Marsden Grotto - The Cave Bar In The Cliff 1

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.

inside marsden grotto

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.

Social Wellness Walks
seating by the beach

The Beginnings

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.

marsden grotto bar

More History

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

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.

dining area in the cave
stone passageway from the bar

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 there was also a seafood flatbread with delicious sauces, crab meat and cod strips.

sea food and chips

We shall definitely go back, the menu was extensive and full of choice, especially sea food.

The Beach

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.

birds on the cliff
marsden rock


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.

entrance to marsden grotto from clifftop

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.

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  1. Peter Realf says:

    Thanks for your account of the Marsden Grotto. I have fond memories of the Marsden Grotto from 1973-77. On my first trip I boarded a bus in Sunderland and asked the conductor how far it was to The Grotto to be told it was “a canny way,” but it was worth the journey. As a student I could never afford to eat there, but we always loved sitting on the steps or the beach with a pint of Vaux Breweries Norseman Lager on a sunny weekend. Great just watching the seabirds nesting in the nearby rock stack with the sound of the sea breaking onto the shore.
    The climb back up the winding steps after a visit seemed daunting but did reveal some spectacular views. I think I’d use the lift now!

    A very distinctive venue, well worth a visit.

    1. Paul Steele says:

      Hi Peter, what a marvelous story. Great to have places with such memories.

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