Saltburn-by-the-Sea is somewhere that, until yesterday, we’d never visited. It is sandwiched on the Cleveland coastline between the headland (that separates it from Skinnigrove) to the south and Redcar and the mouth of the River Tees to the north. As we had a rare Sunday free we decided to tick off another little seaside town.
Oh, we do like to be beside the seaside. It’s true, we love the sea and the sand and the candyfloss (actually I can leave the candyfloss). There’s something about breathing in that sea air that we find so refreshing. Even on a chilly, grey-ish October day, we enjoy being there.
“Don’t put any coins in…”
If you drew a line on a map due north from our hometown then the last place before heading out to the north sea would be, pretty much, Saltburn-by-the-Sea. Just 45 minutes for us by car, and a beautiful drive across the North York Moors and we were there.
“Don’t put any coins in,” the man shouted at Helen.
It turns out that parking in the large car park at the southern end of the promenade is free on Sundays. If it weren’t for the kind gentleman, who frankly seemed on a mission, shouting down to Helen not to part with her change then we wouldn’t have realised.
We headed straight for the beach. Duke could already smell the sea and was whining to get in there.
This part of the country is steeped in industrial heritage. To the south is the old iron-ore works above Skinningrove and not too far to the north is the Tees estuary with many industries located there. Saltburn-by-the-Sea is an old Victorian seaside resort that likely served the tourists of the Victorian age Teesside and the north-east area.
There’s also a clear history with it being a fishing village too. Scattered along the southern shore are dozens of small fishing boats and their landing tractors. In the background, the Ship Inn, with its history in smuggling, sits there looking out to see.
The Cleveland Way passes through too. It follows a steep path up to the site of an old Roman signal station at Huntcliffe.
The pier at Saltburn-by-the-Sea was the first to be built on the North East coast. The first iron pile of the pier was driven on Monday 30th December 1867 (according to the Newcastle Courant, Friday 3rd January 1868) and today it is not only the most northerly surviving British pier but also the only remaining pleasure pier on the North East coast.
The cliff tram at Saltburn-by-the-Sea is quite something to watch. I noticed that the car at the top seemed to be spilling lots of water from the back before starting it’s decent. Then I read the plaque on the wall.
Before the current tram was built in 1884, people we lowered and raised to and from the promenade by a water balance hoist. The parallel tramway operates on the same principle. At the top of the 71% incline, the cars water tank is filled until it overbalances the weight of the car 120ft below. The top car then proceeds down the incline under its own specific gravity. Double steel wire ropes provide additional control when needed. The water is re-pumped to the top when the car reaches the bottom and the process begins all over again.
I love these old Victorian feats of engineering that still survive to this day. In fact, this one is Britain’s oldest working water-balanced cliff-lift.
The Beach at Saltburn-by-the-Sea
When we first crossed the road and made out way onto the beach all I saw were pebbles. Pebble beaches aren’t my favourite to walk on. The band of pebbles gives way to smooth sand, when the tide is out, though for those that prefer a more stable walking surface.
There’s a very long stretch of sand to enjoy here. Dogs are prohibited on a specific section between 1st March and 30th September and this is very well signposted. Whilst I understand why dog banning orders exist on beaches, as a responsible dog owner it’s often very frustrating. Thankfully, had we gone during the dog ban period there would still have been plenty of the beach for us to enjoy with him.
After a game of find the pebble, watching the surfers and a hot drink, we walked north along the beach and under the pier.
Find The Pebble is a game where we come up with a shape (circle, triangle, square, cloud, ball) and the girls have to find one pebble each that comes closest to that shape. We then blind judge them (no favouritism here) to find the winner.
After find the pebble it was time for stack the pebble. Believe me, building pebble stacks is harder than it looks. Our girls are far better at it than I am.
What I hadn’t realised was that Saltburn-by-the-Sea is a mecca for surfing in the North East. There were dozens of surfers in the water while we were there with more coming and going. There’s also a couple of surf shops and a very busy surf school.
The surfers out in the north sea that were doing it sure made it look easy. I’m sure it’s not, but we have resolved that it’s something we’ll try. I’m not sure I’m buying into this belief that this is a good time of year to try it as the water has not yet cooled down. Maybe when the air temperature improves.
We strolled back to the car gorging on some sweets Helen bought from one of the small seafront shops. I’m still not a fan of pink lips – I’ll stick to wine gums thank you.
We’ll be back
I think we all enjoyed Saltburn-by-the-Sea. It’s a charming little place and clearly a popular destination. We didn’t get up into the town so that’s something to do next time with a trip on the cliff tram.
Until now we’d only sampled Skinningrove beack in this area. Whilst Skinningrove offers you an unspoilt beach with sand dune, there are absolutely no amenities. This is great for a solid day at the beach, but sometime you want the creature comforts offered by a place like Saltburn-by-the-Sea.
After a lovely couple of hours taking in the sea air, we got some chips from one of the many fish and chips shops and ate them in the car. We headed home happy with another set of day out memories.
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