A walk along the cliffs from Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby

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We’d been wanting to walk along the cliffs from Robin Hood’s Bay back to Whitby during our recent holiday. Unfortunately the weather hadn’t been particularly promising. But on the Friday the forecast was for sunshine until the evening, so we laced up our boots and took the bus the few miles to Robin Hood’s Bay and set out along the coastal path. It was easy walking at first but we soon had to negociate a series of “ups and downs” along the cliffs.

Looking back shortly after setting out.

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A short distance along the route we came across this “rocket post”. Devices similar to this were used by the coastguard to practice rescuing shipwrecked sailors. Rockets were used to fire ropes across to stranded ships.

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It was a beautiful day, if a little windy. There were great views of the cliffs ahead and the sea was a beautiful shade of blue.

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“Scars” could be seen under the water. It was high tide but these rocky selves that make this stretch of coastline potentially treacherous for shipping would soon be revealed as the tide receded.

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Looking out to sea.

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Moving along the coast

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This must be the shortest lighthouse I’ve seen.

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A cliff face of Kittiwakes

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A short distance after the lighthouse we passed this disused foghorn station. I wouldn’t have liked to be walking past when this was blasting out.

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Carrying on the cliffs

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Getting closer to Whitby. We passed the bay where we’d been foddiling earlier that week.

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The Abbey came into view

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Looking down to the ship wreck we’d walked past during the fossiling trip

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Whitby harbour came into view.

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Getting closer to the Abbey

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We finished the walk with tea and cake in the YHA café next to the Abbey.

An enjoyable walk of about 8 miles. 

Evening walks around Whitby Harbour

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One of the things we enjoyed during our stay in Whitby was taking an evening walk along the harbour. Two evenings were particularly pleasant for a stroll down to the pier.

On the way down to the town centre we passed the pleasure boats moored in the harbour

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Looking out from the west pier

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Looking along the west pier

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A coble crew, no doubt practicing for the Whitby Regatta

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Looking over to the East Cliff

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As the sun began to sink it lit up the east cliff which looked particualrly dramatic with the grey cloud behind.

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The lifeboat returning to port – the crew had been out on a training run

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We climbed up the west cliff. Looking down to the piers

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The whalebone arch

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The sun was starting to set and Captain Cook’s statue was silhouetted against the sky

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Looking back as we walked past the harbour returning to our holiday home

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The next evening we went out again. Starting with a stroll along the east pier

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Jurassic cliffs to the east

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Looking across to the west pier

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and the West Cliff

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The sea in the bay was a beautiful shade of milky blue

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Along the west pier

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A rain shower came in and created a rainbow over the east cliff

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Whitby Museum

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The weather on the Wednesday of our holiday was rather mixed to say the least. It rained during the morning but the afternoon promised sunny spells. So we decided to go into Whitby, look round some of the shops and old streets and visit the Whitby Museum in Pannett Park. The weather certainly was mixed. At one point we were standing in bright sunshine getting rained on!!

The museum is in a lovely setting – Pannett Park on the west side of the river in the area developed during the Victorian period. It’s a fascinating Victorian museum – old fashioned, but in a good way!

It has a rather eclectic collection of local fossils, natural history exhibits, model ships, carved jet, toys, costumes, items relating to social history and local notables, including Captain Cook.

These are just some of their collection of fossils found in and around Whitby, many of them from the local alum quarries, including this Ichthyosaurus

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a marine crocodile

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and many others.

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There’s a large collection of jet jewellery and other objects. I particularly liked this chessboard

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I also liked this clockwork model of a jet workshop. Put a coin in the slot and the workers started to carry out the various tasks involved in jet manufacture.

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The museum website tells us

the jet workshop model (over 120 years old)….. was made by George Wood, a jet worker, in 1889 and this model stood for many years in the doorway of Elisha Walker’s jet shop at 97 Church Street in Whitby. The heads of the 6 jet workers were carved from the bowls of clay pipes and were caricatures of George Wood’s fellow jet workers. It is driven by clockwork and the men treadle their machines such as polishers, turners, finishers, grinders, working the jet, whilst the foreman’s head turns periodically to see that everyone is working hard!

There was a statue of Captain Cook in the room devoted to maritime history

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Whitby was a whaling centre and their were exhibits related to this rather gruesome industry including these rather viscous looking harpoons and flenshing tools

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These are narwhal tusks

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and a complete narwhal skeleton

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I found the display about shipbuilding in Whitby interesting on two counts. First of all I’m always interested in industrial history. Secondly we were staying next to a former shipyard owners house and above where his shipyard once stood.

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We learned that an old building we passed walking to and from the town centre was a former sail making and repair loft that had been located next to the Whitehall shipyard.

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There was plenty more to see and we ended up spending a couple of hours looking around – longer than I expected – and could probably had stayed longer.

After, dodging rain showers, we had a look around the park

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Walking back to the town centre we passed Bagdale Hall, the old building that is now a hotel and restaurant

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where I spotted this rather attractive Art Deco statue in the courtyard

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Fossiling in Whitby

One of the highlights during our holidays in Lyme Regis was participating in the Fossil hunt organised by the local museum. Like Lyme, Whitby is flanked by cliffs of shale, clay and mudstones which are full of fossils from the Jurassic period. As the cliffs crumble and large sections of them fall down onto the beach as landslips, fossils of creatures that died when Britain was part of a massive land mass and located nearer to the equator many millions of years ago start to be revealed and can be picked up on the beach – providing you know where to look and what to look for. So during our recent holiday we decided to sign up for a fossil walk run by Byron Blessed, a local palaeontologist who is also the owner of the Natural Wonders fossil shop in Grape Lane.

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Although most of the participants were families with children, adults can still enjoy the trip and we were looking finding some specimens!

Byron doesn’t run his fossil hunts every day, but times them to give the maximum time on the beach between the tides. So you go out just after high tide so the water is receding, taking care to make sure the fossil hunters are safely off the beach before it comes back in. Fossil hunting can be dangerous and one of the main risks is being cut off on the beach by the tide.

We met outside Byron’s shop fairly early on Tuesday morning and set off up the 199 steps, past the Parish Church and the Abbey and along the cliffs until we reached the steps that took us down into Saltwick Bay, a small, sandy cove a mile east of Whitby.

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We stopped at the edge of the beach while Byron gave us a safety briefing and then talked to us about fossiling and what to look for, including the ubiquitous ammonites, belemnites, “devil’s toenails” (a type of mollusc), other bivalves, fossilised bone etc.

Having inspected the beach, Byron told us that he wasn’t optimistic as the sea hadn’t washed in many pebbles, where we would be likely to find what we were looking for. So he decided to take us further round the coast, passing a ship wreck on the way.

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We spent more than half an hour there, scrabbling around in the rocks and, as he promised, we started to pick up examples of ammonites and belemnites and other types of fossil. Our finds were mainly fragments, but we were surprised at how many we actually managed to pick up.

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Afterwards we walked back along the beach, and stopped in a couple of places where Byron showed us fossilised dinosaur footprints! We wouldn’t have noticed then as we passed but they were quite clear when he pointed them out, explaining how they would have been formed and what type of creatures made them.

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Unfortunately, although they were quite clear “in the flesh” they haven’t shown up on the photographs I took – there’s not enough contrast to see them on a flat image.

We carried on along the beach past another ship wreck and then stopped while Byron told us about Whitby Jet – a type f fossilised wood which is used to make jewellery and was very fashionable in Victorian times when the Queen herself favoured the jet black jewellery after the death of her husband. There are quite a few shops selling jewellery made from it today in Whitby. We spent a little time searching among the rotting sea weed but weren’t successful – although I think that other members of our party may have found something.

Then we walked along the beach back to Whitby and up the slipway by the east pier.

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And this was the result of our labours

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Not too bad a haul!

Captain Cook Memorial Museum

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James Cook was a renowned 18th century explorer and navigator who is best known for three epic voyages of exploration and whose accomplishments included mapping the Pacific, New Zealand and east coast of Australia. We have a particular interest in him as he’s in my wife’s family tree – she’s descended from one of his siblings (as are my children, of course!). So a visit to the Cook Memorial Museum in the centre of Whitby was a must during our recent holiday there. Especially on a wet Monday afternoon.

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Cook was the son of a farm worker, born on 27 October 1728 in Marton, a small village near Middlesbrough, which was then in Yorkshire.  At the age of 17, Cook moved to Whitby to be apprenticed to Captain John Walker, a Quaker, who was a coal merchant and ship owner. During his apprenticeship he sailed on Captain Walker’s ships and when ashore lived with the other apprentice’s in the attic of the ship owner’s own house  in Grape Lane on Whitby’s harbour on the east side of the river. After learning his trade as a seaman he joined the Royal Navy in 1755, working his way through the ranks.

The museum website tells us

Built in 1688, the house is a good example of a Whitby master-mariner’s dwelling, both a comfortable home and the centre of the family shipping business. It retains much of its original internal decoration and has been carefully restored.

The atmosphere recalls that of a prosperous Quaker shipowner’s home.

Passing From here Captain Walker and his apprentices would be able to view his ships.

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Entry into the museum is via the extension on the back of the original house.

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The ground floor rooms are furnished according to an inventory made in the early 1750s. The rooms on the upper floors have exhibitions about Cook’s life and career.

This model on display inside the museum shows how the back of the house would have looked

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The original kitchen floor was discovered relatively recently

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The dining room

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A sitting room

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The view over the harbour from one of the windows on the landing

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I found the exhibition rooms on the first and second floors very interesting. There were volunteers in a couple of the rooms who were very well informed and keen to tell curious visitors about aspects of Cook’s life and times. The volunteer in the room about navigation explained how ships in Cook’s era would work out their position and speed. There was a model of the Resolution, which also showed the crew and typical supplies that the ship would carry. The following picture is from the museum’s website as it was difficult to photograph due to reflections from its glass case

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We learned that one of the officers on the expedition was a certain William Bligh – yes the same person who went on to captain the Bounty. The room volunteer pointed out the likeness of the figure in the model to Charles Lawson who played the part of Bligh in the well known film about the Mutiny on the Bounty!

The ships used on Cook’s expeditions were all adapted Whitby-built collier barks. The museum website tells us

These were sturdy and reliable, built to service the coal trade. They were capacious and an extra deck could be inserted into them in order to carry a far larger crew, together with stores for up to two years.

Another advantage was that collier barks were flat bottomed. They could therefore land on any flattish beach, rather than needing to tie up at a quay in a proper harbour. This was particularly useful when no-one knew what landing conditions would be like. Small boats were also carried for inshore work.

In Cook’s time the apprentices would have been quartered in the attic. They slept and spent their spare time here. It’s now used for the museum’s annual special exhibitions.

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Looking out of the attic window

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It was an excellent museum. I’d expected to spend about an hour there on a wet afternoon but we ended up staying much longer as there was a lot to see in a relatively small building and we learned quite a lot about Cook, life in a Whitby ship owner’s house, the architecture of houses during this period and also about aspects of seamanship.

Coming back out into the yard we spent some time reading the two information boards. One about the house

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and the other about the various types of sailing vessels built in Whitby. I found this one particularly interesting and learned that a ship was originally a specific type of three masted  vessel. You live and learn!!

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Whitby Abbey

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Perched high on the top of the East Cliff, standing next to the old Parish Church, dominates the view as you approach Whitby. There’s been an Abbey here since Anglo Saxon times, indeed the presence of the religious community is the reason why the town exists.

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The first monastery was founded in 657 AD by the Anglo-Saxon King of Northumbria, Oswy who had converted to Christianity. The original name of the settlement was Streoneshalh, becoming known as Whitby only after the area was occupied by the Danes in the 12th Century – Whitby being derived from “white settlement” in Old Norse.

Ruled by an abbess, Hilde, the Anglo-Saxon monastery was one of a few known examples from the Anglian period of a ‘double house’ for both men and women and was an important religious centre in the Kingdom of Northumbria. In 664 it was the location of the Synod of Whitby, which established the dominance of the Roman Church over the Celtic tradition. Nothing remains of that building today as it was destroyed following the Viking raids in the 9th Century. The site was deserted for a couple of hundred years until after the Norman invasion when a new Benedictine Abbey was founded in 1078. This was a Romanesque (Norman) building; it was replaced by the current Gothic structure constructed over a protracted period between the 13th and 15th Centuries.

The Abbey was closed by Henry VIII in 1540 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and it gradually fell into ruin.  Today it is preserved under the stewardship of English Heritage.

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We decided to climb the 199 steps from the bottom of the East Cliff on the Sunday, the first full day of our holiday. However on reaching the top we were greeted by this

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The Abbey was shrouded in mist which had blown in from the sea and was soon covering much of the town. It looked very eerie and it was easy to understand why it featured in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

We felt there was little point looking around when our view was obscured by the mist, so we decided to leave the visit until later in the week.

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Entry is cheap, £8.40 with a Gift Aid donation, £7.60 without, but although there are decent views from outside the walls, we stumped up to get a closer look.

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The majority of the structure is in the Early English style of Gothic architecture with distinctive, tall, narrow, pointed lancet windows

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richly moulded arches and distinctive ‘clustered’ columns

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The west end was built during the latter part of the prolonged period of construction and so reflects the Decorated Gothic style,

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as illustrated by these large windows with the remains of elaborate tracery.

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There’s a visitor centre which has a display of archaeological material excavated at the site. I found it a little disappointing. But that’s a minor quibble as getting close up to the ruins made the visit more than worthwhile.

Whitby houses

Until the 19th Century, Whitby it was a small fishing port with few houses. But as shipbuilding and other industries as well as tourism took hold the town began to develop. Not surprisingly, then, many of the buildings in the older parts of town are from the Georgian period. These are a few examples of Georgian style houses we spotted around the town.

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Some of them rather grand

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including Whitehall, next door to our holiday home

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The grandest buildings, such as the Bay Royal Hotel and Royal Crescent, are up on the top of the West Cliff. It’s the only historic area we didn’t really explore during our visit so no photos!

There were some examples of earlier buildings scattered around the town

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The Tudor ‘Manor House’ of Bagdale Hall on the west side of the river is one of the oldest buildings in the town. It’s been restored and converted to a hotel and restaurant.

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We spotted this interesting house on Church Street on the East side of the river. A little piece of Amsterdam in East Yorkshire!

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We speculated as to whether the original owner was from the Netherlands or had spent some time there.