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Marsden Grotto – The Cave Bar In The Cliff

On many a journey were I have had to pass through quickly, I have always made a mental note of coming back to explore individual places a bit more thoroughly. Marsden Grotto is one of those places I vowed to myself to return to. To eat, relax and take a nice walk along the beach and cliff tops. The Pub on the beach, the cave bar. One of the only few cave bars in Europe.

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It is certainly different, from all angles. Nature, clifftops and beach all around yet you would not say the pub, literally built into the bottom of the cliff makes for an interesting sight. It is not a modern blot on the landscape, it has a big history of its own. How did it get here? How was it built in? When I stopped for a drink on my Tyne to Tees walk I was determined to come back and see/learn more.

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Sat on the heated terrace, watching the waves roll in on the beach I wondered more about the history and how it came to be. Well, it all starts way back in 1782 and a man known as Jack the Blaster. Story has it that he and his wife, Jessie, moved into the area and refused to pay rents they could not afford. He got some dynamite from a local quarry and literally blew themselves a home in the cliffs. Hence the nickname. The steep zig-zag stairs that you may use to get down to the beach and grotto are also thought to have been built by Jack. Of course this was an unusual place to live even in those days. Visitors came to see the place and that led to refreshments being sold even then.

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It then passed on in the early 19th Century to a local pub landlord named Peter Allen. He had grand plans and made it a 15 room dwelling with ballroom and all. It was here it became an inn. Later in the 19th Century it was bought by Harton Coal Company who whilst profiting allowed the grotto to come into disrepair somewhat. In 1898, Vaux Breweries took over the grotto, extended it out the from from the caves and added a lift… No, you don’t have to take the steep steps, if you don’t want. Since then it has passed through various hotel and pub chains but stands proud today as a very different yet wonderful place to eat and drink.

The bar area above is hard to believe literally just off on open and gorgeous beach, but then you can pass through the old cave openings and into an open dining area within the caves, within the cliffs.

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We had walked along the cliffs and beaches so we had earned our refreshment. sat within the cave it was lovely and quiet too. There are no masses here it seems, I thought there would be, but it is wonderfully pleasant. I had a steak cooked to perfection and Faye had a seafood flatbread with delicious sauces, crab meat and cod strips.

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We shall definitely go back, the menu was extensive and full of choice, especially sea food. What better way to walk off a lovely meal with drinks than to step literally just outside and straight onto the beach. It is a stunning spot that is not packed by any stretch of the imagination. If you come in Spring/Summer there are thousands of sea birds nesting in the cliffs and rocks.

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You do not have to walk, you do not have to climb the stairs, there is the wheelchair friendly, child friendly option of the lift of course, accessed from the cliff-top.

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It is very much a dog friendly, family friendly, walker friendly establishment. When you are in the area, take a journey to something different, something tasty. Head down and into Marsden Grotto. Situated in South Shields.

Written by Paul Steele

Founder of and avid hiker, climber and trekker. Never liking to sit still and always seeking new adventures around the world. Sharing personal views here and tweeting live via @paul_steele

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