Few ports can boast such a captivating setting as Whitby, with a gap in the North Sea cliffs revealing a muddle of red-roofed houses rising above a busy harbour. The town’s proud sea-faring tradition lives on in everything from the monuments to the local menus, but as you wander the narrow cobbled streets you’ll be in for some surprises.
Whitby is just the right size to explore on foot and in a day. So start your exploration in the old town on the East Side of the river, where you’ll find specialist jewellery shops selling Whitby jet, a highly polished black gemstone.
A gently winding series of 199 steps leads up to St Mary’s parish church and the remains of the abbey, established by St Hilda in the 7th century and site of the famous synod. The equally historic Abbey House next door is now home to an impressive and well-equipped new youth hostel, enjoying stunning views across the entire harbour.
Local lad James Cook began his epic voyages of discovery from Whitby, also famous for its boatyards and whaling fleet. Captain Cook’s fascinating story is told at the Captain Cook Memorial Museum on Grape Street, while his statue gazes imperiously over the harbour mouth from the end of West Cliff, close to a gigantic arch made out of whale bones. Thankfully whales don’t feature on local seafood menus; instead tuck into award-winning fish and chips at the popular Magpie Café. Buy freshly landed seafood at The Whitby Catch, opposite the fish market, or sniff out the delicious smoked kippers at Fortune’s on Henrietta Street.
Alternatively, a slice of traditional Yorkshire brack (lovely moist tea bread) from Botham’s on the West Side will give you the energy to stride the cliff-top paths or run about on the wide golden beach that extends several miles north to Sandsend at low tide. But if you’re not feeling active, follow the harbour walls to observe the boat life and the drama of the swing bridge in action.
But this scenic, welcoming town has a darker side. Bram Stoker set some of Dracula in Whitby and in addition to a gruesome visitor attraction, complete with recorded screams and various special effects, there’s also a regular evening guided walk visiting locations mentioned in the book. Beware – you may end up with a rather different view of Whitby!
14 Pier Road, Whitby YO21 3PU
This restaurant specialises in a variety of fish dishes.
Botham’s of Whitby
35/39 Skinner Street, Whitby
This family-run bakery and tea rooms was established in 1865.
Abbey House, East Cliff, Whitby YO22 4JT
0845 371 9049
Family-friendly accommodation in a historic building.
La Rosa Hotel
5 East Terrace, Whitby YO21 3HB
Lewis Carroll used to stay in this elegant period building.
Captain Cook Memorial Museum
Grape Lane, Whitby YO22 4BA
Open daily, from 9.45am-5pm.
The Dracula Experience
9 Marine Parade, Whitby
Open weekends till Easter, then daily, 9.45am-5pm,.
East Cliff, Whitby
Open daily, 10am-6pm.
FIND OUT MORE
Whitby Tourist Information Centre
Langborne Road, Whitby YO21 1YN