Human Interest

Wanderings around Whitby

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Surrounded by the North York Moors National Park in North Yorkshire, England, Whitby is an ancient sea port and partial setting for Bram Stoker’s 1897 Victorian Gothic horror novel, Dracula. The ruins of Whitby Abbey (pictured below) stand guard on the clifftop overlooking the port. Adjacent to St. Mary’s parish church on East Cliff, the Abbey was founded in the 11th century. Both are reached by a winding stairway comprised of 199 steps. I visited the weekend before Christmas when access to the Abbey grounds and museum were closed for improvement works. Both are due to reopen in March 2019. You can check opening times here.

Aside from links to Victorian Gothic literature, Whitby is also famous for its quaint, winding streets and authentic period buildings. While there are some steep hills to navigate, the shops in Whitby are well worth the effort. There are a multitude selling jewelry with the world famous Whitby jet—a natural organic gemstone formed from the compressed wood of the prehistoric Araucaria tree. It’s only found between Robin Hood’s Bay and Boulby, near to Whitby. It’s been traditionally used as a mourning stone on account of it being black in color. One may find necklaces, rings, broaches, and all manner of accessories boasting this precious stone. There’s also the Victorian Jet Workshop housed within the Whitby Jet Heritage Centre to visit (though I didn’t get around to visiting it).

Another establishment I’d highly recommend (especially if you’re a Victorian enthusiast like me) is Sherlock’s Coffee House. Its interior mimics a Victorian study to pay tribute to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes. There is ample seating (both downstairs and up), friendly staff, and delicious cakes, scones, and even ice cream sundaes to try. I had the Fudge Caramel Crunch sundae served in a huge goblet. A more traditional cream tea is also available. Importantly, Sherlock’s Coffee House is dog-friendly if you’re thinking about bringing your four-legged friend with you on vacation.

Another dog-friendly establishment is The Dolphin Hotel. I stayed here with my friends and our room had superb views over the port and bridge. The rooms were also spacious, comfortable, and clean with en suite bathroom with shower. The staff gave us a warm welcome and nothing was too much trouble for them. The bar was also friendly, comfortable, and relaxing with views over the river.

At breakfast there were the usual options of cereals, toast, fruit juices etc. In addition to these, one could have varying sizes of the traditional full English breakfast. What you see pictured above is a new method of serving; in a giant, Yorkshire pudding. Traditionally, these batter-based puddings were served with gravy as a starter before the main meal. Due to its dough-like consistency, the Yorkshire pudding I had with my breakfast was the perfect substitute for toast.

Whitby can be explored by car but my friends and I spent all our time there on foot. The pier at dusk had a brooding and dramatic atmosphere. The waves crashed against rocks, the full moon was low, and the wind wasn’t too strong. We walked to the lighthouse (pictured above) and back again. There is little light along the pier once darkness falls so this is something to bear in mind if you’re thinking of promenading. There are also some large gaps between the boards. Those who suffer from vertigo may not want to walk along the last part of the pier to the lighthouse, therefore.

At low tide one can walk along the vast, sandy beach and admire the dramatic cliff face. There’s an elevator one can take up the cliff side but, again, due to the time of year we went it was closed. With few pebbles and seaweed littering the beaches they’re the perfect place for a morning stroll with the dog. Access is by a set of steps by the pier and one can walk along to the beach’s far end. At certain times of the day there’s a twenty minute cruise around the bay. This ship may be caught within the port itself (weather conditions permitting).

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Whitby. If, like me, you enjoy quaint streets, traditional English breakfasts, cream teas, long walks, and dramatic scenery then it’s definitely a place to consider for your next vacation. Especially if one of your New Year’s goals is to travel further afield.


Sources of reference:

C.W. Sellors Fine Jewellery – About Whitby Jet

The Dolphin Hotel

English Heritage – How Dracula Came to Whitby

English Heritage – Whitby Abbey Opening Times

The Whitby Jet Heritage Centre

Whitby Tourist Information

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