Yorkshire’s east coast is a glorious rugged stretch of cliffs and coves, beaches and harbours, towns and views. Soaring above the dramatic North Sea and sweeping for miles through famous resorts and secret discoveries, there are wonderful places to visit throughout the journey. But one in particular captures the narrative perfectly, as both a joyful seaside romp and an otherworldly exploration: welcome to Whitby.
This famous old harbour town is postcard pretty, sitting as it does over two sides split by the River Esk, but it also exudes an undeniable sense of a darker magic. Altogether it makes for a favourite coastal town with something for everyone; we’ve taken a look at some of the eclectic attractions here.
Climbing and counting your way up the famous 199 steps is a necessary ritual when in Whitby. The journey is more fun than it may sound, and the destination is ample reward. Rising to the east clifftops, the panoramic view over the town and beyond is spectacular, and the atmosphere by St Mary’s Churchyard is something special. And if you can manage a few more steps then they’ll take you to the imposing ruins of Whitby Abbey.
This 7th century abbey is the centrepiece for much of the mystique that Whitby holds. The Grade I listed English Heritage building is a striking sight and evocative visit, whether wandering the grounds or taking a tour. As an influence and setting for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, its gothic allure attracts creatives to Whitby regularly, most notably for the wonderful Whitby Goth Weekenders.
Captain Cook Memorial Museum
Captain James Cook is one of the world’s most important explorers, and has strong ties to the boats of Whitby. Cook’s maritime career began here in the 18th century and his first voyage set sail from Whitby Harbour. His life is celebrated at the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, set in the house in which Cook lived, and providing a fascinating insight.
Whitby Coastal Cruises
To get out on the seas and into the bay, there are a selection of boat trips from Whitby Harbour. The Bark Endeavour replicates Captain Cook’s HMS Endeavour for a fun and informative voyage. Whitby Speedboat Rides gets the adrenaline going in a thrilling splash. And for a spectacular sightseeing experience, Whitby Costal Cruises past Robin Hood’s Bay to Ravenscar’s seal colony with potential to view seabirds, wildlife and even whales.
Whitby Beach Huts
Like all good seaside resorts, Whitby comes equipped with a large sandy beach, ready to lay on and play on, and with evocative piers running towards its historic lighthouse. There is also a more hidden second beach on the east side, but it is along the west promenade that the photogenic sight of Whitby Beach Huts line up brightly. These multicoloured rows charm, and they also provide a practical use to rent daily or weekly, as shelter, or as changing rooms, or as a picnic station, or as whatever you want them to be!
Whitby has a surprisingly eclectic and excellent food scene. The seafood is of course exceptional, but the cuisine goes elsewhere equally impressively. To France, at the elegant cafe and bistro Mademoiselle’s, a beautifully decorated place serving quality Gallic classics. And other local grub is showcased at the likes of Humble Pie n Mash, serving what it says as satisfyingly as you’d hope, and The Whitby Deli, a family run favourite providing a taste of the best foodie produce around.
The Magpie Cafe
No visit to the seaside would be complete without fish and chips, and Whitby has some of the finest. There are dozens of favourite local takeaways to enjoy out in scenic spots; perhaps eat your Mr Chips by the bandstand or take your Quayside to the whale bone arch. Or you can dine in famously at The Magpie Cafe, where queues form day and night for that delicious taste of Whitby crab and cod.
Photography: Anete Lusina