Last day on Lewis

All good things come to an end and so it was with my week in the Hebrides. Our boat left for Ullapool early afternoon so we spent the morning wandering round the ground of Lews Castle, visiting the very good small museum and “supporting the local economy”.

Lews castle overlooksStornoway from across the harbour, standing in its impressive grounds. It was built between 1844–51 as a country house for the drug baron Sir James Matheson, who had purchased the island a few years before. The Matheson family sold the estate, including the mansion tto Lord Leverhulme in 1918. William Hesketh Lever was a Bolton lad who, at one time, lived in the same street in Wigan where I used to live (not at the sme time, I would add!). But, that isn’t is main claim to fame! He founded the industrial giant, Lever Brothers, manufacturer of, what at the time was a revolutionary product, Sunlight soap. He was something of a philantropist and is well known for his Port Sunlight “model village” that he had built on the Wirral for workers at the company’s main production plant.

He had a grand plan for the Island, intending to industrialise and, as he saw it, modernise and bring the island into the 20th Century by reviving and modernising the fishing industry. However, the population, who were mainly crofters, didn’t wwant to become industrial “wage slaves” and resisted his plans. This, together with economic factors which led to a decline of the fishing industry, meant that he wasn’t able to realise his ambitious plans. The outcome was that, rather than sell it on to another landlord, Leverhulme gave the castle and his Lewis estates to the people of the Parish of Stornoway and in 1923 the Stornoway Trust was set up to manage the new public estate on behalf of the community.

Today Lews Castle and its grounds are open to the public. The Trust has also had a modern museum built which is attached to the main building, and the first floor has been converted into self catering appartments

We spent an hour wandering around the grounds. I don’t think I can better the following description from the Castle’s website

The grounds are an outstanding example of a mid-to-late Victorian ornamental and estate landscape, with fine elevated views over Stornoway and beyond to the sea. Carriage drives and an extensive network of paths provide access through and around the grounds, creating numerous circuits and providing a variety of vantage points.

Rain was in the air, and I was keen to look around he modern museum so, after reviving ourselves with a coffee in the cafe, we took a look around the exhibitions which explored life on the Hebrides.

A very apt quote!

The star exhibit had to be the 6 Lewis chessmen, loaned to the museum by the British Museum

After looking round the museum and the ground floor of the house, with a couple of hours before the ferry was due to leave, it was time to have a look around the town centre shops. Stornoway is quite small and, although there were a number of shops catering to visitors, it isn’t particularly touristy. A few final purchases were made – I bought some cards by local artists, ideal for upcoming birthdays.

Then it was time to rejoin the minibus which was waiting in the queue for the ferry. We timed it well as the rain was coming in and not long after it started to absolutely chuck it down. We said our goodbyes to John, our guide, who was returning to his home in Marbhig, and we were joined by Mike, who was to drive us back to Inverness

It rained throughout the crossing so we stayed inside the boat, where we had a brew and a bite to eat and chatting until we reached Ullapool. It was then on to Inverness which took less than two hours. Four of our party were taking a train back to Edinburgh so they were dropped off at the station. That left three of us who were staying overnight in Inverness. Liz and Ria were staying in a B and B more or less round the corner from my lodgings in the Premier Inn, so we arranged to meet up for a last meal together.

Liz was on the same flight to Manchester as me so we arranged to take a taxi to the airport together and split the exorbitant fare. Initially we were told that the flight was delayed but it left on time and we actually arrived in Manchester early. We got through Terminal 3 without any trouble then said our goodbyes as we parted. I waited for me lift and arrived home in good time to catch the Challenge Cup semi final against our local rivals on the TV. It was a tight match but a good result! An ideal end to a great week.

Ribblehead and Hawes

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Thursday, during our stay in Settle, was something of a grey day. I had to run a web tutorial early evening, which limited out options a little, so we decided to go out for a drive – the first time we’d used our car since we’d arrived for our break the previous Saturday.

We headed north on the B6479 up Ribblesdale, through Horton-in-Ribblesdale and on to Ribblehead where we stopped to take a look at the rather majestic Ribblehead viaduct.

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The viaduct stands below Whernside, the highest of the three peaks, and is overlooked by Ingleborough. It takes trains across the windswept moor as they make their way from Settle to Carlisle.

The line was built by the Midland Railway company, which before nationalisation of the railway network, was in competition with the London and North Western Railway (LNWR). The Midland Railway wanted to use the LNWR’s lines to run trains up to Scotland but they refused. The Settle Carlisle line was the Midland Railway’s way of getting round this. The route was surveyed in 1865 and the Midland got permission from parliament to build it. However, before work started they had second thoughts due to the cost – but the Government insisted that they go ahead. So the line was constructed, running through some dramatic countryside in the Yorkshire Dales and Westmoreland.

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Back in the 80’s, British Rail wanted to close the line. Ribblehead and other viaducts and bridges needed repairing and they saw this as an expensive luxury. However, a campaign was launched to save the line by rail enthusiasts, local authorities and residents along the route and they persuaded the government to save the line. As it turned out, the repairs were nowhere as expensive as projected and the renewed interest in the route has made it popular with tourists. Scheduled trains are run by Northern Rail (that’s one of their trains crossing the viaduct in the picture above) and special excursions are also run along the scenic route, on trains often hauled by steam engines.

We parked up the car and took a short walk up to and under the viaduct

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The viaduct overlooked by Whernside
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Looking over to Ingleborough
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The arches (24 in all) stand 104 feet (32 metres) above the moor

After inspecting the viaduct and taking in the scenery, we got back in teh car and set of down the road through Widdale towards the village of Hawes at the head of Wensleydale. The road wound through bleak, but scenic, moorland. Not that I could see much as I had to keep my eyes on the road!

It didn’t take long to reach the village and, being out of season, we didn’t have any trouble finding a parking space. There’s been a market town here since 1307 and they still hold a market every Tuesday. We had a little mooch while we looked for somewhere to eat. Everything seemed to be constructed from stone and looked very quaint and attractive. I suspect that many of them aren’t as old as they perhaps first appear – probably Victorian (but I could be wrong)

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After we’d had a good look at the viaduct we returned tot eh car. We’d decided to drive along Wensleydale to Hawes, where we hoped to get a bite to eat.

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Being something of a honeypot, there were plenty of places to eat. Peering through the window I liked the look of the White Hart Inn. Although there wasn’t a menu posted outside I had a good feeling about it and was proved right as we enjoyed a rather tasty, freshly cooked meal far better than your average, unimaginative pub food.

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We ate in a cosy lounge with a real fire in a range set in an old fireplace

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After our meal we had an hour or so before we needed to return to our cottage. Now Hawes is known for being the home of Wensleydale the favourite cheese of Wallace of Wallace and Grommit fame.

Cheese was first made in the area by monks from a nearby monastery and cheesemaking continued even after they’d left. In May 1992, Dairy Crest, Board, closed the Hawes creamery transferring production of Wensleydale cheese to the Longridge factory in Lancashire. This didn’t go down too well in Yorkshire! However, following a management buyout, production restarted in Hawes. The business has flourished – helped by the publicity to Wensleydale cheese in the Wallace and Grommit films.

We decided to visit the creamery where there’s a shop and restaurant and factory tours. Unfortunately we’d missed the last tour so had to console ourselves by purchasing some cheese in the shop.

Returning to the car we drove back along the road to Ribblehead and then back down Ribblesdale. The weather had brightened up a little and I stopped to grab a photograph of Penyghent, partially lit up by the sun.

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A week in Settle

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To help transition to my life of (hopefully) increased leisure (i.e. working part time) we decided that it would be a good idea to get away for a break. We decided to take a week’s break in Settle on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales which, although is less than 1 1/2 hours drive from home, would provide a good change of pace and scenery. We hired a former mill worker’s cottage on the edge of the small town for a week and kept our fingers crossed that the weather would be favourable and not like just a couple of weeks before when we were faced by three named storms in close succession! I’m glad to say things worked out well for us and I managed to get out for a wander from the doorstep every day only going out in the car the once, on a grey day to drive up to Ribblehead and on to Hawes . We even had a night out at a concert in the old Victoria Hall- the first time I’ve been in the audience at a show for over two years.

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The Shambles, Settle

We arrived on a bright, sunny, but cold, afternoon and parked up ready to explore the small town. It’s a small town centre, but has a number of independent shops (including a good little independent bookshop, Limestone Books) and plenty of interesting old buildings.

It’s an old town having it’s market charter granted in 1249. Historically it was a centre of the cotton industry but only on a small scale and went into decline with the growth of the industry in Lancashire. It has a railway station linking it to the industrial towns of West Yorkshire but is also the starting point for the very scenic Settle to Carlisle line. Today, with it’s proximity to the Three Peaks and some beautiful limestone country, it’s a popular tourist spot. Luckily, being out of season, it was quite quiet during or stay.

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The former Town Hall
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Georgian shop
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A grand Georgian House
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More old houses
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Quaker Meeting House
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The Folly – a large “Gentleman’s residence” built in 1649. It now houses the Museum of North Craven Life and a cafe
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Old workers’ houses in Upper Settle
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Looking over to Bridge End Mill and the weir on the Ribble which has a hydroelectric power plant generating electricity
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Kings Mill – a former cotton mill on the banks of the River Ribble – now converted into flats.
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Another view of King’s Mill – I bet those flats aren’t cheap!
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View over the churchyard towards the hills

After exploring the town and popping in to one of the local cafes for a brew, we drove over to the Booths supermarket on the edge of the town to stock up with supplies for the week. It was only a few minutes drive then over to our home for the week. We unloaded, settled in and spent an easy evening making ourselves feel at home. the weather looked promising the next day and I had a route planned out!

Christmas in York

In 2018 and 2019 we spent Christmas away from home, staying in Haarlem where our daughter was living at the time. We’d enjoyed the experience but last year’s lockdown meant that Christmas 2000 was spent at home in the house watching the telly, reading, and eating and drinking. This year, though, we decided to get away. Despite the resurgence of the lurgy with the Omicron variant, we were all fully vaccinated and boosted and decided we’d get away, booking a rather nice apartment in Fossgate in the centre of York. Like Haarlem, it’s an old city with plenty to see (although only a couple of hours drive from home – M62 willing, of course!) while being careful to minimise the risk of picking up the virus.

Our apartment on Fossgate. The top 2 floors of an old Georgian building above a shop

We arrived late afternoon the day before Christmas Eve returning the day after Boxing Day. After a relatively trouble free drive over the Pennines, we unloaded and then set out to explore the streets of York. It was the last day of the Christmas market and we managed to catch the last few hours before it shut down.

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The Christmas market

After a mooch around the market and town centre we returned to the apartment and settled in, adding a few Christmassy touches (I was surprised that the owners hadn’t put up a few decorations)

After a few hours relaxing we went out again, but not so far. We’d booked a table in a Polish restaurant, the Blue Barbakan, just a few doors down the street.

Afterwards we had a short stroll around the now quiet streets

The Shambles. It’s usually jammed with tourists!
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The MInster

On Christmas Eve I was up fairly early before the rest of the family and popped out to stock up with some supplies for our traditional Christmas Eve buffet. Later when everyone one was up we set out to explore the city in the daylight. Son and daughter did there own thing but we all met up later for a coffee.

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West end of the MInster

St William’s College
One of the many Medieval churches
St Crux Parish Room
The Kiosk – an excellent coffee shop just across from our apartment

We returned to the apartment and spent the late afternoon watching the live stream of the service from the Minster while preparing and then eating our meal. Lots to eat and plenty of leftovers for Boxing Day!

Everyone (with one usual exception!) was up bright and early on Christmas morning. When everyone was up it was time to open our presents. A few hours later it was time to prepare our Christmas dinner. No turkey for us – we’re not fans and – but we’d bought some good quality steaks. We hadn’t been sure of what the cooking facilities would be like so had opted for a relatively easy approach. The steaks would only need frying and we’d bought mainly pre-prepared veg that only needed heating in the oven.

My Christmas dinner main course – with a smoked wild salmon starter preceding and followed by Christmas pud

Afterwards we sat and chatted before going out for a short mooch around the quiet streets to walk off some of the carbs! Most of the evening was spent eating, drinking and watching TV. Not much different than at home but the change in surroundings made it a nice change. And later on I went out for a short walk around the quiet streets.

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The Merchant Adventurer’s Hall at night
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The Minster central tower
East end of the Minster

Boxing Day was spent on more sightseeing along the walls and around the streets of the small city.

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On the walls
Looking towards the Minster from the walls
Foundations of the original Roman Walls
The Merchant Taylor’s Hall

A number of the shops were open for the post Christmas sales.

We returned to the apartment and spent the evening finishing off the food and drink left over from the previous two days while watching Christmas films on TV before turning in for our last night of our short Christmas break. We’d enjoyed it – it was good to get away for a change of scenery. All being well we’ll be doing it again in 2022.

Last day in Whitby

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The weather changed on the last day of our holiday. The rain came in and the temperature dropped. So it was a day for stopping in, reading, relaxing, drinking tea and eating cake (!) and otherwise occupying ourselves. But I do get itchy feet so during the afternoon, when the rain had eased for a while, I went out for a short walk on the West Cliff and took a few shots to remind me of an enjoyable week in the historic seaside town.

The Crescent – only half of it was ever built!
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The statue of Captain Cook looking out to sea
Looking through the Whalebone Arch – it’s hard to get a chance of this shot on a fine day as everyone wants their photo taken under the arch – not as much of a problem on a colder, wet day!
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A neo Gothic house – a little creepy given which novel is set here
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The Modernist style pavillion by the outdoor paddling pool

I decided to walk down to the bottom of the cliff and take a short stroll on the beach

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A memorial bench on the path
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Visiting Anne

The old parish church of Scarborough, St Mary’s with Holy Apostles, sits just below the castle, on the hill above the old town. Just across the road from the church, slightly closer to the castle, there’s a graveyard. It’s an attractive, peaceful setting. Most of the “residents” died in the 18th and 19th centuries but one of them is better known than most – Anne Brontë, the youngest of the three famous literary sisters. Although associated with the small textile town of Haworth, tucked away in the moors over to the west of Yorkshire, and not so far from Lancashire, she had died in Scarborough which she was visiting in hope that the sea air would relieve the symptoms of TB, which she suffered. Alas, only a few days after she arrived, she died of the disease on the 28 May 1849, aged only 29.

She’s the lesser known of the 3 sisters, although she wrote two novels, Agnes Grey, (1847) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, (1848). Like their author, they are overshadowed by her sisters works. However, in recent years her work, and importance, has begun to be re-evaluated as being more radical (in subject matter and style) compared to her sisters.

Anne “is now viewed as the most radical of the sisters, writing about tough subjects such as women’s need to maintain independence and how alcoholism can tear a family apart.”

Sally McDonald of the Brontë Society

always described as sweet and stoic, ….. I found (her) to be fierce and radical, with much to teach us about how to live.

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I have to own up to never having read anything by the Brontës, but have always been interested in the story of their lives and their achievement, as women during the Victorian era, to overcome prejeudice against their sex and become famous, well respected, literary authors.

In a book I read recently, Walking the Invisible, the author Michael Stewart writes about the lives of the sisters and describes his walks in their footsteps in a series of walking trails that he developed as part of his Brontë Stones Project. It was when reading the book that I discovered that Anne was buried in Scarborough and so while we were in the seaside town I decided to seek out her grave. It wasn’t difficult to locate in the little graveyard.

The headstone is weathered and the inscription badly damaged by the salty sea air. Commissioned by her elder sister, Charlotte it was meant to read

Here lie the remains of Anne Brontë, daughter of the Revd P. Brontë, Incumbent of Haworth, Yorkshire. She died Aged 28 May 28th 1849.

Visiting the grave 3 years after Anne died, Charlotte found that there were a number of errors and had it refaced. But one error remained – it said she was 28 when she died, but in reality she was 29.

Given the poor condition of the inscription, the Brontë Society installed a new plaque next to the grave in 2011.

I enjoyed Michael Stewart’s book very much and it’s put me in mind to visit Howarth, follow some of the routes he describes and seek out the stones, which have inscriptions of poems by Carol Anne Duffy, Jackie Kay, Jeanette Winterson and Kate Bush. Perhaps I should find time to read some of the Brontës’ novels too. What do you think?

A day in Scarborough

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The Thursday of our holiday we drove over to Scarborough. As far as I can remember I’d never been there before (although I’d been to Filey and Bridlington, a little further down the course, in the distant past). But Scarborough is the largest resort on the North Yorkshire coast. It’s been a popular destination since the 17th Century, originally as a Spa resort, but it really took off after the opening of the Scarborough–York railway in 1845, which brought in workers from the Yorkshire mill towns. The town goes back much further, though, as demonstrated by the impressive remains of a medieval castle on the hill overlooking the town. The Romans were certainly here and it’s likely that the town was founded by the Vikings. It’s built around two bays, separated by the hill that’s topped by the castle. The Marine Drive now goes round the end of the cliffs, linking the 2 bays, but this hasn’t always been the case.

There’s plenty of parking – not free, mind – and we parked up on the Marine Drive on the north bay. We walked round to the south bay, the site of the original medieval old town, and the attractive harbour.

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The Belle

After exploring the harbour we walked along hte prom on the south bay which is typical of a British seaside resort with the usual tacky amusment arcades and shops selling trinkets, with the odours of fish and chips, greasy fry ups and do-nuts constantly present. We carried on, climbing up through the gardens before the Grand Hotel, to the top road where there was a good view over the bay to the castle.

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The Grand Hotel was opened in 1867, when it was the largest hotel and the largest brick structure in Europe. It’s a Grade II* listed building. Today it’s owned by Britannia Hotels and so, like all their other hotels, it’s best avoided.

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The Grand Hotel – historic, but not so grand these days

We’d decided to visit the small museum so made our way past the Grand Hotel

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Pedestrian high level walkway

walking the short distance to the Georgian Rotunda building where it’s located.

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The mseum has small, but interesting, collection – mainly concentrating on fassils and the geology of the area.

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rather a lot of ammonites!
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The exhibits in the drum of the building are displayed in a way that probably hasn’t changed much since it was founded.

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Some of the exhibits displayed in glass cabinets lining the walls of the drum
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The old spiral staicase leading to the, now inaccessible, upper level in the dome.
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Some more exhibits
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The dome is very impressive – but it’s impossible to capture that in a photograph.
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A frieze around the base of the dome shows the geology of the north Yorkshire coast. I zoomed in on the section showing the Whitby area

We spent about an hour in the museum and then headed across the town towards the castle – and that deserves a post of it’s own. We also wanted to visit a celebrity in the old churchyard – you’ll have to wait to see whao that is (or perhaps you can make a guess!).

There was more to see in Scarborough, but our time there was limited. I’d have liked to have walked round to the old Spa building and the funicular railway and also spent some time walking along the norrth bay. It’s certainly worth another visit if we’re over that way again.

Whitby east side

Monday morning during our holiday in Whitby was rather gloomy. But after breakfast, while everyone else was taking it easy in the cottage, I decided to go out for a wander over to the east side of the harbour.

After crossing the bridge I turned down Church Street and where I found myself irresistibly drawn into the rather good independent bookshop, The Whitby Bookshop. After a good browse I carried on down Church Street before turning down Henrietta Street which leads to the harbour piers. I passed the smokehouse, but decided against purchasing any kippers. I’m very fond of the smoked herring but didn’t want to stink out the cottage!

I reached the harbour and walked onto the walls

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Taking care to avoid being blown off the wall by the strong wind, I snapped a few photos of the town under the moody sky.

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I set off back towards the cottage,

Picking up a few supplies on the way.

After dinner, it had brightened up so leaving our daughter behind to catch up on some work for her course, the rest of us decided to walk over to the east side of the town to have a mooch in the shops and take a few photos under a sunnier sky

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A week in Whitby

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

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This is the beach where the Dmitry ran aground – the inspiration for the start of Bram Stoker’s novel.
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Some of the shops in the “main street” of the East Cliff
Looking up the 199 Steps that lead up to the Parish Church and the ruins of the Abbey.
In bram stoker’s novel, Dracula, in the guise of a black hound, ran up these steps up to the top of the East Cliff after the shipwreck.
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Looking down to the harbour from part way up the 199 steps
Looking over the graveyard to the Abbey
The Abbey ruins
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This modern bridge linking the east pier and the east pier extension of the harbour walls. An addition since our last visit.
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Looking down over the harbour to the West Cliff from the top of the East Cliff
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Another view over to the West Cliff settlement
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The monument to James Cook, who, as an apprentice seafarer, was based in the town

There’s a fine beach to the west of the town stretching a couple of miles to the small hamlet of Sandsend

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A replica of Cook’s Endeavour
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Another change since out holiday in 2017 – there were a number of these wire statues of former residents of the town illustrating it’s heritage.
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A fellow photographer!

Back to Haarlem

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Last week we were back in Haarlem, to visit our daughter while taking a few days break. As usual, we managed to pack a lot into the week – spending some time exploring the small, historic city, watching some live music acts (the Haarlem Jazz Festival started towards the end of our little holiday), taking in some art in Amsterdam and even managing a short walk on the dunes.

We caught the plane from Manchester. Unfortunately there was a dealy which meant we were sat on the plane for over an hour and a half before it took off. Not the greatest experience, but it could have been worse. So we arrived in Haarlem a couple of hours late. It’s quite easy to get to the city by catching the Number 300 bis that runs from Schipol airport to the train station in Haarlem, a 40 minute journey with buses about every 10 minutes during the daytime. We’d rented a house a few minutes walk from the station, so after picking up the keys we were soon settled in.

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The next morning we spent the morning wandering around Haarlem. The Single canal was just a couple of minutes walk from our little house. The canal was built as part of the city defences and the northern section zig zags – a defensive arrangement. The city walls used to stand on an embankment to the south of this section of the canal but they were dismantled many years ago as the city expanded northwards and a park created where they used to stand. We followed the path along the canal bank through the park.

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We spent the rest of the morning mooching around the pleasant streets in the city centre before grabbing a bite to eat in the cafe on the top floor of the Hudson Bay department store

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from where there are good views over the city.

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The building that the Hudson Bay store occupies was built in the 1930’s for the Vroom en Dreesman store. It’s architecture is modernist in style with Amsterdam School and Art Deco influences. It’s something of a Marmite building – you either love it or hate it – I fall into the former camp! V and D went bust in 2015 and the building was unoccupied the first time we visited Haarlem, but it was taken over by Hudson Bay (a Canadian company) who opened there in 2018.

There are some rather nice stained glass windows in the stairwell and on some of the floors

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After we’d eaten we wandered through the shopping streets down to the Spaarn and made our way to the Tyler’s Museum. Our visit there warrants its own post so to finish this one, here’s a few photos I took around the town (some taken later in the week).

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