The Seagull by Ann Cleeves was published in 2017. In her Author’s Note at the end of the book, Ann writes about how despite the fact Whitley Bay is sometimes described as ‘a little shabby’ in her books it doesn’t mean she loves it any the less and that plans are underway to give Whitley Bay a more prosperous future.
Now here we are in 2023 and, six years later, there have been some huge changes to the area.
As Ann concludes in her Note:
I’m fighting with you in my own way and hope that as a result of the book more people will visit us and get to know Whitley for themselves.– from the Author’s Note (The Seagull, Pan Macmillan)
For those of us who grew up around the area we’ve seen the changes – the funfair may have gone, but the Spanish City is still here. Where there used to be empty shop premises now there are independent stores, cafes, bars and restaurants in abundance. And for the book lovers among us there is the bound (part of the Forum trio of bookshops) and Keel Row Books – newly established in Whitley Bay but the longest established antiquarian and second-hand bookshop in the North East of England.
We hope this map, Ann’s accompanying notes and a few facts about Whitley Bay past and present below help some of you enjoy your time here in Whitley.
Download the Map Here
Download the Vera Map above. On it you’ll find some of the key points around Whitley Bay featured in the book and/or the TV episode (Season 9, Episode 4, if you want to watch it).
While you don’t need to read anything else beyond Ann Cleeves’ exclusive notes on the PDF, we thought we’d add a few more details here for anyone interested – especially if you’re unfamiliar with the area.
The Bay Tales team would like to thank Nicola Young of ragtagmagpie.com for creating the Vera Walking Map for us.
The first thing to say is that, like any book adaptation, there are some differences between the print version of The Seagull (Pan Macmillan, first published 2017) and the TV series. Our map and this page will look at some of those differences and try to include some detail from both.
The Seagull Nightclub
The public lavatories (Marked Number 3 on our Walking Tour Map).
The public lavatories on the slipway to the beach. These were turned byAnn
the production team into a very fancy nightclub when they adapted The Seagull.
You may not want to hang around the toilets too long on your walking tour – but grab a snap and then stop for a coffee at the outdoors cafe opposite if the weather allows for it or pop into Valerie’s Tea Room, The Split Chimp (independent micro pub), or Trenchers fish and chips restaurant in the Dome, all just a few yards away. Just two minutes walk away you could try The Crab and Waltzer – where we hold our Noir at the Bar event over the Bay Tales Live weekend.
Pantrini’s- Vera’s favourite fish and chip shop
(though there are other brilliant ones now).Ann
Pantrini’s (Marked Number 1 on our Walking Tour Map).
Ask 10 different people in the North East what the best fish and chip shop is and you’re likely to get ten different answers. We’re lucky in Whitley Bay to have so many – so whether you try Pantrini’s, Trenchers (restaurant or takeaway), Fisherman’s Bay or any of the other places in Whitley you’re in for a treat. And if you think there’s a debate about which is the best Chippy, wait until you hear how many variations on batter bits there are…
The Amusement Arcades (Marked Number 2 on our Walking Tour Map).
The Amusement Arcades. You might recognize this from one of the ITV dramas.Ann
Season 4, Episode 2 ‘Protected’ saw the (slightly fictionalised) amusement arcades feature strongly. Like the nightclubs, the vast majority of the amusement arcades have gone now. But there are still a couple left, including TJ Leisure and Tyne Tees Entertainment so if you want to pop in for a go on the fruit machines you still can. While the Spanish City funfair (immortalised in the Dire Straits song ‘Tunnel of Love‘) has gone, the dome is still very much here: part of the regeneration Ann mentioned in her afterword: with restaurants and shops in and around it. If you’re visiting and want to take some North East mementos back with you, Love of the North is the place to go.
The Panama Swimming Club (Marked Number 4 on our Walking Tour Map).
In my head, the real nightclub – The Seagull – was a fabulous 1930sAnn
building where the Panama Swimming Club stands now.
Although it isn’t in the book or the TV series as such, we’ve popped details of the Panama Swimming Club on the walking map – so do check it out. And you can read more about it here.
As Ann said in her Author’s Note: there is a lot of regeneration going on across Whitley Bay…and the Panama Swimming Club is one of those areas. Our images compare a duo of pictures below showing the current and proposed look of the club.
The Rendezvous Cafe (Marked Number 5 on our Walking Tour Map).
The Rendezvous Cafe
This iconic building has appeared many times in the TV dramas. The streetlight outside was once changed into a fancier design.Ann
The Rendezvous is probably one of the most painted/ photographed/ drawn places in Whitley. So here’s our attempt to be a bit arty!
St Mary’s Wetlands (Marked Number 6 on our Walking Tour Map).
On the mainland very close to the path that leads over to St Mary’s Island and the lighthouse is a little nature reserve – St Mary’s Wetland. In The Seagull a body is found in a culvert here.Ann
And here we start to see how different adaptations can be from the source materials – St Mary’s Island and the surrounding areas may not be seen in The Seagull TV episode, but if you’re a fan of the Vera books you’ll want to visit St Mary’s – and as you’re so close, check out the Wetlands…
and then take a look at the information at Curry’s Point…
before finally gazing out at St Mary’s Lighthouse:
Turknaz (Marked Number 7 on our Walking Tour Map).
Turknaz has been a great supporter of Bay Tales Live since we started. And we’re delighted that it appeared in an episode of Vera too!Ann
Not only was Turknaz where we and Ann, as our patron, hosted all our guest authors appearing at Bay Tales Live 2023, but it’s a great place to stop for a bite to eat after your tour. If you’d prefer Fish and Chips, Italian, Chinese, classic pub food or modern fine dining English cuisine…you’ll find it all in Whitley Bay!
Well, that’s our Vera Guide! We hope you enjoyed it whether looking online or in person.
Thank you to Ann Cleeves for giving us some of her personal notes on the visiting points.
A massive thanks to Nicola Young (https://ragtagmagpie.com/) who did incredible things by hand drawing the map and iconic local spots for us.
If you do come to Whitley Bay (and we particularly recommend March so you can join us for Bay Tales Live – along with our patron, a certain Ann Cleeves, OBE) and take any photos of the surrounding areas – or any other Vera spots you recognise, feel free to email us any you’d like featured here – there are so many beautiful sites even our very amateur photography can’t ruin them!
And whichever edition you take – don’t forget your copy of The Seagull!