Whitby is a city of two components, with the River Esk forming a path between a bunch of 18th-century fishermen’s cottages on its East Cliff and a formal Victorian neighborhood on the West Cliff. It’s also a town with two distinct personalities – on the one hand, a bustling trade and fishing port with a busy quayside awash with fish; on the other, an oh-so-pretty, classical seaside resort furnished with amusement arcades, sandy beach, and strolling visitors.
Keeping a keen eye over the city is a mysterious ruined abbey, the influence, and background for part of Bram Stoker’s Gothic horror story Dracula. But tales of ghostly and witchery legends have haunted Whitby ever since Anglo-Saxon St Hilda arrived here to establish a monastic community in 657 CE. The town embraces its notoriety for the weird and wonderful, culminating in two hugely thriving Goth Weekends every year.
How to reach Whitby?
Whitby’s main routes are all very scenic but can be dangerous and closed in adverse climatic conditions, as they pass over moorland and are susceptible to snow during the winters. Despite its remote location, Whitby is properly connected by interurban buses. Arriva provides connections to Redcar, Middlesbrough, Loftus, and Saltburn on their X4 service, which runs twice every hour along the sea.
Top Attractions in Whitby
Captain Cook Memorial Museum
This enthralling museum occupies the ship owner’s house with whom Captain Cook began his career. Highlights include the place where Cook lived as a young apprentice, Cook’s own letters and maps, pictures from the South Seas, and a fantastic Resolution model, with the stories and crew all laid out for the audience. Cook stayed in Whitby for nine years and later went back to have all three of his voyage ships constructed in Whitby’s dockyards.
Whitby Sands, extending west from the harbor mouth, offers ice-cream vendors, donkey rides, and bucket-and-spade escapades, although the sand is often covered at high tide. You can reach the beach on a path from West Cliff or Whitby Pavilion via the cliff lift, a legendary elevator in service since the 1930s.
Endeavor Experience Whitby
In 2018, Captain Cook’s HM Bark Endeavour’s full-size replica became a permanent fixture in Whitby harbor and opened to the public as a visitor attraction. Onboard, 11 cabins have been converted into a fantastic cafe, mini-galleries, and interactive exhibits about a mystical life at sea and Cook’s 1768 journey of discovery aboard Endeavour. Highlights include animated film projections in the Great Cabin, the ‘Sea Shanty’ karaoke room, and an exhibition of Southern Hemisphere constellations the medieval crew would have used exclusively for navigation.
There are ruined abbeys, and there are pretty ruined abbeys. Then, there’s Whitby Abbey, overlooking the skyline above the East Cliff like a giant Gothic tombstone reflecting away from the sky. Looking as though it was created as an atmospheric film set rather than a religious establishment, it is hardly shocking that this medieval hulk inspired the mysterious Victorian author Bram Stoker to make it the setting for Count Dracula’s climactic landfall.
Top Places to eat and drink in Whitby
- ‘Quayside’ fish shop is one of the favorite places to eat in Whitby. Brilliant decor, great views outside the cafe and take-away and excellent food
- Whitby is also known for its kippers. You can see authentic smokery at Fortune’s, beside the Abbey steps on the rich and vibrant Henrietta Street.
- The Duke of York, at the end of the Abbey steps, serves good food and accommodation.
Most pubs in Whitby are comparatively traditional and extremely friendly and provide an excellent opportunity to sample real ales. Highly valued are the beers coming from the regional Whitby Brewery.