Whitby is a picturesque town on the coast of North Yorkshire in England. It was the home of Captain Cook, but is more famous as the place where Bram Stoker's Dracula landed in England. It had a population of 13,213 in 2011; on fine summer weekends it's thronged with visitors, and on moonlit nights during the Goth Festivals it hosts an unknown number of the Undead.
Get in edit
By train edit
Four Northern Rail trains wind through the moors daily from Middlesbrough, taking 90 min via Nunthorpe, Great Ayton, Castleton Moor and Grosmont to 1 Whitby railway station. One or two of these start from Newcastle.
By bus edit
Coastliner 840 runs twice a day from Malton via Pickering and Goathland to Whitby. This bus no longer starts from Leeds: you first have to take the 843 which runs via York and Malton towards Scarborough.
Arriva Bus X93 runs hourly along the coast from Scarborough, taking one hour to Whitby and continuing inland via Guisborough to Middlesbrough. This service runs more frequently during the summer months, with some services numbered X94 taking a slightly different route on the outskirts of Scarborough.
Arriva Bus X4 runs every 30 min from Middlesbrough along the coast via Redcar, Saltburn-by-the-Sea, Loftus, Staithes, Runswick Bay and Sandsend to Whitby, two hours. It doesn't go through Guisborough.
Whitby bus station is next to the railway station.
By road edit
From Scarborough and East Yorkshire, follow A171 along the coast. From Teesside and the North East, either take A171 or the slower coastal A174.
The roads to Whitby across the moors are scenic, but have sharp bends and steep gradients. In winter they are treacherous and may be closed. One popular route from the south is A64 past York to Malton then A169 north through Pickering and over the North York Moors. There's a 25% (1 in 4) plummet down into the village of Sleights just before reaching Whitby.
In summer all the routes are congested, and parking in town is difficult. Day-trippers should use the 2 Park and Ride on Guisborough Road. This is open Apr-Oct daily from 08:00 to around dusk. Your bus ticket covers the parking fee: single £1.70, return £2.50, family (2+2) £5.
For traffic and travel reports listen to Yorkshire Coast Radio[dead link] (103.1FM).
Get around edit
Whitby is a very compact town, and despite the hills is easy and rewarding to walk around. You can reach the Abbey via Green Lane if you don't care for the steps.
Buses (see Get In) ply along the main road, which is a mile or so inland from the coast for the most part. So buses can get you to and from Sandsend and Robin Hoods Bay, but there's limited coast access otherwise.
- 1 Whitby Museum, Pannett Park YO21 1RE, ☏ . Tu-Su 09:30-16:30. Museum of mostly Victorian curios: natural history, local shipping and so on. Adjacent is the Pannett Art Gallery, same admission. Adult £5, child free.
- The 199 Steps lead from the head of Church Street, with views over the harbour rooftops, to emerge onto the plateau by St Mary's Church and the Abbey.
- St Mary's Church is the Anglican church at the head of the steps. The oldest parts are 12th century, but most of what you see is late 18th. The cliff edge is becoming so eroded that the church is at risk, and (in a suitably gothic touch) human remains from the graveyard are tumbling onto the properties below.
- 2 Whitby Abbey, Abbey Lane YO22 4JT, ☏ . Daily 10:00-17:00. The first abbey was founded in 657 AD, one of its monks being Caedmon, England's earliest known poet. In 664 the Synod of Whitby codified many religious practices such as the date of Easter, bringing Celtic Christianity in line with Rome. The abbey was wrecked by Viking raids but revived and rebuilt from the 13th century, becoming a great Benedictine centre. It fell again in the Dissolution under Henry VIII; the ruin became government-owned in 1920. It's still an imposing shell, visited by Dracula (according to Bram Stoker) in the guise of a large black dog. In 1914 it was further damaged by shelling from two German battlecruisers. Adult £11, child £6.60, conc £9.90.
- 3 Captain Cook Museum, Grape Lane YO22 4BA. M-F 11:00-17:00. Captain James Cook was born in 1728 at Marton, now part of Middlesbrough. In 1747/8 he came to Whitby and met the local ship-owners whose house is now this museum. He learnt his seafaring on coastal merchant ships then joined the Royal Navy in the run-up to the Seven Years' War; his shore life thereafter was in London. In 1779, he was killed in a brawl with the native inhabitants of Hawaii. Adult £6.50, child £3.50.
- Whitby Lifeboat Museum, Pier Road. Apr-Oct daily 10:00-17:00, Nov Dec daily 11:00-16:00, Jan-Mar Sa Su 11:00-16:00. Display of the local lifeboat service, which used this double boathouse 1895–1957. The modern lifeboat station is on the opposite river bank on Church St, and can also be visited M-F 08:00-16:00. Free.
- The two lighthouses on east and west pier are really just harbour lights. The proper "Whitby High Lighthouse" is on the clifftop two miles east beyond Saltwick Bay and nowadays a private dwelling. This was originally the south light, which when lined up with the north light (now demolished) would show you the position of the hazardous Whitby Rock.
- Whitby Beach is mostly west of the river. It's sand and shingle, and stretches for a couple of miles to the aptly named Sandsend, where the cliffs resume and the highway leaves the coast. The busiest sections are at each end, where dogs are prohibited May-Sept; they may always use the middle section known as Upgang Whitby, and the Tate Hill beach east of the river. There's sometimes surf. Swim if you can brave the cold, but watch out for the brisk shoreline current. There are donkey rides in summer near town when the tide is out, but when it's in, the beach is covered.
- 4 Mulgrave Castle has three incarnations. The ancient castle may go back to 6th century AD, then it was replaced by the Norman old castle, demolished in 1647 after the Civil War. The third is a mansion of circa 1700; it's private property but you're permitted to stroll the woodlands.
- 5 Grosmont is the junction between the Middlesbrough - Whitby line and the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. The NYMR steam trains from Pickering usually terminate here, with only one or two a day continuing into Whitby. You can see the trains and old station free without buying a ticket.
- 6 Robin Hood's Bay is a scenic little fishing village five miles south of Whitby. Park at the edge of the village, don't take a vehicle down the narrow 1-in-3 lane to the harbour. There's a small museum open daily 12:00-16:00 in summer, plus cafes and a bistro.
- 7 Ravenscar is the resort that never was. Just north of it is the remains of a factory for alum, KAl(SO4)2·12H2O, used as a mordant or fixative for fabric dyes. The factory closed in 1871 when synthetic dyes and fixatives were developed. But never say dye, they decided to turn the area into a beach resort: roads, sewers, and railway station all appeared. Plus a few houses and amenities, while it slowly dawned on the developers that the lack of a beach was a bit of a handicap - it's quite a trek to a rocky shore, and there's no stretch of sand. So Ravenscar is mostly unbuilt, though Raven Hall Hotel is still open, see Sleep. Just south is a WW2 radar station, preserved by the National Trust - you're free to explore the site, which may be muddy.
Mild Female Jeopardy
Stake through her heart, chop her head off, stuff her mouth with garlic, what was that really all about? Bram Stoker (1847-1912) was better known in his lifetime as a theatre manager; in 1878 he married the woman who might otherwise have married Oscar Wilde. In 1895 he began writing Dracula, inspired by Slains Castle in Cruden Bay near Peterhead. He also drew upon Whitby, which he'd visited in 1890. What he didn't draw upon except for the name was the real Vlad Dracula "The Impaler" of Wallachia. The fictional Dracula bounds ashore from a ship run aground at Whitby; all its crew have one by one disappeared. He adopts the form of a large black dog, perhaps not realising that Yorkshire does have saturnine head waiters, so his usual guise would have worked okay. But then Lucy who is on holiday and besieged by suitors in Whitby begins to sleepwalk and waste away from blood loss . . .
- Ghost walks start from the whalebone arch opposite the Royal Oak at 19:30, adult £5, child £3, no large black dogs permitted.
- Dracula Experience is a guided walk with street theatre and storytelling.
- Mary Ann Hepworth was the local lifeboat, in service 1938-74 and saving 201 lives. After retirement around the Broads and River Trent she was restored in 1989 and returned to Whitby. The boat sails from the bridge Apr-Oct daily 10:00 to dusk on 30 min trips round the bay, £3.
- HM Bark Endeavour is a 40%-sized replica of the Endeavour used by Cook on his first expedition of 1768-71. In summer they potter round the bay for 30 min.
- Whale-watching trips[dead link] sail in late summer when whales follow the mackerel and herring along the coast. Trips are 4-8 hours, no children under 12 or dogs.
- Yorkshire Moors Railway[dead link] run steam trains from Pickering to Grosmont and Whitby, see Get in for details.
- Walk: The Cleveland Way follows a loop from Helmsley round the rim of the North York Moors through Osmotherley, Guisborough, Saltburn-by-the-Sea, Whitby, Scarborough and Filey. So the sections near Whitby all follow the clifftops and are obvious: northeast via Sandsend, Runswick Bay, Staithes and Loftus into Saltburn, southwest via Robin Hood's Bay, Ravenscar and Scalby into Scarborough. The whole trail is 110 miles.
- The Cinder Track is the old railway between Whitby and Scarborough. It's suitable for walking, cycling and horse-riding. It winds along the contours a mile or two inland so it has limited sea views but is level going.
- Whitby Golf Club is a mile northeast, overlooking the Upgang beach. The yellow tee course is 6106 yards, par 71.
- Whitby Goth Weekend is a music festival with much black lipstick held on Halloween and late April each year. The next events are 30 Oct - 1 Nov 2020, 23-25 April 2021 and 29-31 Oct 2021.
- Traction Engine Rally is held at the end of July by the Abbey. The next event is 31 July - 2 Aug 2020 if it's safe to go ahead.
- Coop Food by the railway station is open M-Sa 07:00-22:00, Su 10:00-16:00.
- The main retail park is south edge of town on A171. There's an Aldi, and a Sainsbury's with a filling station.
- The main strip is west bank of the river (Pier Road / Haggersgate), with half-a-dozen fish and chip shops.
- The Quayside, 7 Pier Road YO21 3PU, ☏ . Su-Th 11:00-15:00, F Sa 11:00-19:00. Great views, great decor and reliably good food.
- Fisherman's Wife, Khyber Pass YO21 3PZ, ☏ . M-Sa 11:00-20:00, Su 11:30-18:00. Popular spot for seafood, you may have to wait.
- There's another strip east bank of the river towards the pier.
- Duke of York, 124 Church Street YO22 4DE (foot of abbey steps). Food daily 12:00-21:00. Pub, good food and accommodation.
- Humble Pie 'n' Mash, 163 Church Street YO22 4AS (east end of bridge), ☏ . Daily 12:00-20:00. Long-standing traditional pie shop, three tables to eat in, most folk take away.
- Whitby is famous for its kippers. You can see the smokery at Fortune's, along past the abbey steps on Henrietta Street.
- A third cluster is round the railway and bus stations: Star Inn, Pizza Figaro, Passage to India.
- The main strip of pubs (many with rooms) is on the west river bank: The Angel (JD Wetherspoon), Black Swan, Golden Lion, Jolly Sailors, Star Inn, Ship Inn and Pier Inn.
- A short block back from the river is another strip, with The Granby, Arch and Abbey, Elsinore, Little Angel, and Whitby Way.
- Those east bank of the river are Middle Earth Tavern, The Endeavour, Dolphin Hotel, Black Horse Inn and Abbey Wharf.
- 1 Folly Gardens Campsite on Green Lane is open Mar-Oct. Tents £15-20, hook-ups £25. This is the only campsite near town: there are half a dozen other caravan sites but they have no camping.
- YHA Whitby[dead link] is in a splendid mansion next to the Abbey, with dorms and private rooms. It's temporarily closed in summer 2020.
- B&Bs are mostly along the street south from Pannett Park. They include Autumn Leaves, Rylstone Mere, Dillons, The Willows, Arundel House, Overdale, Hill Crest, Manor View and Heathfield.
- 2 Penny Hedge is a Marston's Inn with rooms on A171 on the south edge of town by the retail park.
- Self-catering is the main accommodation in and around Whitby. The many offerings include Berry Banks Cottage (one double, one twin and one bunk bedroom), Rowan Cottage in Sleights (sleeps six); Shoreline Cottages and River Esk Apartments manage a portfolio.
- Marine Hotel, 13 Marine Parade, Whitby YO21 3PR, ☏ . Charming small hotel with 4 rooms on riverside. The sea food gets great reviews. B&B double £170.
- 3 White Yard Cottage, 19 Springvale, Whitby YO21 1JG, ☏ . Dog-friendly self-catering holiday cottage, sleeps 5, two dogs at no extra cost. Enclosed rear garden. 3 nights minimum, weeks are Sat to Sat. £600 / week.
- Raven Hall Hotel, Ravenscar YO13 0ET (midway between Whitby and Scarborough), ☏ . This was built as a mansion in 1774, and converted into a hotel during the 1890s attempt to transmute Ravenscar into a beach resort, see above. It's now a mid-price place with indoor pool, tennis courts, fitness suite and 9-hole golf course. B&B double £150.
- 4 Broom House, Broom House Lane, Egton Bridge YO21 1XD, ☏ . Delightful B&B up the Esk valley in North York Moors. Open Mar-Nov, no dogs. B&B double £90.
Whitby and its approach roads have a good mobile and 4G signal from all UK carriers. As of July 2022, 5G has not reached this area.
Go next edit
- Inland are the North York Moors. Take the steam train to Pickering for a well-preserved Norman castle, and medieval church wall paintings that scandalised the vicar.
- North the moors reach the coast as cliffs up to Saltburn-by-the-Sea, then the terrain becomes low-lying and industrial around Redcar.
- South the cliffs stretch to Scarborough. The last great headland is Flamborough Head between Filey and Bridlington.