Choosing to sleep under a flashing light akin to Blackpool illuminations may not be everyone’s first holiday choice, but the chance to stay in a lighthouse cottage with uninterrupted sea views is too much to resist.
Perched on cliffs along the 109-mile Cleveland Way, in North Yorkshire, the old keeper’s cottage adjoining Vanguard Lighthouse is a real getaway with unrestricted sea views, no wifi and only kittiwakes in the undercliffs for company.
It’s a mile-and-a-half walk along the clifftop to the traditional fishing port of Whitby, where the gothic ruins of Whitby Abbey dominate the skyline. This haunting site makes my mind run riot – imagining Celtic and Roman clerics meeting in the 7th century Benedictine monastery where they decided, perhaps over lunch, to use the Roman method of calculating the date of Easter that’s still in use today.
Walking among the beautiful stone pillars, I learn the abbey is also home to the spiritual verse of Caedmon, the first named English poet. It has also been the inspiration for writers including Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, in 1897, and Lewis Carroll who holidayed in Whitby, and his first published poem was in The Whitby Gazette in 1854.
Returning to the 21st century, after spending hours in the romantic ruins, I cross the road and gather my thoughts at Whitby Brewery, boasting probably one of the greatest pub views in England. Sitting outside in the sunshine, tourists and locals enjoy a decent pint and on the insistence of the regulars I walk down 199 steps into the port to find The Magpie Café for fish and chips.
I resist breaking into my freshly cooked takeaway and plan dinner in the garden of my sea view cottage, booked through Yorkshire Hideways.
It may have been the sea air, but after breaking open the wine in my complimentary hamper to wash down the best cod I have tasted in years, I need my bed. Rather than being kept awake by the lighthouse beam, I find the gentle pulse of light, framing the fishing boats on the shimmering midnight sea, lulls me into a deep slumber.
The next day, I head south from the lighthouse on a five-mile coastal walk to Robin Hood’s Bay. “Grand day” proclaim local walkers while serious hikers share their plans to complete this Jurassic coast of the north in various segments. Along the way I gather stories of 18th century smuggling at Robin Hood’s Bay and the best places for lunch.
On arrival, I find the Victoria Hotel’s garden, overlooking a sweeping bay, and once fed and watered I wander along the village’s narrow streets and find it easy to imagine woman carrying baskets of fish and smuggled silk around their waist. A local tells me legend has it that they also carried pig bladders full of gin under their petticoats!
I walk back to the lighthouse and feel proud of my 10-mile achievement. I am a lightweight on the Cleveland Way but although it is challenging in places, with some fairly steep rocky steps here and there, it can be enjoyed at a slow pace and there are plenty of places to take a breather along the clifftop paths. The magnificent sea views are a soothing distraction and in spring, bright yellow gorse and wildflowers edge the paths while in late summer heather provides a warm blanket of pinks and purples.
The Cleveland Way actually starts at Helmsley, crossing the North York Moors National Park to the coast at Saltburn-by-the-Sea before the second half follows the North Yorkshire coast to Filey, taking in the highest cliffs in eastern England at Boulby.
I can’t help feeling smug staying in the lighthouse where hikers pass by. For the whole holiday I am metres from the sea; I eat breakfast and supper in the garden and watch the kittiwakes soar on the updrafts above the waves.
Apart from the wifi, where you need to walk 50 metres uphill to get a decent signal, Vanguard Lighthouse is very much 21st century; automated and controlled from the Trinity House Central Planning Unit at Harwich, in Essex. For me, it felt like being a million miles from anywhere.
The Grade II listed cottage is a good size for a family or friends, accommodating up to five guests and two well-behaved dogs, with three bedrooms – a double, twin and generous single plus a bathroom and shower room. Yorkshire Hideaways think of everything in the spotless, well-equipped property and there is a landline to contact a housekeeper if needed. The lounge, main bedroom and family size kitchen all overlook the sea and when the sun shines, frankly, there’s nowhere I’d rather be.
Vanguard Lighthouse can be booked through Yorkshire Hideaways.
Three nights from £663.
Visit website for more details.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Ramblers Walking Holidays for exploring Yorkshire.