Redcar & Cleveland
Timeless Redcar & Cleveland has sandy beaches, salty air, Victorian steam trains, Anglo Saxon heritage and forest walks.
A jaunt to this stretch of England’s northeast coast is like stepping back 200 years. The 19th-century piers, salty sea air and haunting call of seagulls is like an injection of nostalgia, evoking memories of a time when Victorians used to flock to these sandy beaches and rugged cliffs at the end of a hard working week.
Beside the seaside
Saltburn-by-Sea is the quintessential Victorian seaside experience, home to Britain's oldest cliff lift that teeters between the town and the beach just as it did for holidaymakers two centuries ago. Munch a bag of fish and chips on the Grade II-listed pier, enjoy a ride on the miniature railway and try to catch a glimpse of the Yarn Bombers who make elaborate knitted creations that mysteriously appear around the town overnight. Just up the coastal road is the old fishing village of Staithes nestled in the cliffs – a 16-year-old James Cook worked here as a grocer before he grew his sea legs.
To continue the Victorian theme, the world's first steam-worked public railway at the Head of Steam Museum is a must-see. It first opened as a museum back in 1843, and as well as engines and locomotives you can marvel at 19th-century station signs, uniforms and a ticket office restored to period style. While you're in the mood, immerse yourself in the Hartlepool Maritime Experience on the quayside, which once buzzed with the to-ing and fro-ing of Royal Navy and merchant ships. Today it has been recreated into an 18th-century style seaport where guides in period dress bring to life the time of Nelson and Napoleon.
The Anglo Saxon North
For a deeper delve into history, head to Kirkleatham Museum on the outskirts of Redcar, where you can see can see the renowned Saxon Princess exhibition displaying some of the rarest Anglo Saxon finds uncovered in Northern England. Excavations, such as Bronze Age burial sites and the remains of a timber house show you how people in this area lived 5,000 years ago.
But sometimes it's good to shake off the weight of the past and just dance, dance, dance. There's ample opportunity to do this at the Stockton-on-Tees International Riverside Festival every July – a colourful explosion of street theatre, dance, circus acts and music celebrating Europe's diverse culture. And all in a town that invented the friction match you light your candles with!
Into the forest...
Guisborough Forest – gateway to the North York Moors National Park – is the perfect medicine if you're in need of a dose of nature. Spot roe deer along the walking trails, cycle routes and bridleways that meander through the forest, and be sure to climb Highcliff Nab or Hanging Stone for epic views of Teeside and the coast. For something a bit more adrenaline pumping, Summerhill Country Park offers rock climbing, BMX trails and a boulder park on the western edge of Hartlepool. In need of refreshment after that? A traditional Yorkshire afternoon tea is the answer, which you'll find at the Gisborough Hall Hotel.