Raithwaite Sandsend, Whitby – Hotel Review
By Rachel Howard
I’m sure most people who have visited Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay would join me in describing them as two of Yorkshire’s jewels in the crown. Spectacular scenery, bustling atmospheres and steeped in history, this part of the Yorkshire coastline is one that understandably attracts visitors from far and wide. But venture just a little further north and you come to what has stolen the top spot for me – and that’s the beautiful fishing village of Sandsend.
We are visiting this part of the world to stay at Raithwaite Sandsend – a restored 19th-century estate nestled between the coast and the North York Moors. If it hadn’t been for this stay, I’m not sure we would ever have had the fortune of discovering Sandsend, but thank goodness we do! But more on the village later…
Raithwaite is situated down a long and sweeping driveway, instantly transporting you into holiday and relaxation mode. As we drive further into the tree-lined estate, we pass the Keep (an annexe of the hotel) and then further round we pull up to the imposing and impressive Raithwaite Hall.
Originally home to a 19th-century Whitby shipbuilding family, Raithwaite was transformed in 2011 into a 4-star coastal spa retreat. Combining historical splendour with modern facilities, it looks like it has something for everyone, made all the more evident by the wide range of guests we encounter upon checking in on a bright Autumnal Sunday afternoon. It being the start of the school half term holidays, there is a good mix of families and couples of all ages and a vibrant atmosphere assures us we are in for a great night away.
We are booked into one of the hotel’s “Roomy” rooms in the main hall. It’s a great size, with a king size bed, underfloor heating, robes, slippers and a good array of tea and coffee making facilities. Some of the furniture is a little tired, and the view leaves a little to be desired – the main car park – but if you’re lucky enough to have a room at the back of the hotel facing the magnificent gardens – you’re in for a treat. I would recommend speaking to the hotel about the location of your room upon booking, as the rooms in the annexe require you go outside and walk up the hill to use any of the facilities in the main Hall (the spa, restaurant and bar). Not too much of a hardship in the summer, but not ideal in the wind and rain of the winter.
As we are situated in the main Hall, we take full advantage of the situation and don our robes and slippers and head down to the spa (the lift takes you directly there). The hotel sells itself on being a spa retreat, so our expectations are high. The changing rooms are excellent, plenty of space and lockers, and everything beautifully clean.
However, things take a little downward turn as we enter the pool area. The pool itself isn’t a bad size, but with it being school holidays, it is very busy with families making the most of the facilities, which slightly takes away from the chilled out and zen experience we have imagined. The sauna and steam room are nice additions, but very busy, and unfortunately the jacuzzi is out of order. I’m not sure if this is Covid-related, but having looked at a few Trip Advisor reviews, it seems to have been this way for some time. I can’t comment on the treatments available but there is certainly a good selection, albeit somewhat pricey in comparison to other spas I have visited. Unfortunately, we are left a little underwhelmed by our spa experience, and keep our fingers crossed that the rest of our stay will be more impressive.
Later that day, we sit down for our evening meal in the main restaurant. It has a beautifully calm and relaxed ambience, with muted yet warm decor, and modern place settings. It’s a welcoming environment to spend an evening, and as we browse the menu while having a drink, thoughts of the spa start to fade and hope returns for Raithwaite. The menu makes the most of the area’s local ingredients, including fresh fish of the day and steak from Malton market – just a few miles down the road.
“Flavours marry perfectly”
I opt for the Heritage Carrot and Kale Bhajis, served with fennel jam, and cucumber and mint raita (£8). My partner, Jon, chooses the Smoked Haddock Fishcake served with creamed leek and Yorkshire cheese fondue (£9). Both starters are full of flavour, the perfect portion size and really get our tastebuds in the mood for food! The bhajis are crispy, with a warm heat – not overpowering spice, and the fishcake is light, fluffy and the perfect accompaniment to the rich, creamy leek and cheese sauce.
For main courses, I decide to go for the Fillet of Pollock and Squash, served with a bean and chorizo cassoulet, aioli and crispy brassica (£19). The flavours marry perfectly, with the chorizo added in just the right amount so as not to overpower the dish. Jon chooses the 10oz Rib Eye Steak (£35), served with triple cooked chips. It is cooked to perfection, with fantastic chips – crisp on the outside fluffy in the middle. The test of a restaurant is often in the steak, and this one passes with flying colours.
Despite our full stomachs, we take a look at the dessert menu – and immediately decide on the Autumn Apple and Cinnamon Crumble Tart, served with salted caramel ice cream; and Ginger Parkin, accompanied by spiced syrup and celeriac ice cream (both £8). Both prove to be the perfect sweet end to a fabulous meal.
As we move into the bar to enjoy a post-dinner cocktail, overlooking the stunning gardens, I can understand why Raithwaite is not only known as a spa retreat, but also an incredibly successful wedding venue. The rear of the hotel is home to the most magical garden area – an amphitheatre of greenery and flowers. The bar area extends onto a large terrace, featuring outdoor seating, heat lamps and fire pits. It really is the perfect place to say “I do” while surrounded by not only your loved ones, but also some of Yorkshire’s most wonderful scenery.
We wake the next morning rested and ready for the day. We kick off with breakfast in the restaurant, which turns out to be another culinary success. Even one slight snafu with the eggs (we order poached but scrambled arrives) doesn’t detract from a thoroughly tasty full English.
Having checked out and said our goodbyes, we plan on visiting Whitby, but make the last minute decision to drive two minutes up the road to Sandsend instead. And what an excellent decision that proves to be. Sandsend is a small fishing village that sits right on the coast just north of Whitby. With the Moors to the west and the sea to the east, it is nestled in a perfect spot and immediately has a welcoming, relaxed feel. The bustling tourist-filled streets of Whitby seem a million miles away as we while away an hour outside Tides cafe – an artisan little spot right on the beach, serving up teas, coffees and amazing looking homemade wood-fired pizzas. With uninterrupted views all the way down the coast to Whitby, Sandsend really is the hidden gem of the Yorkshire coast, and I would recommend anyone to pay a visit. Even on a chilly Autumnal day, the village has a special warmth and light that really leaves a lasting impact.
The lasting impact of Raithwaite Sandsend hotel, however, is a little more confused. First and foremost, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay there. The hotel is beautiful and shows off the surrounding area at its best. However, I do wonder if it is trying too hard to be too many things… a spa retreat, fine dining establishment, wedding venue… It was evident that there were many guests looking for completely different experiences from Raithwaite – and I’m not sure that all of them will have left fulfilled. My highlight was undoubtedly the food – it was excellent. Alongside that, the customer service was good and the gardens were gorgeous. It was just a shame the spa let things down, and I think I would have felt short changed if I’d been booked into a room in the annexe.
Raithwaite has the potential to be something really special. But it needs to decide what it wants to be – I have no doubt that with just a little clarity, the tables can be turned and the hotel can be back on par with its five-star location.
Raithwaite Estate, Sandsend Road, Whitby, North Yorkshire, YO21 3ST
Raithwaite Sandsend is uniquely located between the sea and the moors
Price: Double rooms. B&B are available from £155 per night and from £225 D,B&B (based on two people sharing)
To book go to raithwaitesandsend.co.uk or call 01947 661661