In 2011 I moved to the South of France. In many ways this was a dream come true as it provided me with great food, great weather and some of the nicest sea-based scenery you could ever wish to see - the blue of the sea in Nice is truly breathtaking. Because there is so much wealth in the area, secluded little ports are not something you can find easily. Instead, there are several ports and harbours that are filled with millions (and possibly even billions) of dollars of hi-tech yachts. Antibes for example houses row upon row of expensive pleasure craft. As Impressive as this can be - and several of the super yachts do look fantastic - I find a little tiresome and just a tad superficial.
Because of the scenery I am used to in France, the break I took in the North of England brought some rather refreshing scenery. My father, my girlfriend and I visited the towns of Scraborough and Whitby, where the ports brought a great deal more authenticity and a much greater sense of reality. Rather than merely housing pleasure crafts, both harbours were very much alive and relied on fishing for their livelihoods with tourism as something of a sideline.
The first thing to strike you in both Scarborough and Whitby is the smell ... of fish. Now, when I say 'fish' I do not mean a hint of grilled salmon or fried calamarie drifting on the air. Oh no, I mean an all-encompassing pong that comes from years of hauling cod from the fishing trawlers and onto the quayside. It is a smell so strong that it overpowers the sweet shops selling candy floss, it drowns out the pubs that are over-flowing with with fishermen and tourists, and it doesn't even give the fast food stalls selling hot-dogs and donuts a chance. It is the type of smell that tells you that you are in a port that still works, that still has traditional industries as it's heartbeat.
Both Scarborough and Whitby look lot more focused on real work and making a living. The boats that we saw moored at the quayside were, in the main, fishing trawlers. These were dirty, smelly and grimy. They genuinely looked as though they had just arrived back from a week in cold waters of the North Sea I which many of them probably had. Stacked next to these craft we could see huge piles of fishing nets and piles of small netted pots designed to catch crabs. I found the day-to-day fishing work on show to be fascinating. It looked like dirty and dangerous work, but it all seemed so full of life.
Another area in which the ports of Yorkshire looked different was due more to nature than any particular raison d'etre. As the Mediterranean is not tidal, you see very little difference in the ports in the South of France. The water is generally calm and never seems to really move or change I this certainly helps in creating the idyllic setting wealthy boat enthusiasts look for. The North Sea on the other hand is extremely tidal. The water level can rise and fall by as much as 10m. This means that, during low tides, you can often see the bottom of the port. This is a giant expanse of squelchy mud upon which the majority of boats are left marrooned until the tide begins to flow in again. This was the case in Scarboroigh where several of the boats were sat snugly in the mud.
Thus far in this article, I have painted the ports in Yorkshire as being devoted solely to work, almost like they are devoid of fun and humour. This would, though, be inaccurate. They do have a fun side, it is just nowhere near as pronounced as the ports in the South France. The pleasure craft on show were extremely different to those I might have found in Antibes. There were no super yachts. However, there were plenty of options for holidaymakers to take to the waves. In Whitby, there was a replica of Captain James Cook's Endeavour (The ship in which he discovered Australia) that gave trips out into Whitby Bay. There were also speedboats that 10minute spins around the harbour. In Scarborough, there was an old tramp steamer that also did tours and which had been used as a troop evacuation ship during WWII.
I enjoyed my trip to Yorkshire and its ports tremendously. Whilst they may not quite match the South of France for glamour, they were a great sight.