The village of Staithes, surrounded by craggy cliffs, a rocky coastline and a sheltered sandy beach, is awash with beautiful sites.
That alone is reason enough to visit, but now there is another: fishing. Staithes was recently chosen as the setting for the BBC’s Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Christmas Fishing.
Since the show aired last weekend, interest in visiting the north Yorkshire village has rocketed.
Searches on the Independent Cottages website for self-catering accommodation in the area were 400% higher on Monday than on the same day last year.
“The high level of interest is providing a much needed boost to holiday cottage owners who’ve had a tough and uncertain year with regard to bookings and cancellations,” said Sarah Jarvis of Independent Cottages.
Sean Baxter, a tour guide and co-owner of Real Staithes, said the response to the programme and interest in the area had gone “ballistic”.
“We’ve had a huge response from local radio, the BBC and Facebook. There has been an increase in telephone enquiries and general interest too,” he said.
Despite Staithes bordering both tier 2 and tier 3 areas, Baxter, who provides various fishing, wildlife and walking tours, is optimistic about the public’s response to the programme.
“It’s a wonderful village becoming more and more touristic,” he said. “It’s a lovely place to come and have a holiday. No candy floss and no McDonalds, it’s very much an old fashioned place to come and relax and have a wonderful time.”
Olly Shepherd, the owner of Fly Fishing Yorkshire, who appeared on the programme, said the high volume of inquiries since the show aired had been “quite remarkable”.
“The show is appealing to people that don’t fish. It’s all newcomers to the sport. They’ve seen it, they like the look of it. They want to be more engaged, I think, with nature and rivers, and ultimately play their part in a sport that offers some social distancing.”
He said the programme was less a fishing programme and more about the bits in between. “When we don’t fish we just chat about normal life. I think as men, even with my friends we chatter about health, wealth, homes, families and friends. I think what’s really driving the programme is the relationship between two very naturally funny men,” he said.
“We’re more conservationists as well as fishermen. We never take a fish nowadays, we put them all back, we treasure our rivers, and the fish that live in it. It’s nice to share that with everyone.”
Mortimer and Whitehouse stayed in fishermen’s cottages in Staithes and boarded a small vessel to travel into the North Sea, before heading east of Osmotherley where they stayed in Chequers Holiday Cottage.
“It’s a very quintessential country cottage. It just smacks of Christmas, old fashioned homely Christmas,” said Emma McDonald, who owns the cottage. “We’ve seen an increase in interest, and everywhere needs it, but especially the rural countryside. With lockdown and people not being able to get out, it brings the attention to the north, which is excellent for everybody.”
McDonald said it had been a “very surreal and strange feeling” to be filming a Christmas special in October.
“I think it just fills the gap in TV, the relatable chat-on-chat. They talk about men’s health, fishing, and nature. It’s just a beautiful old fashioned programme that the family can sit down and enjoy and appreciate what’s around them.”