Grimsby’s grand plan to become a tourist destination

Grimsby has an image problem. For many it is the fallen fishing capital, overrun with scroungers and hooligans, well suited for a name that sounds cheerful and somber. “If the first person to get off the boat had been named ‘Nice,’ it would have been a lot easier,” admits Richard Askam. “But we have Grim.”

Askam thinks Grimsby is getting an unfair kick and hopes to turn things around. He is a proud Grimbarian and wears many hats, including project director of Projekt Renewable (PRG), a new venture to promote local renewable energy opportunities and engage the next generation to drive Grimsby forward and upward. “I want to show people that there is something here for them,” he told me at the PRG base, a brightly colored box park of solar-powered shipping containers that opened in 2023 next to Grimsby’s Fishing Heritage Centre. “This is a billboard for the possible.”

View over Grimsby

View over Grimsby, with its famous harbor that was once the largest in the world: Alamy

A noble goal that better fits the city’s origin story. According to folklore, Grimsby was founded by Grim, a Danish fisherman who heroically saved the life of the young Prince Havelok of Denmark before sailing to the mouth of the Humber. Grim is back this summer. A statue honoring the legend, which was removed from its spot outside Grimsby College in 2006 after repeated vandalism, has finally been restored. It will be unveiled at an exhibition about Grim at the Fishing Heritage Center on June 4.

“It is no coincidence that we are sitting here next to the past,” Askam explains. He sees PRG as a breadcrumb for the future – renewables are big business in Grimsby – but “there is a huge gap between what is happening and awareness of it”.

Askam wants to turn this location on Alexandra Dock into an educational and tourist center. As well as hosting groups interested in renewable energy sources, the plan is to organize pop-up events and boat trips to the turbines of the Humber Gateway wind farm. “We want to activate this area and remind people that there is water in their city.”

Grimsby offshore wind farmGrimsby offshore wind farm

Grimsby is currently working on its sustainability credentials – Getty

That sounds somewhat ridiculous, considering that Grimsby is famous for once being the largest fishing port in the world. But it’s true. The city center is inland from the river mouth; you could easily go to Primark, or the Time Trap Museum (the story of Grimsby, crammed into the old police cells) and not know it exists.

Will Douglas is doing his best to attract people to the harbor side of the city. In 2018, he took a 19th-century mission church on the ignored industrial outskirts and turned it into Docks Beers, a craft brewery, taproom, Mockingbird Street Food joint and high-end event space, with its own festival (DocksFest, July 6).

“It seemed crazy that there wasn’t a brewery in Grimsby, and we wanted to do something for the town,” Douglas tells me over a glass of Hard Graft. “We wanted to be close to the harbour, in an iconic building, and make beer with names that reflect the people. We felt that if we got the story right, we had a chance at success – it could be a destination.”

Docks beersDocks beers

Docks Beers is a converted 19th century mission church turned craft brewery and event space: Sarah Baxter

It functions. Acts like the Hoosiers, Slade, Stereo MCs and Lloyd Griffith have performed here, and a “Docks effect” has spread to nearby businesses.

A visit to Grimsby harbor proper – a “city within a city” – is neither so easy nor exactly hospitable. Although the fishing fleet is long gone, the port is still a powerhouse, with the focus now on renewables, imports and fish processing – 70 percent of the UK’s fish is processed here. Because it is a working port, you cannot simply wander around and you must provide proof of identity and a good reason for being there before entering. Fortunately, there are several good reasons.

To start with, there is Coffee on the Docks, an old payroll office that has now become a hip café. There’s also Alfred Enderby, an award-winning smokehouse founded in 1918, which supplies haddock and salmon to the likes of Rick Stein and Marco Pierre White. Patrick Salmon took over the business in 2015 and, as his name pretty much dictates, he is passionate about both Grimsby and fish.

He shows me around and opens the doors of the smokehouse chimneys. The inside is covered in 100 years of lumpy, viscous tar, the irreplaceable but gruesome-looking gunk that gives the fish its unique flavor. Salmon organizes tours of the smokehouse and is about to move into the building next door so he can set up a kitchen and give tasting demonstrations.

Fishing boats docked in Grimsby in Victorian timesFishing boats docked in Grimsby in Victorian times

Grimsby was once the fishing capital of Great Britain: Alamy

There are around 90 historic buildings on the quay, and although most are no longer in use, ‘rental holidays’ are available for tenants looking to renovate.

Emma Lingard, the corporate communications manager of Associated British Ports and a guide on the side, shows me the Kasbah, an area of ​​narrow, sloping alleys built between the old railway lines, which was designated a conservation area in 2017. We pass a house connected to a Soviet spy (“a tip-off about the Kennedy assassination was given from here,” she says) and the huge monumental ice factory, which once produced up to 1,200 tons of ice a day; Plans have just been approved to turn it into a 1,000 seat venue and a major hotel.

‘Part of the movie Penance was filmed there,” says Lingard. The docks were also used This is England and, in 2023, for scenes in the Netflix series Bodies.

“The ports are moving forward, and we see the next thing as film and TV – film companies love it because they get a private estate with a lot of space,” says Lingard. “Grimsby was a small Georgian town, and when the railway arrived, entrepreneurs looked at the gaps in the market and made money. It’s the same now. We need to stop living in the past, embrace the present and look to the future. Risking. It is not the end of the line for Grimsby.”

Watch this space.


Sarah Baxter stayed in the Little Haven (sleeps four), a beautiful dog-friendly beach chalet in the Humberston Fitties, in nearby Cleethorpes; a three-night stay costs from £297 (07595 772771;

Entrance to the Fishing Heritage Center from £8.50 pp (01472 323345;

Tours of the Alfred Enderby smokehouse take place on the second Saturday of the month; £10 pp, including a £5 voucher, advance booking required (01472 342984;

For food and drink, see,, and

Grimsby Harbor is open to respectful visitors; registration required. Emma Lingard offers several tours ( Or visit the National Heritage Open Day (14 September;

Find out more at,

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