Whitby Yorkshire, UK - guide for visitors to Whitby and Whitby Abbey
As you approach Whitby over the North Yorkshire Moors, the silhouette of the abbey
is visible from miles away, making an outstanding landmark. Unless you have a good
reason not to, it's a good idea to follow the signs and park at the abbey
as it has a huge car park and parking in the middle of Whitby
is near impossible in high season.
Before you is the ruined 7th century abbey towering over the town.
was one of the most important early christian sites in the North, but what's left
now is mainly from the 13th and 14th centuries. The abbey isn't alone on the top of
there's also the parish church with a most interesting graveyard, the youth hostel
(that's the long red roofed building in the top right of the picture) and the newly
restored Cholmley House which is now the abbey museum. I don't have a lot of time
for English Heritage, but they have done a fine job on the abbey and the museum.
While Whitby town gets very crowded indeed, the grounds of the abbey are always
tranquil, probably because most people are plugged into audio tours.
If you've parked elsewhere then you have to take the more traditional route of climbing
the 199 steps up to the abbey from the old town.
Coming down the steps from the abbey you reach the narrow streets of the old
town.In recent years the shops in these narrow streets have come on in leaps and bounds,
and there's now a wealth of interesting shops - galleries, antique shops, Jewellers
working Jet, book shops, cafes, bistros, a very nice deli, outdoor gear shops and
Whitby Jet became extremely popular in the Victorian era, as Victoria wore it in
her mourning period following Albert's death. If you're going to buy some, then
Whitby is the place, because there's all kinds of rubbish on the market, but in
Whitby you're more likely to get the genuine article.
Whitby museum is also worth a mention as it has a great collection of Jet,
and planty of the sort of ephemera you don't see in too many museums nowadays.
The old town is really interesing, but the problem is that the streets are narrow and more and more people visit each year. That can make for a less than great experience. I once made the mistake of visiting Whitby on a Bank Holiday. That's not an experience I'll ever repeat. If you can
get there at a quieter time, it's
a great place to play in the shops.
It's also an absolute mecca
for anyone who wants to buy Goth tat. That's because of Dracula.
Bram Stoker set much of the book in Whitby, and he was a regular visitor.
Whitby has made much of this connection. There's a Dracula "experience" on the harbour
side, Dracula walking tours round the town, a Dracula trail and the aforementioned Goth tat and new age junk. If you have a teenage
Goth in the family this is the place to bring them. In fact, it's such a draw, that there are now two Goth weekend festivals
every year, one in April and one in October. If you're looking for accommodation
in Whitby, don't clash with these weekends as the whole town gets fully booked.
And don't clash with the Folk Week either
(late August). That's an incredible week if you like folk music, but probably a
vision of hell if you don't. All the pubs get packed out, there's clog dancers on
every corner, and people singing everywhere. Personally speaking I love it, though
I've never been for the full week. And while I'm on the subject, there's no shortage
of top-notch real ale pubs in Whitby.
As you move out of the old town you come to the Esk which splits the town
in two. There's an amazing swing bridge over the river which broke in the Summer of 2010
but is now repaired. Whilst it was broken, three sets of rival boatmen ferried people
across the river at a pound a time. The old lifeboat was one of them, and hopefully
they'll have made enough money out of it to do some refurb work it. It's a beautiful
boat and I'd love to see it back in pristine condition again. Certainly
made everyone in Whitby appreciate how important the bridge is.
Crossing the bridge to the West Cliff, you come to the
harbourside, and walking down here towards the sea brings the usual clutter of amusement
rock shops, ice cream purveyors and fish and chip shops. I have to say that the fish
and chip shops just here are unsurpassed anywhere in the UK, and it's traditional
to sit on the pier indulging in this gastronomic treat.
Foodies have always raved
about "The Magpie" seafood restaurant which is situated just here, but I've never
tried it as there always seems to be a queue, and the
queues are even worse since Rick Stien plugged it on his TV show. The Magpie has opened a takeaway now,
and even that has a queue! When I tried the takeaway I have to say it was good, but no better than the others
on the harbour front. The secret
of good fish and chips is throughput, and the quantity these places go through,
you're guaranteed excellence whichever one you choose.
At the end of the harbour is the pier and a way down to the beach. The pier is
always interesting to wander along, and the tower at the end of it is now open to
the public and you can climb up for fantastic views. There's plenty of activity
on the harbour side as this is still a busy commercial port. There's fishing trips
and quite a variety of pleasure craft to sail round the harbour on, ranging
from the old lifeboat to a fake pirate ship and the usual assortment of small launches.
Occasionally the town gets visited by replica tall ships. The Grand Turk and the
Endeavour are a couple of more famous visitors.
Mention of the Endeavour brings us neatly to yet another major historical connection
with Whitby. It was here that James Cook served his apprenticeship, before going
on to become the most famous navigator Britain has ever produced, making three trips
to map Australasia, New Zealand, Antarctica and the South Seas. The Whitby connection
is bolstered by the fact that the ships he took were Whitby Colliers, narrow of
draught and broad of beam. Ideally suited to exploring where you didn't
know how shallow the water was going to be.
There's a large statue of Cook on top of the West Cliff and a Captain Cook
on the harbourside, plus when the Endeavour visits that's definitely worth a look.
And of course, Whitby Museum has plenty to look at.
The West Cliff is an entirely different part of the town, having been largely laid
out and built in the 19th Century for the seaside trade. Along the front of
the cliff are formal gardens and entertainments like Crazy Golf and a boating lake.
If you want to get down to the beach from West Cliff it's a long walk down a zig-zag
path, or you can take the 1930's cliff lift. Unlike most cliff lifts which are funiculars,
this one is a "proper" vertical lift going through the cliff to a pedestrian tunnel
at the bottom. It used to have two cars, but since Scarborough council renovated
it there's only one, and that's a horrid shiny modern thing instead of the original.
Just one more reason (in a very long list) why Filey and Whitby should have their
The main beach itself is good and clean, but always suffers in comparison with Filey
and Brid. But then again, what beach in the UK doesn't suffer in comparison with
those two. It does get busy but is never packed, and in high season there are lifeguards
on duty and plenty of food for sale. Donkey and pony rides too.
Behind West Cliff are street upon street of hotels, B&B's and holiday flats, but even with
this amount of accommodation available it can be hard to find anywhere to stay if
you don't book in advance. Whitby is a popular place and it draws visitors from
both West Yorkshire and the North East, so either book in advance or get down
to the tourist information office.
Visitor Attractions Near Whitby
Wow - this is going to be one long list. Whitby is on the edge of the North York Moors, so all those
attractions are nearby. Anyway, here's a few thoughts:
- Visit Sandsend (just North) - you can walk in the Mulgrave Estate woodlands on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Mondays except in May.
Can be closed for commercial purposes so probably best to check first.
- Goathland is nearby. A very pretty vilage in a very pretty area, but over-run with visitors since it was
Aidensfield in the "Heartbeat" TV series. Most visitors don't stray more than 200 yards from the village centre,
so great for walking. In fact, most visitors don't even get to Mallyan Spout which is only round the corner
- Robin Hood's Bay
Utterly picturesque seaside village just down the coast. Steep doesn't begin to describe it,
so if you're not good on your feet forget it. Most
famous nowadays as the end of Wainwright's Coast to Coast walk.
- Ruswarp and the Esk Valley - very pretty walking country. Ruswarp is under two miles
from Whitby and has boating and canoes on the river and a miniature railway.
- The Cleveland Way - runs down the cost, so you can walk up or down. The walk over
the cliffs to Robin Hood's Bay is very dramatic, and you can get a bus back.
Buses are pretty frequent, but such things always change so
- Whitby to Scarborough cycle trail. You can hire bikes from
Trailways between Whitby and Robin Hood's Bay. They also carry common spares,
so can be useful if you break down.
- Staithes - dramatic fishing village to the North.
- Hole of Horcum - interesting geological feature on the Whitby - Pickering road.
You can go and peer at it, but it's more fun to
- Drive to Pickering - using the road from Egton Bridge via Stape. One of the most
beautiful roads in North Yorkshire and a great way to get to Pickering.
- Cropton Forest - get to it using the aforementioned road. Great for walking and
Badger Watching - if you're at all into wildlife this is an amazing experience.
I won't spoil it by describing it, but trust me on this one. The one mistake I
made was not to take a camera. Badger's don't see electronic flash, so you can get
some great pictures. Currently under threat from the cutbacks (2010). Let's hope
- Ironstone Museum - not been myself,
but includes a chance to go underground.
- Rosedale - great walking
on a track round the dale. Can mountain bike it too.
- North Yorkshire Moors Railway - best steam
railway in Britain. Trains now run from Whitby to Pickering.
4x4 Driving - with all the forests round here, that just had to be an option.
A great fun day out.
Whitby and the surrounding area is packed with holiday cottages. A Google search
will pull up plenty of individual ones, but here's some of the big players:
Pictures of Whitby