Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.
This is a blog post unlike anything I’ve ever written before!
Last weekend, my husband and I visited Whitby, on the east coast of Yorkshire. The town centre is divided by the River Esk. There is one crossing: Whitby Swing Bridge, which is more than 100 years old! Whitby is famous for many things, including Whitby Abbey, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Captain Cook, and the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.
I was inspired to write a blog post about our visit by my friend’s travel blog, Jade Braham’s Odyssey.
It probably sounds ridiculous to visit a northern seaside town in England, in February. Perhaps it was!
When we arrived on Friday afternoon, it was quite drizzly, windy, and grey. The weather did brighten up on Saturday, though, and we enjoyed blue skies and sunshine, although there was a persistent, blustery wind and occasional spots of rain. This probably sounds like the worst time to go on holiday! However, we had expected the weather to be like this, so we made sure to pack warm jumpers, woolly hats, and waterproofs. After all, the reason we came was to enjoy each other’s company and the scenic surroundings – not to get a suntan. In addition, English weather is so changeable that there’s no guarantee the weather in the summer months would be any better! There were also some advantages to visiting at this time of year too, such as cheaper holiday accommodation and quieter tourist attractions.
I have been to Whitby on a number of occasions but my husband has never been. As a result, I was keen for us to experience as many of the sights of Whitby as we could!
1. North Yorkshire Moors Railway
The NYMR is an 18 mile heritage railway which operates between Whitby and Pickering. The 1 hour 45 minute journey across the moors is one of the most scenic in the UK. Unfortunately, trains were not operating on the weekend of our visit (much to my husband’s disappointment), but they do run daily from April to October. Along the route, you can look out for the remote Goathland Station, the filming location for “Hogsmeade Station” from the adaptation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
2. Whitby Abbey (+ Dracula)
On Saturday morning, we left our B&B, crossed Whitby Bridge, and the climbed the 199 steps to reach Whitby Abbey. Yes, there really are 199 steps, but they are quite shallow and easy to climb; it only took us a few minutes to reach the top. If you do think you would struggle, though, there are handrails and multiple stopping points with benches to rest on. From the top of the cliff, we had beautiful views of the harbour, the sea, and the town below.
Whitby Abbey was first built in the 7th century as a monastery for both men and women. At some point in the 9th century, however, it was abandoned, possibly due to Viking invasions. In the 13th century, the monastery was rebuilt in the Gothic style but, following the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539, it was once again abandoned. Parts of the Abbey have since eroded and collapsed, leaving the ruins we can see today. You can click here to find out more about this by visiting the English Heritage website.
English Heritage owns and maintains Whitby Abbey, so there is an entrance fee in order to visit it, unless you already have English Heritage Membership. The cost of an adult ticket is £9-£10, which we thought was quite expensive, so we decided to give it a miss. Instead, we walked past the Abbey and down the road, enjoying more sea views as we went. To our surprise and amazement, the stone wall surrounding the grounds was much lower here, allowing us fantastic views and photo opportunities that didn’t cost us a penny! If you want to get closer than we did, however, and explore some of the historical exhibits about Whitby Abbey, you might benefit more from a “proper” visit.
Whitby Abbey is also the location which inspired some of Bram Stoker’s famous Gothic novel, Dracula. We also briefly visited ‘Bram Stoker’s Bench’, which is situated on Khyber Pass. It is a bench in the location where Stoker supposedly sat and got the idea for his novel. From here, you can see the Abbey looming over the town of Whitby (though we didn’t spot any vampires). Admittedly, this wasn’t incredibly exciting – it was just a bench, after all – but as an English literature student and Gothic horror fan, it was still fun to see. We also went to see 6 Royal Crescent, the guesthouse Stoker stayed in whilst in Whitby, which is marked with a blue plaque. It’s now private accommodation, though, so we didn’t want to get too close!
If you want to enjoy even more Dracula-themed attractions, you could also visit The Dracula Experience, which promises a tour of the Dracula story with live actors, special effects, and scares. This didn’t particularly appeal to my husband and I – personally, I think it sounds a little gimmicky – but if you want to pay the £4 entrance fee and see for yourself, be my guest.
There are quite a few museums in the area:
- Whitby Museum and Art Gallery. An adult ticket costs £5.
- Captain Cook Memorial Museum. An adult ticket costs £6.50.
- Museum of Whitby Jet. Free entry.
- Whitby Lifeboat Museum. Free entry.
We chose to visit the free ones, as we were quite keen to save money in some areas of our trip; staying in a B&B meant we had to eat lunch and dinner in cafés and restaurants, which automatically increased costs.
First, we went to the Museum of Whitby Jet, which is located inside the Wesley Hall on Church Street. The museum had plenty of information about how Jet is formed, its link to Whitby, and its value. There were also quite a few display cases which featured Jet in its raw form, Jet jewellery, and other novelty items fashioned out of the gemstone, including a dollhouse-sized table and chairs. There are numerous Jet jewellery shops in Whitby – understandably so, because of the tourist industry – but this jewellery is quite expensive, in my opinion.
Secondly, we went to the Whitby Lifeboat Museum on Pier Road, which was once an RNLI boat station. It was very interesting; there was information about the history of the RNLI itself, case studies about real-life shipwrecks, and even artefacts that had been recovered from these shipwrecks. One of these items was a trunk belonging to a lady who survived the sinking of the SS Rohilla in 1914 – just 2 years after she survived the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912! If you would like to learn more about the RNLI, you can click here to visit their website.
Both museums were fairly small and they only took us about 15-30 minutes to fully explore each one. This gave us a brief snapshot of some of Whitby’s local history whilst not taking up the entire day, so we could do other things too!
We learnt more of Whitby’s nautical history, despite not visiting the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, when we saw the famous whale bone arch and read the nearby information boards. In the 18th and 19th century, whaling in the Arctic Sea was a particularly lucrative trade, albeit a dangerous one. Many boats departed from Whitby to hunt whales. In 1853, a 20-foot arch was erected from the jawbone of a blue whale to pay homage to Whitby’s whaling history. Over time, the bones eroded, and so they have been replaced with newer jawbones on several occasions.
In addition to traditional tourist attractions, Whitby also has a lot of shops to browse, such as traditional sweet shops*, gift shops, art shops, and plenty more. We each bought a small stick of rock from Jane’s Rock Shop, as I love this seaside tradition and they only cost 25p each.
I paid particular attention to the bookshops, though!
We visited The Whitby Bookshop, an independent bookshop with a pleasing array of non-fiction and fiction from different genres, including an entire section dedicated to horror! Of course, there were plenty of copies of Dracula, as well as other ghost stories and books about folklore. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any secondhand bookshops, though we did browse quite a few charity shops. I managed to pick up a copy of The Surrogate by Louise Jensen, an author I like, for just 50p!
On Friday evening, we had booked a table in the Moon & Sixpence for dinner, having liked the look of the menu* and seen positive reviews online.
* We were keen to find places that didn’t just serve fish and chips, as my husband doesn’t like fish! This can be quite a challenge when staying by the coast.
However, when we arrived, it was overcrowded, noisy, and not our style at all. People were pushing past us frantically to get in, and others were pushing past us to get back to their tables from the bar. Drinks were going everywhere, and cocktails were slopping all over the floor. We quickly decided to evacuate.
Instead, we found a wonderful alternative on the other side of the River Esk: Abbey Wharf. It was so much better! It’s a large, spacious restaurant and, though it was busy*, it wasn’t too loud and didn’t feel crowded either. Abbey Wharf overlooks the river and has big glass windows as well as some glass ceiling panels, so we could see lights sparkling on the water and and twinkling in the night sky, which really enhanced the atmosphere. Also, the food was delicious, the service was fantastic, and the prices were reasonable.
* Not long after our impromptu arrival, the restaurant filled completely, so I would recommend booking in advance, if you can.
On Saturday, we went to a café called Sherlocks for lunch, which is located on Flowergate. The business is named Sherlocks because, allegedly, a wealthy family by the surname of Holmes purchased the building in the late 1800s. It is rumoured that a Master S. Holmes would stay here in Whitby, enjoying the sea air and honing his sleuthing skills over a cup of coffee!
Of course, this is just good fun – Sherlock Holmes is a fictional character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, not a real person. As a fan of mystery and detective novels, though, it was a nice place to go! If you would like to read more blog posts about the Sherlock Holmes stories, you can find some I’ve written here.
Sherlocks is a quirky café that has cosy lighting and plays soft jazz music over the stereo, and is decorated with antique books and ornaments. Upstairs, where we sat, was designed to look like Sherlock’s study! The building itself is a little “higgedly piggedly”, with steep stairs and lots of tables and so, in busier periods, it might feel a little tight for space. I think this is due to the size of the buildings and shops along the entire street of Flowergate; a lot of the buildings are quite tall and narrow. Nevertheless, I think the interior of Sherlocks added to the café’s charm and individuality.
On Saturday evening, we had booked a table in Cosa Nostra, an Italian restaurant on Church Street. It was spacious and nicely decorated, though it was a little loud, despite not being full, because the building’s high ceilings made a slight echo. The pizzas were good, though, and the service was prompt. Our only frustration was that we didn’t have a set waiter, so we didn’t see the same member of staff twice! One waiter took our order, another brought us our drinks, another brought us our food, another came to check our meal was alright, and another brought us the bill! This was a bit disorienting.
Finally, after a day of exploration (and eating), we returned to our B&B to rest – and to read our books! My holiday book of choice was The House Share by Kate Helm, an upcoming thriller novel I received via NetGalley. My husband’s holiday book of choice was Never Say Die by Anthony Horowitz, the newest of the Alex Rider novels.
6. Other Considerations
- Transport. The easiest way to get to Whitby is by car. There is a railway station, but the only way to reach Whitby by train is via Middlesbrough, which is even further north than Whitby itself, and so this can be a long, long journey. On the other hand, the Esk Valley Line (to Whitby) affords some wonderful scenic views.
- Accessibility. Whitby has quite a few cobbled pavements and steep hills, which can be climbed with with steps (with handrails) or ramps. We wandered and walked around Whitby as we felt like, but if accessibility or mobility are issues for you, it may be worthwhile planning your route around the town before you set off, to avoid some of the steeper bits!
- Amenities. We noticed a number of public toilets around the town, but they had a 40p charge. This could be paid with either cash or card, but the machines don’t give change.
- Dogs. Whitby is a very dog-friendly town; we saw plenty of dog walkers whilst we were out and about. Many shops and cafés are also dog-friendly too, so it’s worth being aware of this if you would feel uncomfortable or scared by dogs.
- Planning / Cost. It’s sensible to plan in advance where you would like to eat, in order to compare menus, prices, and the quality of food. We mostly used Tripadvisor and personal recommendations to find places we liked the look of (although Tripadvisor let us down when it came to The Moon & Sixpence!)
Overall, we really enjoyed our time in Whitby and would recommend you visit!
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Also, please comment below if you would like to me to write more content like this in the future – I’ve never written any travel blog posts before, and I hoped this would be an interesting mixture of book & travel blog content!
Although I have provided links to the websites of local businesses and tourist attractions, nothing used in this blog post is sponsored or an affiliate.
Have you read Dracula? What did you think? Have you visited Whitby? Would you like to?