Whitby was a complete dream come true. Nearly three years ago, I had spent a few days in York on a group trip and had desperately researched bus schedules, trying to find time and a way to Whitby while I was in that area of the country. It ended up not working out, and I was disappointed to miss the chance to visit. When I knew I would be moving to England and York, Whitby was at the top of my list of places to visit in the area. I finally made it to Whitby last week, and it did not disappoint!
The town is hugely popular, in part thanks to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which was inspired by the ruins of Whitby Abbey. For the most part, Whitby is cleanly divided on either side of the marina: old, historic Whitby on the eastern side, and Victorian seaside holiday town on the western.
Of course, the showstopper is Whitby Abbey. The dramatic ruins, settled on the cliff overlooking the sea, are the main reason people come to Whitby (myself included). The abbey was established in 657 AD, but the ruins today date from the Norman monastery built around 1220. Today the site is run by English Heritage, and there’s a visitor center with an exhibit on the abbey and religious history of the site. If you only do one thing in Whitby, it should be wandering around the ruins of the abbey.
Right next to Whitby Abbey is St. Mary’s Church, a church with possibly the strangest design I’ve ever seen in the country. The architecture is a mix of medieval and Georgian, with a very atypical layout (there is no central nave, for example).
There are amazing views from the graveyard across to the West Cliff of Whitby and the bay.
You also can’t miss the 199 Steps, which curve up to St. Mary’s Church and Whitby Abbey from Church Street, and also have terrific views of the bay.
And awaiting you at the bottom of the steps is the Duke of York pub, which has spectacular views and is just about the cutest pub I’ve ever seen!
Whitby has several museums, which might be a good bet if it’s rainy or extra windy. I visited the Captain Cook Museum, which is all about the famous ship captain and housed in the building he lived in (he completed his apprenticeship in Whitby from 1746-1749). There’s loads of information on both seafaring and Cook himself, and featured a very interesting exhibit on the wives of sailors and captains in the attic. Other museums in town include the Whitby Lifeboat Museum, and the Whitby Museum and Pannett Art Gallery.
On the West Cliff, you’ll find the Royal Crescent, the Captain Cook Statue, and the Whalebone Arch. You’ll also find plenty of amusement arcades and cotton candy, and you can walk along the piers. A classic Victorian seaside holiday town!
The marina is also a nice area to walk around, and there are plenty of companies that operate boat tours of Whitby bay and the sea! It’s right next to the bus station, the train station, and the parking lot with Tourist Information.
You also can’t leave Whitby without eating fish and chips, so make sure you grab some at some point during your visit!
Getting There: The 840 Coastliner bus runs from York to Whitby, and costs £14.50 for a return ticket. The journey takes a little over 2 hours each way, and takes you through spectacular scenery in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park. Although services are fairly good in summer, it’s really difficult to get to Whitby and have enough time to explore on a weekend in the offseason—so I recommend going on a weekday if you visit during offseason. The service starts in Leeds, so you can get the bus from there too!
Whitby is a beautiful, small seaside town and I loved exploring this part of the country. It is absolutely one place you must visit in Yorkshire!
Have you ever visited Whitby, or another small town in England? I’d love to hear about your experiences!