February. It may be the shortest month in the calendar, but it often feels like the longest, with winter at its bleakest while we eagerly await the arrival of spring next month.

The reason why we’ve chosen this dark, cold month to mark the death of a Christian martyr with grand romantic gestures is something of a mystery, but may be a simple practicality, rather like Christmas – the merging of an existing secular festival with a convenient date in the Christian calendar.

Whatever the logic, it’s a now traditional time of the year to propose marriage – and while we’d like to think that we’re a modern and equitable society, there’s little doubt that the proposal still usually comes from the male half of a partnership.

But if you’re a feminist and a traditionalist – and why shouldn’t you be both? We can be anything we want these days! – Leap Years offer the perfect solution. If he doesn’t propose on February 14, that extra day on February 29 is the traditional day for a woman to propose to a man.

Great British Life: How about a romantic proposal at the rising waterfall at Hayburn Wyke? How about a romantic proposal at the rising waterfall at Hayburn Wyke? (Image: Tony Bartholomew)

It seems we can credit our Celtic cousins with this forward thinking – one story from Ireland has it that Leap Day was when women could propose and (win-win, ladies!) if he turned her down, he had to buy her a new silk gown or fur coat.

The Scots had similar rules of romance, but clearly didn’t like the element of surprise – their version involved the woman wearing a red petticoat visible to her intended, presumably to give him time to leave town if he was planning to say no and didn’t have the wherewithal for luxurious compensatory fashion.

But whatever your gender, if you’re thinking of proposing to your partner on any day this month, we’d like to suggest some super-romantic locations on the Yorkshire Coast that you might like to consider.


It’s easy to forget that the word ‘romantic’ hasn’t always been associated with shiny heart-shaped balloons, extravagant bouquets of flowers and fluffy teddies. It became popular in the late 18th and early 19th centuries as a term to describe an artistic, philosophical and political movement that celebrated man’s relationship with nature, and a revolutionary spirit – think Wordsworth, Blake and Shelley, and the grand, sweeping paintings of John Martin and, later, the Pre-Raphaelites.

If that’s the Romanticism that appeals to you, take a look at Whitby Abbey as a location for your big moment: its Gothic clifftop splendour is the perfect backdrop.

Not only is the brooding ruin of the 13th century abbey one of the most photographed landmarks on our coast, you can also use it as a start point for a romantic (in the more modern sense) weekend. Wander down (or up, if you’re feeling energetic) the 199 Steps which lead from the town to St Mary’s Church, alongside the abbey. They have their own Gothic glory – they were the conduit that took Dracula, in the form of an immense black dog, from the beach where the ship carrying him from his home in the Carpathian Mountains to England was wrecked, up to find his first victim in the churchyard.

Or follow in the footsteps of Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll, who visited the town many times – his first published piece of work, a poem entitled The Lady of the Ladle, was in The Whitby Gazette, still the town’s weekly newspaper. Set in Whitby, the poem tells the tale of the lost love of a ‘swell’ and ‘scion of nobility’ who once ‘had loved – and loved a cook’.

Just make sure your loved-up trip doesn’t end in one of the town’s other much-photographed locations – Arguments Yard!

Great British Life: Avert your eyes you leap year lovers as you pass this Whitby landmark. Avert your eyes you leap year lovers as you pass this Whitby landmark. (Image: Tony Bartholomew)

If your romantic dreams incline towards the wily and windy, you’ll find plenty of suitable moorland settings between Whitby and Scarborough. OK, we’re bending the rules a little here – Yorkshire’s most famous romantic novel, Wuthering Heights, was of course set on the moors around the Brontës’ Haworth home in West Yorkshire.

But our coastal moorland, in the care of the North York Moors National Park, has something they don’t – spectacular coastal scenery. We recommend heading to Robin Hood’s Bay or Ravenscar for moorland with unparalleled epic views of the sea to boot.

It may not have the spectacle of the Niagara Falls, but generations of lovers have enjoyed a visit to Hayburn Wyke, just above Scarborough. This secluded cove has beautiful views of the coast, and a stunningly pretty, and very unexpected, little waterfall cascading into a freshwater pool – if the weather’s mild enough, you could even take a dip. Make sure you wear your walking boots – it’s a little bit of a hike, but well worth the effort. And you can always refuel at the nearby Hayburn Wyke pub, well known locally for its hearty pub grub.

Great British Life: Rock up at Paradise and pop the question in Scarborough. Rock up at Paradise and pop the question in Scarborough. (Image: Tony Bartholomew)

Fancying a trip to Paradise for your (we hope!) once-in-a-lifetime event? Look no further than (yes!) Scarborough. A steep street leading from the town’s St Mary’s Church down to the seafront (it changes its name to the rather more prosaic Castlegate part of the way down) bears the name because it was once the site of a medieval walled garden looked after by Cistercian monks.

These days, a pleasingly vintage street sign at the very top sits alongside a gap in a picturesque brick wall allowing a glimpse of what, on a sunny day, can look like an earthly paradise – the blue waters of Scarborough’s South Bay. If that’s not the perfect spot for those who want to share their moment on Instagram, we don’t know what is.

Wherever you decide to pop the question, whoever you are, whatever your relationship – we wish you all the best. Happy Valentine’s Day, and enjoy that extra day in this remarkable Leap Year.

For more information on what else is on across the Yorkshire Coast #place of surprise and the North York Moors this month, please visit discoveryorkshirecoast.com