Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Yorkshire coast is a place that I fully expected to grab my imagination.
Once an important docking point for smuggling ships, it is said that at the height of the smuggling days, cargo could pass from the bottom of the village to the top without ever seeing the light of day. The village is built on the sides of a steep cliff, and is full of meandering alleyways and narrow entrances. It is very easy to picture the complex web of secret passageways running under the surface of this picture perfect village. It is like the setting from a Daphne du Maurier or Famous Five novel, so it should be right up my street. I fully expected to be bursting with ideas and intrigues after our visit.
But rather than picturing adventure around every corner, I found instead that it really reminded me of Montmartre in Paris. Like Montmartre, Robin’s Hood Bay has all the facade of charm – there is no denying it is a beautiful village, and the views from the top of the cliff are stunning.
But like Montmartre, it seemed to be very geared up for tourists, like it is being deliberately preserved a certain way to try to retain rustic charm as opposed to be a genuinely untouched and undeveloped gem. So for me, a little bit of the charm and excitement was lost. Just like Montmartre, the streets were busy, but busy with visitors as opposed to local people. I’m not anti-tourist at all, in fact I am the total opposite – I tend to want to visit the big tourist draws when I travel. But there does need to be a balance, and in a place as small as Robin Hood’s Bay, the number of visitors in proportion to the size of the village is a bit overwhelming.
That being said, I can totally understand why so many people descend on Robin Hood’s Bay. For such a small village, Robin Hood’s Bay does have a lot going for it. Setting aside the views (which would be reason enough to visit alone), Robin Hood’s Bay is also the end (or start) of the coast to coast walk.
It is also North Yorkshire’s very own Jurassic Coast, and we spend our afternoon on the beach fossil hunting.
I think we both secretly believed that we would be able to find a dinosaur fossil on the beach, and so we stopped to examine every rock, convincing ourselves that every scratch and squiggle on the rock must be a fossil. We smashed rocks against rocks to try to crack them and reveal their secrets within. We clambered over the bottom of the cliffs trying to pull out rocks lodged into the clay.
Needless to say we found nothing. Our little collection of possible fossils on second inspection turned out to be just ordinary rocks and we trudged back up the cliff empty handed.
I do find places like Robin Hood’s Bay fascinating, as I love to picture how life carries on after the bustle and chaos of the day trippers departs. If I had unlimited time in Robin Hood’s Bay, or perhaps if I had been there on my own, I would have tried to lose myself in those narrow winding alleyways with visions of pirates and smugglers in my head. My personal view of Montmartre may be that it is overly touristy and lacking in charm, however it has always traditionally been the creative heart of Paris, inspiring world famous artists and writers. Robin Hood’s Bay certainly has all of the raw materials to provide inspiration to creative minds, and so perhaps it will have that in common with Montmartre as well.