Review: Middlesbrough (& Cleveland)
Middlesbrough (& Cleveland), United Kingdom
The attractions of ones home town
122 people found this review helpful
It is quite odd that we write reviews about places we visit for as little as two nights, possibly even less, and ignore the locations we know best. Our own towns and cities. I read Eleanor Wasley’s excellent synopsis on Scunthorpe and it really captured my interest. It’s easy to pick up a guide on London, a what-to-do in York and a detailed review regarding Edinburgh. But what about an insider’s knowledge, like Eleanor’s, on those places even the well-travelled know next-to-nothing about. To the degree some couldn’t pinpoint them on a map.
Like Eleanor I live in a much maligned place, a gritty, industrial northern town. But I’m a firm believer just about any place has something to offer and Middlesbrough is no exception. It’s known as the infant Hercules because it grew up so fast. Nowadays Middlesbrough, along with the neighbouring towns that make up Cleveland, i.e. Stockton, Redcar, Hartlepool, Thornaby and Billingham are sprawling, densely populated towns.
But big though they are they’re equalled in acreage by the vast steel and chemical complexes that provide the bulk of the employment in the area. Indeed the best free show around is the view from atop the local Eston Hills after dark. Hundreds of thousands of lights adorn the structures and the blast furnace that equals St Pauls Cathedral in size. Flare stacks burn off the unwanted gases from huge chimneys and it’s either Dante’s Inferno or a thing of shimmering beauty depending on your viewpoint. Nearby is an even more impressive peak, Roseberry Topping. It’s known as the Little Matterhorn to locals and after a chest busting climb you’re rewarded with splendid views over patchwork fields and moorland.
During daylight hours the vantage point of the hills allows you to see huge ships leaving the North Sea to dock at Teesport. This was always a favourite pastime of mine as a child, wondering where these immense cargo ships had come from, where they would journey on to. The breakwater at Hartlepool provides an excellent spot from which to see and possibly photograph these steel monsters. Time it right in Hartlepool and you can indulge in some even more impressive sea going craft, the tall ships with their magnificent masts. Every few years the town hosts a festival with the ships as the centrepiece and you can’t fail to be impressed by their majesty and beauty.
Needless to say with all of this sea borne activity there are ample beaches, fish shops and attractions around. Be warned though, a north east summer differs slightly to that you might expect in Benidorm or Bodrum !
Still on a nautical theme, the Captain Cook museum is based just a few miles from the centre of Middlesbrough telling of the exploits of one of our better known explorers. Slightly further afield is a monument to Cook on the North Yorkshire Moors, the views from here are simply incredible. And if long distance walking is your thing the Cleveland Way passes through and this will take you to quaint little fishing villages like Staithes and Whitby as well as towering hills.
Years ago the River Tees was possibly the most noxious in the country. The chemical works in particular discharged straight into it and no living thing could survive in the toxic soup. One of the biggest civil engineering projects this country has seen transformed the area and now salmon are a common sight. Sometimes even seals can be seen (talking of which, there is actually a large colony of seals adjoining a terrific bird sanctuary near the breakwater at Hartlepool. A twitchers and nature lovers paradise). This project involved putting a barrage across the fairly wide and powerful Tees meaning the upper stretch is no longer tidal. It’s now a hub for watersports including water skiing, jet-biking, kayaking and dragon boat racing.
Equally as impressive is the white water rafting course adjacent and fed by the barrage which served as a training base for canoeists during the 2012 Olympics. A great spot for a picnic even if you don’t fancy getting actively involved. Concerts are hosted here in the warmer months when the banks provide an excellent vantage point.
Last but not least is the Transporter Bridge. Call me biased, but if this was in London or New York it’d be world famous. It looks like something you’d expect in Vegas and for me it rivals the Eiffel Tower, especially as it serves a purpose and is not a tourist attraction per se. It’s 225 feet high and 850 feet long. Which makes the journey in a cradle hanging below the bridge quite an adventure. And this cradle isn’t small, it can carry 200 people and nine cars at a time. Anyone who has ever enjoyed Meccano would be enthralled by this Titan of girders, rivets and cables. I’ve travelled over it literally hundreds of times but it still impresses me to this day. It’s simply gigantic and unique.
Well that’s it. Like Eleanor’s Scunthorpe we also have a major, but sadly faded, football team. Ten years ago we played in a European final but now we compete in the second tier and before dwindling crowds. And although we once used to host county cricket, the economics and health & safety issues mean it’s no longer viable these days. But as in any large conurbation we have swimming baths, ice rinks, bowling alleys, multiplex cinemas and a range of eateries. And Middlesbrough being well and truly in recession, cheap prices. Hotels and pubs alike wont charge you an arm and a leg for their wares.
The town was named as the worst in the country to live in by Channel 5. Well like any place of significant size there’s good and bad. But do your research, separate the wheat from the chaff, sometimes literally, and I think it has something different to offer the less conventional traveller. If I had to recommend two must-do’s to those travellers it has to be Eston Nab and one of Britain’s most diverse views and the Transporter Bridge. I don’t think you’d be disappointed.
122 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.