If you are looking for an interesting English seaside town to visit, Whitby deserves a place near the top of your list. It’s an old town that has a lot of character and offers visitors plenty of options when they are looking for things to see and do. However, with so many quaint, narrow streets that are home to an abundance of small shops and eateries, any exploration of the area is likely to be delayed by the temptation to window shop or grab something tasty to eat.
Although it’s close to Teesside, Whitby is in North Yorkshire and, like a lot of other coastal towns in the UK, it has several fish and chips shops.
Fish and chips is also a hot item on the menus of many local bars and restaurants. However, if you want to try something a little different, you might try a portion of scampi and chips instead.
Whitby has a reputation for good scampi. A local company called Whitby Seafoods produces bags of frozen breaded scampi that are available shops and supermarkets all over the UK but, in my opinion, the scampi cooked in the local establishments always tastes better.
Yesterday was the first time I’d been to Whitby in a number of years. I’d forgotten Whitby is also somewhat of a Mecca for anyone who likes fudge. A lot of the local shops sell it. There’s even a fudge counter in the indoor market.
When I was a kid my parents always took me to Seaton Carew and I ate a lot of Seaton Carew rock. Most seaside towns I visited when I got older had plenty of places selling sticks of local seaside rock. I don’t remember any that sold fudge. (The History of Seaside Rock)
There’s a lot more to Whitby than tasty food but I’m not going to attempt to write about all the many things there are to see and do in the town. So many other sites provide that kind of in-depth information it’s pointless trying to compete. Instead, I’m going to keep it personal and share some of the things I like about the town. If you decide to visit Whitby, there’s a good chance you may like some of them too.
The Dracula Connection
If you are a fan of Bram Stoker’s Dracula story, Whitby is a town that might be an especially appealing destination for a day out. It’s certainly the case with me.
Long before I ever began to travel or make any attempt to be a travel blogger, I was a horror writer. Not a very successful one, but I sold quite a lot of stories.
Before I wrote horror, I read a lot of horror novels. Dracula was one of them and it was through that book that I first became curious about Whitby.
Although it’s often not the case in the film versions, in Bram Stoker’s book, Dracula left Transylvania and moved to Whitby. Why Whitby? Stoker spent some time in the town in 1890 and liked it so much he later incorporated it into his story.
In the eighth chapter, Mina Murray climbs the 199 steps that lead to St Mary’s Church and found her friend Lucy Westenra sitting on a seat in the churchyard with a shadowy figure leaning over her. There are several benches in the churchyard, most of them facing the sea. When you see them it’s easy to pull scenes from the book to the front of your mind.
However, although you won’t find any vampires waiting for you at the top of the steps, you will be treated to some breathtaking views.
If you are a fan of Bram Stoker’s story, you may find it interesting to visit the Dracula Experience.
The Dracula Experience [WEBSITE] isn’t near the 199 steps though. It’s a venue located far below, on the other side of the River Esk. You can find it on Marine Parade [MAP] and the front of the building is so distinctive-looking it’s hard to miss.
You walk in one door and come out another. The walk between the two doors involves a spooky Dracula experience that involves various special effects, props, and even live actors. It’s not exactly terrifying but it’s worth a look and at just £4 per adult, it’s pretty cheap to get in.
If Whitby’s Dracula Experience doesn’t sound like your thing, there are some seaside amusement arcades on the same street and, if you keep walking for a few minutes, the road will take you to the beach.
The 199 Abbey Steps
Whitby’s 199 steps are pretty steep. I’ve seen plenty of young, fit-looking people need to halt their journey upwards and take a rest. Fortunately, there are several benches at the side of the steps so, if you need to sit down for a while you can.
The present steps are made from stone but they’ve only been there since 1774. Before that, there was an earlier version made from wood.
Some people will tell you the steps were created to test the faith of Whitby church-goers who needed to climb them before they could enter the church and pray. It’s an interesting idea, but when you have a church at the top of a hill, it’s only common sense to build some steps. Having said that, by the time some people reach the church they may find it a relief to drop to their knees.
If you climb the 199 steps and take advantage of the benches to stop and take a rest, you may be interested to learn the real reason behind the rest points where the benches presently stand.
They were for the benefit of people carrying coffins up to churchyard, high above the town. With all that extra weight on their shoulders, they needed plenty of places suitable to stop and have a rest.
The gravestones in the churchyard are quite interesting. Most of them have been so eroded by the salty, sea air it’s no longer possible to read the inscriptions. You may also be interested to learn there are a number of pirates buried in the ground of St. Mary’s Church. It’s easy to tell which stones mark the pirate graves because they have a skull and crossbones carved into them. The carving is deeper than a normal inscription so it generally manages to escape the corrosive abilities of the breezes blowing in from the sea. [The Skull and Cross-bone Graves]
Like the 199 steps and St Mary’s Church, Whitby Abbey is mentioned in the Dracula story and its an especially impressive sight to see when it’s silhouetted against the night sky.
Unfortunately, if you want to go and explore the ruins, you need to pay to get in and, at £10 per person, it’s not cheap. If you are a member of English Heritage, though, you won’t need to pay. Your yearly subscription covers you for all the English Heritage sites.
As well as the ruin, there’s also a museum you can explore. That may take a little of the sting out of having to pay. However, if you don’t mind admiring the abbey from a distance, you can get a pretty good look at it by peering over the stone wall at the side of the road. That’s all I do these days. I paid once, many years ago, and wished I’d saved my money to spend on some beer or a plate of scampi and chips.
Whitby Jet Jewellery
If jewellery is your thing, a piece of Whitby jet jewellery could make a good souvenir of your trip. I’m not a lover of jewellery but I still enjoy looking in the windows of the many Whitby jet shops at the various items displayed within.
Jet is an organic gemstone that’s formed from the wood of petrified trees. If you’ve ever heard people talking about something being “jet-black”, you may be interested to know the term is making a comparison to jet gemstones.
Jet took millions of years to develop. It’s not exclusive to the Whitby area, but fans of the gemstone will tell you it’s the best. It was formed over 181 million years ago.
Jet is a gemstone that’s very easy to carve. That’s why some Whitby shops have such creative jewellery designs. However, it takes a lot of skill to carve Whitby jet because it’s also quite easy to break.
W. Hammond is allegedly the oldest Whitby jet shop. It’s been in the jet business since 1860 and had the distinction of supplying a jet-black gemstone to Queen Victoria.
If you want to visit the W Hammond Whitby jet store, you’ll find it easily enough. It’s situated on Church Street near the start of the 199 steps and, if you get hungry during your visit, you won’t need to search hard for somewhere to eat. There’s a tea room situated on the first floor, above the shop. [MAP]
The UK is an island, so there are plenty of beaches to visit. The beach at Whitby is one of the best ones to go to when you are exploring the North East. Unlike Redcar and Seaton Carew, there are no signs of local industry to spoil the view.
During my last visit, one of the things that impressed me the most was the rich, green-coloured rocks and the contrasting colours of the stone on the face of the cliff.
The stones were green because something was growing on them. The identity of the substance coating the rocks was not as important to me as the way it made them look. I presume it was lichens but that’s not my field of expertise.
There are plenty of other things to see and do at Whitby. This blog post barely scratches the surface. Fossils, dinosaur footprints on the beach, the Captain Cook museum. All those things and many more. If you really want to dig deep and find out all the things the town has to offer, the Whitby Tourist Information Center is the best place to go. It’s not hard to find. It’s only a short walk from the local train and bus station and the Marina Front Car Park. [MAP]
However, if you at planning to travel to Whitby by bus or train, you need to be aware both services stop running in the early evening so, if you want to enjoy the Whitby nightlife, you will need to plan an overnight stay.
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