, as it is known, contraband treasure passed from ship to shore through a series of village tunnels without it ever seeing daylight. Most of the community was involved, including magistrates and clergy.

Downtime

  • Fishing Villages
  • Fossils
  • Smoke Signals

Jumbled cottages tumbling to the sea, cobbled streets snaking up and down hill and winter waves pounding on sandy beaches make North Yorkshire’s fishing villages completely irresistible.

One of the loveliest views over Staithes is from the towering cliffs at Cowbar Nab. Sea breezes transport the waft of fireplace smoke from the huddle of cottages below. From the windswept cliff top, the village seems sheltered and inviting.

And They’re Off!

  • Seaside races
  • Teesside Squaddies
  • Victorian Vision

For a grand day out, take a trip to the north east coast of England where Redcar’s seaside racecourse extends a warm welcome to everyone from canny tipsters to racing rookies and young families.

Hugged by terraced houses, a stone’s throw from the shore, the red painted racetrack is at the heart of the resort on the north east coast of England. The intimacy creates a friendly atmosphere and salty gusts and seagulls don’t seem to bother the punters or the horses.

North and South

  • It’s
  • all
  • here

The sheer variety along this seven-mile stretch of the east coast makes for a fascinating weekend. From St Mary’s lighthouse in the north to Souter lighthouse in the south, Tyneside may take you by surprise.

Start at windswept St Mary’s Island and Curry Point Local Nature Reserve, a wilderness just beyond suburbia. Take binoculars; this is an excellent place to watch bird migration in spring and autumn and an important winter roosting site for wading birds.

Amazing Grace

  • Lifeboats
  • Castles
  • Kippers

The pounding North Sea has shaped great swathes of beach along the Northumberland shore. From Bamburgh Castle to Craster it is one magnificent stretch of sand after another. Whatever the season, a weekend exploring this spectacular coast is deeply invigorating

Lifeboat heroine, Grace Horsley Darling, was born in Bamburgh village in 1815. Look out for the plaque on Horsley Cottage, opposite St Aidan’s church graveyard where she is buried. Her effigy lies in view of the sea, with the oar of a coble, an open rowing boat, in her hand, a simple reminder of an extraordinary act of heroism.

Sea Change

  • World-class diving
  • Surfing
  • Black Friday

A weekend around the magnificent Berwickshire coast offers crystal clear waters, sandy beaches and surfing, awe inspiring coastal scenery and the intense drama of fishermen’s lives in shoreline villages.

St Abbs Head National Nature Reserve is a wild place to be buffeted by biting winds straight off the North Sea. Sheer cliffs, ninety metres high, are often swathed in fog but on a clear day, they make a superb, sea blasted vantage point. Offshore stacks and rocks throng with birds including razorbills, kittiwakes, guillemots, fulmars and shags. White gannets plummet from sky to sea, spearing fish like darts and flocks of gulls mob fishing boats sailing to Eyemouth harbour. Tucked into the cliff, a squat lighthouse alerts shipping to treacherous waters below.

Birdland

  • Famous gannets
  • Sandy beaches
  • Fine wines

Bass Rock marks the spot where the Firth of Forth meets the North Sea. Rising steeply out of the water, the volcanic island has been a prison, retreat and garrison. Now it is the largest single rock gannetry in the world.

Shags and gulls nest on the Bass too but it’s the dense mob of one hundred thousand white gannets that give the island its distinctive snow-capped appearance through spring and summer.

The Magic Kingdom

  • Village hopscotch
  • Fine dining
  • Award winning fish & chips

In the East Neuk, or nook, of the Kingdom of Fife there’s a string of distinctive fishing villages described by King James II of Scotland as ‘A fringe of gold on a beggar’s mantle.’

The charm is still spellbinding; spend the weekend discovering delightful harbours, ancient golf courses and the good food of East Neuk.

In Medieval times, the Royal Burgh of Crail hosted one of the largest markets in Europe. Trading ships sailed to the Low Countries with cargoes of salted fish, linen and coal. They returned with European ideas that influenced Scottish architecture.

Making a splash

  • Unique Swimming Pool
  • Decadent Art Deco
  • Monumental Fortress

Abandon the car and spend a weekend in the lovely east coast resort of Stonehaven, on the London to Aberdeen railway line. One of the town’s main attractions is a summer swim in the one and only heated open air, salt water, Olympic sized, art deco pool in Great Britain.

If you love to swim, take yourself to Stonehaven; if you don’t love to swim, take someone who does, they will be eternally grateful.

Fishy Business

  • Traditional boats
  • Wild Salmon
  • Cullen Skink

There’s a rich vein of marble and maritime history in the handsome town of Portsoy on the Aberdeenshire coast between Cullen and Banff. Combining this with dolphins, cliff top castle ruins, ice cream and famous fish soup makes a great weekend on the east coast.

On the Black Isle

  • Famous Scotsmen
  • Pictish stones
  • Dolphin-watch

Not quite an island but certainly a place apart. Resident dolphins, mysterious Pictish stones and handsome eighteenth century architecture make the Black Isle on the east coast of the Scottish Highlands a perfect weekend visit.

Royal and Ancient

  • Majestic pilgrims
  • Championship golf
  • Famous whisky

For stunning highland scenery, world-class golf links, award winning beaches and Scotland’s most popular single malt whisky, take a trip to the historic Royal Burghs of Tain and Dornoch.

At least once a year, between 1493 and 1513, James IV of Scotland made pilgrimages to Tain for political and spiritual reasons. His visits to the shrine of Saint Duthac presented an opportunity to exert his influence in the remote and unsettled highlands.

Accompanied by astrologers, minstrels and falconers, the King set out to seek the saint’s favour and enjoyed that of his mistress, Janet Kennedy, along the way.