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Finding hygge on the North Yorkshire coast

Boggle Hole beach Credit Tony BartholomewBoggle Hole beach Credit Tony Bartholomew

Part one: The natural world - by guest blogger Clare Gogerty

There are times when you need to step away from the clamour of everyday life, turn off the phone and press pause, and there is no better place to do this than on the North York Moors coastline.

Once away from the clatter of responsibilities and to-do lists, you will have time to look around, observe the lapping of the waves and listen to the squawk of the gulls. You will experience hygge as you slip back into the rhythms of nature, waking as the sun rises over the distant horizon, walking along the shoreline searching for fossils, returning home beneath bright stars and a full moon.

The coast in winter has its own particular pleasures. Gone are the bucket-and-spaders and in their place come dog walkers, fossil hunters and all those who appreciate a stroll by the sea under the pale winter skies on often-deserted beaches.  

For a wide and expansive beach fringed by cresting waves, head to Sandsend near Whitby. This three-mile long stretch of sand is ideal for a mind-clearing stomp, preferably with a dog at heel (winter months only). It is a beach to stride out on, fill your lungs with fresh air and pocket an interesting pebble or two. If a storm rolls in and the weather starts to batter, head for Sandside Café on the seafront and watch the storm perform from its terrace with a cup of tea to warm you up.

Once the tide goes out at Robin Hood’s Bay, rockpools formed within the coast’s eroded rock layers are revealed. Take some time to look into the lucid pools and carefully observe what you see as the wind ripples the surface. Fronded anemones and other sea creatures will slowly reveal themselves as along the strandline, seabirds peck at the sand searching for food.  

Saltburn Pier Credit Mike NicholasWinter is a good time to hunt for fossils – wind and rain causes rock to fall away from the cliffs, yielding species of fossil ammonites and even, occasionally, marine reptiles. Robin Hood’s Bay, especially Boggle Hole at its southern end, is the place to head for the best finds as winter winds scour the sand from the rocky surface revealing fossils hidden below. Afterwards, head to the Swell Café in the village centre to inspect your treasures as you munch a toasted panini and look out over the ever-changing colours of the sea.

To experience the drama of pounding waves close at hand, take a walk along the Victorian pier at Saltburn by the Sea. Free from arcades or amusements, the 206m-long pier has few distractions – the view is the thing. As you walk over the sea, take time to stand and stare and watch the waves roll towards the beach, with perhaps a cormorant for company perched on the pier end.

As the light fades and the skies darken, step outside and look up. The lack of light pollution on the North Yorkshire coast combined with clear horizons means that this is one of the best places in the country to see stars.

The further you get from street lights the better this will be. Wrap a blanket around your shoulders and settle down for nature’s nocturnal entertainment. On a clear night around the time of the new moon, you should be able to see the shimmering shifting, Milky Way and, with a bit of luck, a shooting star or two or, depending on the time of year, a meteor shower.


Clare Gogerty is Associate editor for The Simple Things and has also written The National Trust Book of the Coast. You can also follow Clare on twitter.

Clare stayed at Castle House in Runswick Bay, one of the handpicked range of Romantic Cottage Holidays properties.

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