A wonderful childhood holiday in Whitby left me wanting to return someday. Until this summer we never did, so on the morning of our planned day trip there I was excited. Just 11 miles and 20 minutes easy drive from our Staithes base, the weather was overcast and misty on arrival but the odd bit of blue sky here and there was a vast improvement on previous days.
I was instantly struck by how busy and buzzing Whitby was – lots of people and loads going on.
A significant tourist draw thanks to its association with a certain Transylvanian count, Whitby is famed for being the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Stoker spent his summer holiday here in 1890 and at Whitby Library discovered the name for his vampire. In the story Dracula enters England after his ship crashes into Whitby’s pier. He runs up the steps to Whitby Abbey, described in the book as “a most noble ruin, of immense size and full of beautiful and romantic bits.” That was where we went first.
The Abbey is perched on a cliff high above the town and a set of 199 steps (the very ones in the story) take you all the way to the top.
Despite the sign warning of caution the climb up is fairly easy, if you did need to stop and take a moment the views back down over Whitby are superb. The steps start amongst the shops and clamber up the hillside revealing a maze of higgledy piggledy red roofed houses.
I read somewhere it is traditional to count the steps as you go up. Husband and I did this but ended up each with a different number neither of which was 199.
Beside the steps runs the Donkey Road which also goes all the way to the top.
Right at the top is St Mary’s Church as lovely inside as out. It has unusual box pews, a triple decker pulpit and a very old chest with a fascinating story.
Outside is a graveyard full of crooked grave stones – you could just imagine Dracula prowling around here. The views over the town, the sea and across to the Abbey are gorgeous.
It was a popular place for picnicking too, all benches taken when we arrived but when one became free we grabbed it and ate our sandwiches looking out over the sea.
Whitby Abbey is just a stone’s throw from the church. An English Heritage attraction meant free entry for us as members. It was extremely busy that day, initially we were told they had run out of audio guides, but we had a look at their exhibition and hung around for 20 minutes and some more became available.
The 13th century gothic abbey ruins are splendid and strolling around listening to your audio guide tell the story of this place makes for a wonderful walk. The Abbey was a 7th century Christian monastery that later became a Benedictine Abbey. It was once one of the most important religious centres in the Anglo Saxon world ruled over by a formidable Abbess – Hild.
Back down the steps afterwards meant another chance to take in those views.
At the bottom we found the cutest little cafe full of Dracula and vampire references. We couldn’t resist going in for a drink. A raspberry milkshake and slice of Victoria sponge was just the thing to set us up for the rest of the day in Whitby.