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Abbeys, Churches and Sacred Spaces

Sunset at Whitby AbbeySunset at Whitby Abbey

Centuries of history lay beneath your feet and before your eyes in abbey ruins, gothic churches, medieval chapels and ancient stone crosses offering not just quiet contemplation but spiritual intrigue too.

Trace our saintly beginnings 

Make your own pilgrimage through the North York Moors and learn about the iconic figures that shaped our heritage. From St Hilda, the founder for a Celtic monastery at Whitby Abbey and St Caedmon, her fellow monk that created the infamous poem ‘God the Creator’, to Nicholas Postgate, the Catholic Martyr who was known as the ‘Good Samaritan of the Moors’, the landscape is a living monument to our religious heritage.

Heavenly abbeys and churches

Whitby Abbey

Climb the 199 steps to Whitby Abbey to discover how it was one of the most important religious centres in the Anglo-Saxon world under St Hilda’s rule. While here, don’t forget to visit the fantastic museum and atmospheric ruins.

St Mary’s Church, Whitby

Standing proud on Whitby’s east cliff overlooking the town, this 12th century church holds many rare finds, including a Royal Coat of Arms, antiquated box pews, and a large 17th century gallery. Outside, the churchyard is filled with weathered tombstones and monuments to those who lost their lives at sea. Look out for Caedmon’s Memorial Cross, standing almost 20 feet high and made of stone from nearby Hadrian’s Wall. It depicts Saxon saints, Biblical figures and kings and has an inscription remembering Caedmon.

St Oswald’s Church, Lythe

Situated at the top of Lythe meaning 'hill', it’s no surprise this impressive church offers spectacular views across the coast to Whitby. Holding an ancient collection of carved stones that date back to the 7th Century and from the 9th Century Viking invasion, traditional worship that almost certainly began in Viking times still continues today.

Old St Stephen’s Church, Robin Hood's Bay

Find rare Maidens Garlands that were carried on female coffins during funeral processions to mark their pre-marital death. Not forgetting the looming gravestones outside the church that recall tragedies of people whose lives were cruelly claimed by the sea.

New St Stephen’s Church, Robin Hood's Bay

This is a must visit. It was here that some of the congregation were involved with the movement to reinstate older Christian traditions, which developed into Anglo-Catholicism.

St Hilda’s Church, Ravenscar

At Ravenscar, look out for a church standing in the town that never was. St Hilda’s Church was built by WH Hammond, whose vision was to turn Ravenscar into a town before financial struggles brought about the project's demise. The church now runs art exhibitions and an occasional pop up coffee shop with St John’s Church in Staintondale.

All Saint’s Church, Skelton

This secluded Georgian church is set in parkland with views to Skelton Castle. Rebuilt in 1785, the church holds beautiful Georgian box pews, a medieval memorial slab and a Medieval stone sarcophagi that are a must see.

Ancient Crosses

Lilla Cross

Lilla Cross stands tall on Lilla Howe on Fylingdales Moor and is the oldest Christian monument in the north of England. Dating back to AD 626, it commemorates Lilla, an officer of Edwin, king of Northumbria, who died on the spot where the cross stands, while saving the king’s life. The incident led the King to be baptised in York in AD 627 in a small wooden church. York Minster now stands on this site.

York Cross, John Cross and Postgate Cross

There are 37 moorland crosses dotted around the National Park which you might come across. Put up as way-markers and boundary posts from the Middle Ages, they often stand on the junctions of old moorland trackways and it is believed they reinforced the Christian faith. They are a distinctive feature of the area, with a variety of names ranging from Young Ralph (the symbol of the National Park) to Fat Betty. Coastal crosses such as York Cross, John Cross and Postgate Cross are not as old as Lilla Cross (c. 9-15th Century AD) but are well worth a visit.

Divine comforts

1. St Oswalds Pastoral Retreat Centre, Sleights

If you are looking for refreshment and retreat, look no further. The Sisters welcome small groups or individuals and are available if anyone needs a listening ear. You can also find them at St Hilda’s Priory adjacent to Sneaton Castle in Whitby, where accommodation is also available (until December 2018).

2. Wydale Hall, near Scarborough

This is the perfect venue to hold an event or conference to learn more about the Christian faith.

3. The Cair Paravel Hotel, Scarborough

Fancy something a little different? This hotel offers a welcome with a Narnia theme. The owners are Christians and they welcome people from all faith denominations.

4. Intake Farm, near Sleights

You'll receive a warm welcome at this idyllic B&B located on a working farm. Nestled in the small hamlet of Littlebeck, it provides the perfect rural getaway.

5. Cober Hill, Cloughton

Once a former Quaker establishment, Cober Hill still retains the ethos of its earlier spiritual roots. You can sit in rooms where Quakers once held their ministry and soak up the peace and calm. Outside you can retreat to serene, secret gardens for inner restoration or head to the coastline nearby to blow away the cobwebs. The centre caters for groups from all faith denominations and also offers art and craft holidays here too.