We’re just back from an enjoyable family holiday in the historic seaside town of Whitby. This was our second visit having had a holiday there in July 2017.
The town developed following the establishment of an Anglo Saxon monastery high up on the East Cliff in 656 by Oswy, the Christian king of Northumbria. It’s in a narrow valley at the mouth of the River Esk, flanked by tall cliffs. The original settlement was at the bottom of the cliffs on the east side of the river, eventually spreading over to the west bank. It’s location means that it’s a maze of steep, narrow streets and ginnels – not the easiest of places to drive around!
Until relatively recently it was very much an industrial town with alum quarries on nearby cliffs and shipbuilding was a major industry – it’s hard to believe that in the 18th century it was the third largest shipbuilding port in England. Not surprisingly it was a fishing port and in the mid 18th century it also became a centre for whaling. Whitby developed as a spa town in Georgian times and tourism really took off in the mid 19th Century with the arrival of the railway, leading to the development on top of the West Cliff.
Bram Stoker stayed in Whitby and it inspired him to write his novel, Dracula, which started with the Dementer, the ship carrying Dracula running aground, its crew missing, its dead skipper lashed to the wheel was wrecked on Tate Hill Sands, below the East Cliff (his inspiration for this was the beaching of a Russian ship, the Dmitry, on the sands in 1885). One of the novel’s characters, and Dracula’s victim, Lucy Westenra, was attacked by the Count in St Mary’s Churchyard, the Parish Church that stands in the shadow of the Abbey.
We had a relatively easy week, spending our time wandering around the streets, cliffs and beaches with only one trip out to Scarborough. We didn’t spot any vampires, fortunately!
Here’s a few snaps that I took around the town during our stay, starting with a few views of the East Cliff from the harbour and West Cliff
There’s a fine beach to the west of the town stretching a couple of miles to the small hamlet of Sandsend