Whitley Bay – home of Spanish City
Spanish City is in Whitley Bay, is a fine sea side town on the North East coast. In its hey day it was known as the North East’s Blackpool. It was a top holiday destination for local families. Over the years, as has happened to many of our coastal communities, things became a bit run down. It became cheaper to go to the Costa Brava than the Costa Del Whitley. Plus the weather is generally a whole lot better in Spain.
However, then came the glorious summer of 2018! For weeks now, the sun has been out warming up our cloudy little island. The wind breaks and the bucket and spades are out in force, and holiday companies have seen a definite drop in bookings as a stay-cation starts to look so much more attractive.
Spanish City – the Dome reopens!
The icing on the cake is that after languishing and being neglected for years – the Spanish City dome is finally open again! A prominent feature of Whitley Bay, the large white dome of ‘Spanish City’ is a symbol of a thriving entertainment venue of yesteryear. Efforts to restore and reopen it have taken the best part of a couple of decades. It was called Spanish City because the Toreadors concert party troupe used to perform there, and it kind of stuck.
Formally opened in 1910 Spanish City was at first a concert hall, restaurant, roof garden, and tearoom. At the time it was built it was believed to have been the second-largest unsupported concrete dome in the UK. The first being was St Paul’s Cathedral.
Next to the Spanish city dome, was also a popular fun fair. It was immortalized by Dire Straits in their 1980 song, “Tunnel of Love,” which was thereafter played every morning when the park opened. By the late 1990s, the building had fallen into disrepair and was closed.
Spanish City returned to to former glory
Almost 18 years after the venue’s final closure, Spanish City is now well open once again. Following a £10 million project that has restored its historical features it brings new leisure facilities to the town.
The Grade II listed building now houses a Trenchers fish and chips restaurant, and a champagne bar that looks out over the lovely coastline. There’s a tearoom and an ice cream and waffle bar. A large function room, the St Mary’s Lighthouse Suite, is proving popular for weddings and can cater for up to 200 guests.
It was the school holidays when I was there. In the twenty years I have lived here I have never seen the place so busy! People were flying kites and walking on the beach with their children and their dogs. A lot of ice creams were being consumed from some new kiosks that seem to have popped up everywhere.
Quite a few dogs were enjoying a swim in the sea. Even some people were swimming too. My favourite kites were two that featured a pair of leg with stockings on, waving in the wind.
The Great British Seaside
Colourful windbreaks create little beach hotspots and sandcastles are under construction. Surf boards and body boards were taking to the waves. In one direction there was was a clear view down to St Mary’s Lighthouse. Huge containers ships dot the sea in the other direction.The lighthouse is on the tiny St Mary’s Island, just north of the town. This small rocky tidal island is linked to the mainland by a short causeway which submerges at high tide.
St Mary’s Island
St. Mary’s has all the fascination of a miniature, part-time island. The Lighthouse, was completed in 1898. This was a hazardous coast for shipping. The lighthouse was operational until 1984. Modern navigational techniques then took over.
Since then the Lighthouse and former keepers’ cottages operate as a visitor centre run by North Tyneside Council. The surrounding Nature Reserve contains an area of rockpools and clifftop grassland. It has a small beach and newly created wetland habitats. It’s great for bird and watching seal watching at certain times of year.
This charming piece of coast line has never lost its quaint attraction for me. I have always loved to visit here. Whitley Bay seems to be enjoying quite a renaissance at the moment, and long may it continue!