Beauty and the beach

Beauty and the beach

Kettleness

Sugar Sands, Alnwick

Football Hole, Low Newton

Ross Back Sands, Elwick

Bamburgh Castle Sands

Hidden Beaches by Daniel Start (Wild Things Publishing, £16.99)

First published in Features
Last updated

Travel writer DANIEL START introduces excepts from his book Hidden Beaches with a fine Yorkshire beach and some examples from further north.

THE hidden locations of 400 hard-to-find beaches have been revealed in a new book by travel writer Daniel Start, who has spent ten years researching stretches of unspoilt sand along Britain’s rugged coastline.

Hidden Beaches lifts the lid on beautiful bays and tranquil hideaways in every corner of the county, some just off the tourist trails while others can only be accessed by water.

"Until I started researching this book, I hadn’t really realised just how beautiful Britain is. Now I think it is home to the most beautiful beaches in the world," says Daniel. "Previously, I had thought about moving abroad and finding my own little piece of paradise, but putting this book together has made me realise paradise is here at home. The only problem is that the water can be a little chilly."

The following are some of Daniel’s recommendations in Yorkshire and the North East. Hidden Beaches includes stunning photographs to whet your appetite and directions on how to seek out these sandy gems.


North Yorkshire: Runswick and Skinningrove

TODAY Whitby’s sands are enjoyed by thousands of tourists, but leave the crowds behind as you head out to the wide, wild sweep of Runswick Bay.

The village of the same name has a delightful and popular family beach with a fine cafe, but fewer people visit Kettleness at the southern end of the bay, reached by walking down winding narrow lanes past a remote chapel and farm.

Here, the slippery mudstone and silvery-blue shale cliffs shimmer in the evening lights, feathers of rock extend in an arc out to sea, a steep path leads down to the sands and a network of rough trails fans out across a lunar plateau bearing the scars of old alum mine workings.

From Kettleness you can walk north towards Runswick Bay and pass the Hob Holes. Said to be inhabited by hobgoblins, these are the remnants of tunnels from ancient mine workings for jet, a semi-precious stone that became popular when Queen Victoria wore it in mourning. More mine holes can be found beneath the high cliffs of Boulby via the sand and reef beach at Hummersea, beyond Staithes.

The finest swimming, however, is at Skinningrove, another struggling mining community. Apparently, the village sits on top of more than 200 miles of old iron mines, many of them sites of catastrophic mining accidents. You can still explore some tunnels with the help of a guide, but beware, they are considered the most haunted mines in Britain.

More heartening is the superb and little-known bay at the bottom of the village – Cattersty Sands – with clear water and an old jetty built by the Skinningrove Iron Company in 1886 for loading ore on to steamers bound for Middlesbrough.

Long since abandoned, the jetty is in good repair and adventurous swimmers can dive off it and swim in the deep water. There are plans to reopen the jetty as a visitor attraction, but funds have not yet been found.


South Northumberland

Our Northumberland cycle expedition picked up again beyond Seahouses at a tiny pub on the edge of empty Embleton Bay. The salt spray blowing in on a light midsummer breeze added the perfect seasoning to our lunch of crab sandwiches and ale.

The Ship Inn, low-beamed and cosy, sits in a whitewashed square of 18th-century fishermen’s cottages at Low Newton. Anchors and seafaring memorabilia adorn the houses and a little green runs straight down to the fine sands.

The offshore rocky reef had given us an opportunity for some swimming, despite the big rollers. In calmer seas this bay is also very good for snorkelling. After our excellent lunch we walked up to Newton Point and swam again in the wonderful secret cove, Football Hole. No one could explain the origin of the name, but we were so taken with it we had an impromptu kick-about with some jetsam anyway.

Afterwards we lay in the meadows for a while, surrounded by pink sea thrift and giant daisies, watching black-backed gulls soar and dive in the wind and listening to the song of willow warblers.

From this point Beadnell Bay lies to the north and Embleton Bay to the south; both are owned and protected by the National Trust. We cycled to Embleton and explored the fantastic 14th-century Dunstanburgh Castle – the largest ruin in Northumberland – a squat, impressive hulk with a huge gatehouse perched on an outcrop above the beach. Wide grass downs link Dunstanburgh to Craster. We explored the rocks on the way, finding a large plunge pool, its water deep and purple-tinted. This is a good place for jumping.

There are flat rocks for sunbathing and you can collect big, tasty mussels from the low-tide rocks. Nearby Craster is said to produce the best kippers and oak-smoked salmon in the north, and connoisseurs recommend the seafood at the Jolly Fisherman. As evening fell, we pushed on and camped a few miles south under the trees at remote Sugar Sands.

We spent our last afternoon and evening exploring Druridge Bay, probably the loneliest of Northumberland’s wild beaches and a stopping-off point for thousands of migrating birds.


North Northumberland

The stunning beach below Bamburgh stretches for three miles. It’s a great place to have fun in the breakers but there is also a string of more sedate natural swimming pools to the north among Harkess Rocks.

A local map displayed on the cliff helps identify some of them: Half Moon is crescent-shaped and warms up quickly on a sunny day; Gun Pool and Spark Plug Pool are narrow channels into which the swell charges; Egg Pool – large, oval and deep depending on how much sand has been washed into it – was the best place to learn to swim, according to older residents.

Look north to Holy Island Castle and south to Bamburgh Castle and marvel at the seemingly endless sand and dunes between. Come here to wallow in the breaking rollers and watch the storm clouds pass by.

Hidden Beaches by Daniel Start (Wild Things Publishing, £16.99); wildthingspublishing.com

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