The ‘out of this world’ cave pub right on the beach – that was blasted into the side of a cliff by a smuggler

A UK bar and restaurant with a fascinating history has been described as “out of this world” and “charming” by visitors.

A cliffside cave is no ordinary place for a pint, especially one brought there by a smuggler.

Marsden Grotto was created when a smuggler blew a hole in a cliff


Marsden Grotto was created when a smuggler blew a hole in a cliffPhoto credit: The Grotto
Guests can stay at the Grotto from £98.44 per night


Guests can stay at the Grotto from £98.44 per nightPhoto credit: The Grotto
The pub and restaurant serves guests along Mardsen Bay


The pub and restaurant serves guests along Mardsen BayPhoto credit: RM Photo Library – Getty

However, that is the historical story behind it Marsden Grotto in South Shields.

In 1782, a man named Jack Bates (now known as Jack the Blaster) and his wife Jessie retrieved some dynamite from a local quarry.

They used it to blast a large cave into the edge of a coastal cliff at Marsden Bay in South Shields, carving out the perfect rent-free beachfront home for themselves.

The cave’s location on the beach meant it was the perfect place for Jack to engage in smuggling.

A lot of loot and contraband from abroad was stored in the coastal caves, Jack kept an eye on them.

Since then, the grotto has changed hands many times and was gradually expanded into an inn with several rooms in the 19th century.

According to the inn’s website, some of the old pirates and smugglers are still up to mischief there today.

It said: “His infamous and often criminal history forms the basis of several popular legends and ghost stories, including that of Jack the Jibber, a smuggler who was allegedly murdered by his fellow criminals after selling information to British customs.”

“It is said that he was hung in a barrel in a cave near where the elevator shaft is today and left to starve.”

Ghosts or not, it’s still worth a visit as visitors have access to a large bar, pool room, bistro, heated beachfront terrace, and upstairs seafood restaurant.

Access is either by elevator from the parking lot, housed in a brick shaft rising from the front of the building, or by a zigzag staircase on the cliff at the side of the building.

Guests can also spend the night in the grotto. Room prices start from £98.44 per night.

History blogger Tiana Wilson Buys wrote of her visit to the grotto: “This evening was so much more than just dinner at some old restaurant.”

“This was a true gastronomic experience – the food was excellent, the setting almost surreal, the story behind the venue fascinating and the service out of this world.”

Another reviewer wrote on TripAdvisor: “What an enchanting place! It doesn’t look that big from the parking lot, just a bare elevator shaft, but it’s definitely worth exploring.”

The beach where the grotto is built is also very popular with locals Visit South Tyneside described it as “spectacular.”

The stretch of beach offers numerous walking trails nearby, while dolphins are sometimes spotted swimming in the waters off the coast.

The world’s first electric lighthouse can also be visited nearby.

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Meanwhile, this quaint English beach pub was once voted the best in the country.

And in this British destination you can watch dolphins at a music festival.

The bay was popular with pirates and smugglers in the 18th century


The bay was popular with pirates and smugglers in the 18th centuryPhoto credit: Alamy Live News

Russell Falcon

Russell Falcon is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Russell Falcon joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

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