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Whitby is a long established town and fishing harbour (fishing is still an important industry for Whitby) on the coast of North Yorkshire, north of Scarborough and to the east of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, on the mouth of the River Esk.
The town is a long-standing resort for the region, with a historical old town of cobbled streets to explore, a popular beach, and the chance to explore along the coastline near the town, which is also very picturesque.
The old town of Whitby has a great deal to discover among its narrow streets which run down the hill to to the quay, including a wide selection of shops and cafes, while the region on the west cliff around 19th century Crescent Gardens provides a grander, more formal, part of the town.
Among the numerous restaurants and fish and chip shops there are ample opportunities to enjoy the fresh local catch. As well as the ubiquitous fish and chips, crab is a very popular choice on the menus of Whitby. We can definitely recommend it!
Among the quaint shops of the old town you will notice a number of shops selling "Whitby Jet". This is because Whitby jet is considered the best quality jet around and it is found in the cliffs of Whitby - so keep your eyes open when on the beach and you might strike lucky!
The old town is split into two parts by the river Esk which enters the sea here. The Whitby swing bridge accross the river can open to let larger boats travel between the river and the sea. The bridge opens at various times throughout the day and so you will get an opportunity to watch it swinging into action.
The best known attraction in the town is Whitby Abbey (more correctly Saint Hilda's Abbey), with important ruins remaining from the 13th century abbey. The abbey fell into disuse after its dissolution under Henry VIII (along with the other English abbeys), and now stands majestically on the cliffs above Whitby itself. Whitby abbey is reached from the town by a rather long flight of steps - 199 steps in all.
However walking up the steps not only enables you to visit the abbey but also gives you some great views over Whitby and the coast.
Next to the Abbey is the Church of Saint Mary which is a substantial construction dating originally from the 12th century, although later modified. It has a rather foreboding external appearance, sturdy and with battlements around the roof level, while the interior, refurbished in the 18th century, is much less imposing with an eclectic selection of features and furnishings. It is claimed that the churchyard was the one that inspired Bram Stoker to write his famous novel 'Dracula'
Whitby's inspiration for the novel Dracula has led the town to have an annual Goth weekend when thousands of "Goths" descend on the town for the two day music festival.
Take a walk along the quai to the lighthouse and you get some excellent views of the old town of Whitby and the church of Saint Mary. You can also see the boats coming in and out of the harbour.
Up above the old town on the west cliffs are lots of larger houses including many fine Georgian and Victorian houses. This area is home to many of the hotels and bed and breakfast accommodations of Whitby and is also home to the iconic "whalebone arch" overlooking the harbour.
There is also a statue of James Cook who learned his sailing skills here in Whitby and whose ships he sailed to explore the world were built here on the banks of the river Esk.
A popular attraction in Whitby are the cruise trips along the coast, taken on a 'scale model' of the original ship (the Endeavour') used by Captain James Cook, the 18th century explorer who set sail from the harbour here. There is also a museum in Whitby dedicated to Captain Cook and his adventures.
Whitby train station is one of the stops on the wonderful North York Moors Railway Route. The steam trains run from Pickering to Whitby via Levisham, Newton Dale Halt, Goathland and Grosmont. The trains have been used on the sets of various films and tv programs including Downton Abbey and the latest Dad's Army film. The route passes through the wonderful North York Moors countryside and is well worth doing.
Places to Visit Nearby
Our favourite coastal village on this stretch of coast lies just a short distance south of Whitby. Robin Hood's Bay has a charming warren of old streets and cottages and a beautiful large bay to explore.
The North Yorks Moors National Park is very beautiful and a couple of its villages are well worth exploring including Goathland (home of the station used to film Hogsmeade station in the early Harry Potter films) and Grosmont.
Photos of Whitby
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Map of Whitby and places to visit
Whitby places to visit
See more places nearby in the North Yorkshire guide