’Allo Vera: why Blyth spirit moved us to TV ’tec beat!

Choosing great staycation location

Blyth spirit moved us to make Northumberland’s biggest town our short staycation choice.

Sorry, Sir Noël Coward! But we make no apology for bigging up this seaside escape’s great getaway credentials. Not just any port in a COVID-19 storm, this harbour is home to finest family friendly accommodation, writes Chris Page.

Family-friendly The Commissioners Quay Inn (above)

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Coronavirus-safe The Commissioners Quay Inn proved impressive on more levels than historic High Light towering 18 metres nearby, peace of mind assured with ten-step secure safeguard programme, protecting guests while ensuring an enjoyable environment.

Jewel in the crown of impressive maritime development, the site stands pride of place, pole position affording second to none aquatic views. Waterfront-facing nautical but nice en-suite rooms are the next best thing to cruise cabins ... but without the kinetosis!

Winter warmer breaks

Winter warmers – breaks bookable online or by calling central reservations 0191 580 3610 quoting promo code WINTER20 – beckon from November to March .

The deals are ideal for those wanting to take advantage of two-course dinner, bed and breakfast from enticing £85 per night, single occupancy starting at thrifty £55, complete with assurance of no advance payment and free cancellation, also available across Inn Collection Group’s 14 sister sites covering Lake District, County Durham and Yorkshire.

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Welcome awaits as warm as that extended to Princess Anne when she bestowed right royal patronage on spectacular Spirit of the Staithe sculpture, soaring 15 metres into shoreside skies, celebrating times past when coal was king.

Superb location

Blyth boomed when railways ruled and fishing flourished, seafaring heritage also awash with submarines and ships, including 1914 launch of Royal Navy’s first aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal. Harpoons were honed here for Greenland’s whaling industry. And any sodium chloride manufacturer worth their salt traded through these waters.

Renewable energy today powers the local economy while Scandinavia paper and pulp is imported for newspapers such as ours.

Neutral footie fans nationwide recall with fondness non-league Spartans’ 1978 giant-killing cupset that saw the green and whites win their way through to unprecedented FA knockout fifth round.

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Famous musical son

Favourite sons include Dire Straits guitar guru Mark Knopfler, every bit the Local Hero as 1983 debut film soundtrack album, whose anthemic final track Going Home still stirs Newcastle United match day crowds. The star singer-songwriter was cub reporter on our Yorkshire Evening Post before finding fame, “money for nothin’ and chicks for free”.

Movie magic

And north-side staithes were location for 1971 northern noir Get Carter’s chase finale, starring stalwart actor Michael Caine. Not a lot of people know that!

TV and film location

Bolstered by Belly Buster breakfasts, expansive enough to make even Desperate Dan unbind waistband buttons, we employed detective work to explore coastline just as rich in character as North East award-winning author Ann Cleeves’ crime-cracking heroine.

Whitley Bay backdrop for Vera filming  (above) (photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire)

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Vera buffs can Amble to Braid, Northside, Harbour and Quayside top cop TV filming locations, following in “man-size” footsteps of formidable law enforcer Stanhope – named after County Durham village – made flesh on our prime time screens by brilliant Brenda Blethyn.

Calculating, cranky and irascible in equally intriguing measure, dowdy and disheveled, sporting signature raincoat and hat, dramatis persona was introduced to readers as “large woman, big bones amply covered, bulbous nose, man-sized feet, her face blotched and pitted.” But don’t dare tell the no-nonsense DCI!

Ten series of the popular programme, formulaic detective drama at its episodic Sunday night ease-into-working-week best, have also showcased spectacular CSI scenes from Alnmouth and Blyth to Tynemouth and Whitley Bay.

Also sharing the spotlight are crab central Craster, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Seahouses, North and South Shields, Seaton Sluice and Delaval and – sounding somewhat like an abdominal condition – Rumbling Kern.

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Back at our briny bolthole, appetites restored by bracing beach perambulations, fine dining offered suitably saltwater specials devilled whitebait and seared salmon fillet, followed by sweet treats including crumble, cheesecake, chocolate éclair and brownie.

Short walk away revealed side street surprise for we devotees of Arts Décoratifs vibrant pantones, geometric angularity, streamlined symmetry and decadent detail. And reasonably priced refreshment!

Heptinstall restaurant offers fine dining (above)

Wetherspoon's The Wallow art decadence (above)

Superior ’Spoons The Wallow, grade two listed building restored to former glory after £2 million pub chain facelift, was 1,440 capacity cinema and playhouse where genial Geordies Ant and Dec tentatively trod boards for the duo’s stage debut. Whatever happened to those Likely Lads?

Thirsty travellers toasted this superior stay with locally crafted Chasing Everest’s Fred’s Got Slacks nightcap – Idaho 7 DHH 4.5% pale ale, since you ask – and fruit-based drink for the lady, ahead of local lockdown curfew, not even 9.30pm premature last orders able to dampen our Blyth spirit.

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Ten-point virus guest safety plan

1 Social distancing

We have implemented social distancing measures in accordance with government guidelines. Floor stickers and poster have been placed where appropriate.

2 Frequent cleaning and disinfecting

We have increased the level of disinfecting and frequency throughout the venue, paying attention to high use areas and objects.

3 Sanitising points

We have installed hand sanitising dispensers on all entrances and exits and throughout public areas. Anti-viral wipes will also be made available to guests when required.

4 Protective screening and partitions

Bespoke barriers have been installed in high contavct areas for extra protection of staff and customers.

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5 Team member PPE

Face masks, gloves, aprons, hand sanitiser and forehead thermometors are issued and available to all staff at all times.

6 Team training

All staff have received comprehensive training on all the new measures and policies as well as completing a COVID-19 Awareness and Prevention course.

7 Food safety

We continue to adhere to the strict safety procedures when serving all food and drink.

8 Eating & Drinking

New at the table service measures, disposable menus, sanitised cutlery and disposable condiments have been introduced for every visit.

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9 Air cleaning technology

HyGenikx Air & Surface Amplifier Systems have been installed into all our kitchens to provide clean air for food preparation.

10 Bedroom cleaning

All rooms are deep cleaned and disinfected fully after every stay. Linen and towels are cleaned to recommended guielines for optimal disinfection. Rooms will only be refreshed on request to minimise contact.

See for yourself