Midway through our week in the Yorkshire Dales we had planned a rest day, i.e. a day without hiking anywhere! The weather forecast was still somewhat grey and dreary however we decided to make the most of our time in North Yorkshire with a trip to Whitby, a place that neither of us had previously visited.
Whitby is a seaside town located on the North East coast of England and overlooking the North Sea. Captain James Cook, the explorer and Royal Navy captain who in the 1700s made three voyages to New Zealand and the South Pacific lived in Whitby and his ship, the Endeavour was built there.
Whitby is also famous for being considered the ‘goth capital of Britain’ as it is the place where goths gather twice a year, in April and in October (for Halloween). Goths are attracted to Whitby as the place where Dracula was written, its gothic architecture and abbey providing inspiration to Bram Stoker, the author.
Russell drove Roza, Chris and I to Whitby and having parked in the centre behind the Co-op (for a pricey £5) we re-grouped with Flo & Mike and set off to explore. Following a diversion to fuel up on coffee and cake, in a quaint little place which also doubled as a book shop, we made our way along the narrow cobbled streets towards the abbey.
We came to the 199 steps which lead to St Mary’s Church. These steps were originally wooden until they were replaced with stone in 1774. History suggests that climbing the steps is a measure of faith of those who worshipped in the church.
The steps took us high above the town which gave us good views of the town. ‘Good’ in the sense that we didn’t have the clearest of views… on a clear day the view is probably excellent!
We reached the top and came to St Mary’s Church which sits in a commanding position overlooking Whitby. At this point, each couple (Russell & Roza and Mike & Flo) split off and we did our own thing for a couple of hours.
Next to the church is the coast path which forms part of the Cleveland Way, the 109 mile national trail which starts in Helmsley and ends in Filey Brigg. For a shorter walk, it takes around 3 hours to walk the 7 miles along the coast from Whitby to Robin Hoods Bay.
The plaque at Whitby Abbey says that people have lived on the headland of Whitby for over 3,000 years and that a monastery was first built here in the seventh century. This was abandoned in the 9th century until monks returned in the late 11th century and constructed another monastery. The ruins we can see today are from a magnificent church built between 13th – 15th century. However, this was reduced to ruins in 1539 during Henry VIII’s suppression of the monasteries.
You can visit the ruins via the entrance to the visitor centre however there is a £10 charge and you need to pre-book online. Alternatively, you can take a photo from a distance, as we did!
Back in Whitby town centre you can see the Swing Bridge, a road and pedestrian bridge which crosses the River Esk. This prominent location has seen several bridges over the centuries and back in the 1550s there used to be a toll of £6 each year (a hefty £2,293 in today’s money). The current bridge (above) was opened in 1909 although is too narrow for cars to pass so is operated by traffic lights.
There are many shops in the town centre and, as well as some familiar high street brands, there are many small shops specialising in local produce.
There is also a range of boat trips available which are probably more popular and appealing in the summer!
As with most British seaside resorts there is an abundance of fish and chip shops and Whitby is no exception! Delicious smells waft in the air and tempt you to indulge… we were indeed tempted however decided against fish and chips and instead found an old traditional seaside pub which sold Whitby gin… a tasty local gin to try 🙂
By now the rain was heavy again and with a 1.5 hour drive to Catterick we decided to head back to the holiday house.
We enjoyed our short time in Whitby, which turned into a half day trip. With its interesting history and relaxing feel, this picturesque seaside town left us feeling inspired to return. It would also be good to explore the coastline which is something we didn’t get a chance to do. Maybe a walk to Robin Hoods Bay in the future?