The hidden gem beach-side bar where you can have a drink in a cave

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There’s no shortage of places to impress visitors to Sunderland and South Tyneside, but this hidden gem is guaranteed to impress.

Marsden Grotto and its lift shaftMarsden Grotto and its lift shaft
Marsden Grotto and its lift shaft | se

Sitting just off the Coast Road between Sunderland and South Shields, the Marsden Grotto is a bar, restaurant and hotel which offers both a beach-side bar and an impressive series of caves where you can enjoy drink, meal - or even stay the night.

The cave restaurantThe cave restaurant
The cave restaurant

A landmark lift shaft or intriguing set of steps takes customers down the cliffs and into the bar, which overlooks the impressive Marsden Bay and the famous Marsden Rock.

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Now a shadow of its former glory, but still impressive, the gigantic rock once formed a huge arch which was one of the country’s best-known natural landmarks until its collapse after winter storms in 1996.

Reader Jason Quinn submitted this picture of sunrise at Marsden RockReader Jason Quinn submitted this picture of sunrise at Marsden Rock
Reader Jason Quinn submitted this picture of sunrise at Marsden Rock | Jason Quinn

The view and beach-side terrace are worth the visit alone, but its the cave restaurant which makes the venue a unique draw, offering a chance to dine inside the curious atmosphere of the cliff’s interior.

Renovation work in recent years has also created a number of bedrooms allowing guests to spend the night in the caves.

One of the bedroomsOne of the bedrooms
One of the bedrooms

The Grotto dates back to 1782 when ‘Jack the Blaster’ and his wife Jessie used dynamite from the nearby quarry to blast a large cave into the cliffs at Marsden Bay, creating a rent-free home on the beach.

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The cave and others nearby were popular with smugglers, which gave rise to the ghost story of Jack the Jibber, who, the story goes, was murdered by his fellow criminals after betraying them. His spirit is said to haunt the Grotto.

We’re told he lets the guests sleep in peace, though.

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