Staycation: Raithwaite Sandsend, Whitby
by Lorna Parkes
With its commitment to sustainability and growing its own, this country estate hits all the right notes for location, food and accommodation
When we arrive at Raithwaite Sandsend, the first thing I spy is the kitchen garden. A neat trio of polytunnels and organic no-dig plots marching up the dale. Though only planted at the start of the year, I later learn that the garden is on track to make the hotel completely self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables by the following summer. Behind the beds of purple kale and leggy artichokes, there’s a well-placed bench that invites guests to linger.
Country estate hotels are one of England’s most charming features, but they are 10 a penny. This one, however, is unique for its new sustainability drive. Currently just 900 square metres, the kitchen garden is a small but crucial component of Raithwaite’s plan to become zero waste. In September, the hotel became carbon neutral through a mix of offsetting and energy reduction measures. There’s also a freshly planted forest garden where they hope to soon be able to harvest herbs and nuts, and eventually take guests on foraging walks.
Raithwaite is in a plum spot for nature lovers. Its name is Celtic for ‘hill in the water’. Behind it lies the North York Moors National Park – 1,436 square kilometres of protected woodland and heather-cloaked moorland etched with hiking trails. In front of it, there’s a stretch of the North Sea where guests can take surfing lessons, hire a paddleboard or take dolphin-spotting boat trips. Raithwaite can also organise activities such as beach yoga, fossil-hunting and stargazing from a shepherd’s hut.
The hotel itself is far newer than the estate. Built in 2010 around the original 19th-century manor house, its interior is surprisingly contemporary. The colour palette is all creams, mushrooms and taupes wrapped around oak, providing a blank canvas for local art and photography in the rooms and restaurant. Electric golf buggies whisk guests between the various bedroom wings. Next time I come, I would ring ahead to bag one of its balcony rooms that overlook the landscaped gardens or walled orchard
The grounds date to around 1910 and it’s here that guests become totally captivated by Raithwaite. Invisible from the hotel entrance, they spool out behind the hotel like an excerpt from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden – which, incidentally, was filmed nearby. We’re soon out exploring, crossing bridges straddling a beck, past rhododendron walls and up to a man-made lake, its dam embossed with white roses – the symbol of Yorkshire. At dinner, small touches reinforce that the garden is king. Couples, small groups and families are seated at tables with living herb pots and bowls of bright, floating nasturtiums.
The menu is a cornucopia of fresh dishes – salt-baked allotment beetroot carpaccio, vegetable mille-feuille and kitchen garden broad bean pakoras. Wines are all organic and around 80% of the kitchen produce is sourced within 50km. If it can’t come from the garden, the chefs strive to buy from seasonal and organic suppliers. I opt for butter-poached Whitby lobster and nettle-crusted lamb, both of which smack of freshness thanks to generous loadings of veg.
Raithwaite is just a little over three kilometres north of Whitby – the pretty North Yorkshire fishing town famous for its medieval abbey ruins, Captain Cook and Dracula connections – but the next day we opt to take the signposted trail right from Raithwaite’s doorstep to the quieter village of Sandsend. Merging with the long-distance Cleveland Way, our path takes us over the coastal headland past cows as black as coal and ends with rockpooling on Sandsend’s tidal estuary beside miles of gorgeous, honey-coloured sand.
On our second night we end up in Sandsend’s The Hart Inn, a cosy old pub where fish flap gaily on the walls and fish-and-chip portions arrive so large that the local cod hangs off the side of our plates. We return after check-out on our last day for lunch at The Fish Cottage, on a hopping terrace set back from the estuary. A seafood pizza with mussels and tiger prawns arrives, followed by crispy prawn tacos and cod burgers with beef dripping chips. It’s a world away from the tired images of traditional, deep-fried British seafood. Padstow, eat your heart out.
How to book
Double rooms at Raithwaite Sandsend cost from £153 (Snug Room) per night B&B, based on two people sharing. For more information and to book, visit raithwaitesandsend.co.uk.