Visitors flock year-round to Whitby, the most atmospheric town along the Yorkshire coast. The famous Whitby Abbey ruins on the clifftop and cobbled Georgian old town below form a beautiful backdrop to days on the sandy beach or strolls around the vibrant harbour.
Captain Cook learned his trade here in the 18th century, while in the 19th century Whitby expanded with the arrival of the railway. Steam trains still serve the town, on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway from Pickering and Grosmont, while the Esk Valley Railway offers a scenic trip through the heart of the beautiful Esk Valley.
Standing proud on Whitby’s east cliff overlooking the town, St Mary’s Church dates back to the 12th century and 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 but don’t waste any time hunting for Dracula’s grave! 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.
Captain Cook is remembered in the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, housed in the harbour-front building where Cook lodged as an apprentice seaman. All Cook's ships of exploration were built in Whitby - Endeavour, Resolution, Adventure and Discovery.
The coast off Whitby and the National Park is the source of jet, the fossilised remains of the ancient monkey-puzzle tree. It's been used as jewellery for thousands of years, and was popularised in Victorian times by Queen Victoria, and several shops still continue the tradition, including W. Hamond, the town's oldest surviving jet shop.
From here head round the corner to Tate Hill where the Russian ship ‘Demeter’ ran aground, with the only apparent survivor a mysterious dog that disappeared up the 199 steps. At least that's how Bram Stoker's novel Dracula starts, inspired by his holiday to Whitby in 1890, when he also enjoyed walks to Kettleness and Mulgrave Woods, both now in the National Park.
Whitby isn’t just about fish and chips, you’ll find an array of great places to eat, including The Whitby Deli and Pizza West. Plus there are many interesting independent shops, art galleries and eating places to discover, and hidden corners with quirky names like ‘Arguments Yard’.
There are plenty of events and festivals celebrating the town’s rich cultural heritage too. From the venerable Whitby Folk Week with traditional music and dance, workshops and street entertainment to Whitby Regatta, which takes a different tack, showcasing four days of yacht racing, rowing races and entertainment, finishing with a spectacular harbourside firework display.