Whitby Goths to Captain Cook and Whale Bones Showcase
North Yorkshire is England’s largest county and one of the most rural comprising of the Yorkshire Dales, North York Moors, Vale of York and the coastal regions and they all have their own distinctive natural beauty. The county covers an area of 3,341 square miles and 40% of this area is covered by National Parks and with stunning moorland, beautiful dramatic to rolling hills, ancient woodland, a spectacular coastline, splendid waterfalls, many attractive villages and hamlets and many historic sites such as abbeys, castles, priories, stately homes and traditional pubs there is something for everyone of all ages to explore. The North York Moors has one of the largest expanses of heather moorland and it became a National Park in 1952 and covers an area of 554 square miles stretching from the Derwent Valley to the Cleveland Hills just south of the Tees. The sandstone and limestone hills have formed a rugged landscape with wide heather clad moorlands on the open tops and pretty farming communities and villages in the many sheltered valleys many of them hidden away. To the north and west the moors are defined by the steep scarp slopes of the Cleveland Hills on the edge of the Tees lowlands to the east the moors are clearly defined by the impressive cliffs of the North Sea coast and to the south by the broken line of the Tabular Hills and the Vale of Pickering. With so many things to see and do in the Moors the National Park has its very own bus network operating on Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays from 1st April to 28th October. The Moorsbus Network is a great way to explore the North York Moors instead of using your car. It is a very good service with friendly specially trained drivers and co-ordinators to help you. The time table is easy to follow and you can hop on and off where ever you want. They have buses from York, Hull, Teesside, Thirsk and Northallerton so you can travel from all the major towns and cities in the area. An all day inner zone ticket is £6 and an outer zone ticket is £9. The Moorsbus has linked up with the Esk Valley Railway and the North York Moors Railway to offer you combined travel.
Whitby is a remarkable and ancient seaside town and seaport surrounded by the beautiful countryside of the North York Moors National Park. Iron Age people, Celts and Romans have all left their mark. Alum production, boat and ship building, coal shipping, fishing, jet working, timber trading, whaling and smuggling are just some of Whitby’s traditional trades. Railway links developed in Victorian times bringing tourism which promoted a spate of boarding-house building. This wonderful town is situated on the east coast at the mouth of the River Esk which flows north through the centre of the town dividing it into east and west. The two sides of the town are linked by a swing bridge. The east side is the oldest part of Whitby town with narrow cobbled streets, small whitewashed fishermen’s cottages and houses with red roofs so close they look as though they are sat on top of each other. Most of the cottages, linked by ginnels and steps waiting to be explored, were built so close because space was at a premium when it was a busy fishing port. Fortunes shop on Henrietta Street is the place where kippers have been smoked for 135 years. Five generations of the family have cured kippers and today still use the old unchanged methods to produce their traditional smoked kippers and fillets, smoked salmon and haddock, bacon and kipper pate. The west side is the main part of the town but also has some fishermen’s cottages hidden in traditional yards behind the fish market and the main shopping streets. Further away from the hustle and bustle of the harbour set amongst the colourful houses clinging to the steep hillside are some fine Georgian town houses built by the wealthy shipbuilders and fleet owners. Whitby has always been an active fishing port thriving when other fishing towns and villages had declined. It even thrived centuries ago when it was isolated by poor roads and the wild expanse of moorland that surround it on three sides. By the 18th century Whitby was a major port with shipbuilding, fishing and whaling contributing to a maritime prosperity lasting until well into the early 20th century. Whale blubber was rendered down on the quayside to make oil and the streetlamps of the town were lit with gas refined from whale oil. Today Whitby’s large harbour is still at the heart of the town with more pleasure craft passing the breakwaters than fishing boats. There are two piers either side of the harbour and both have a lighthouse, one you may climb for a £1. Whitby is not a resort devoted to amusement arcades, bingo, candyfloss or kiss me quick hats but has a pleasant harbour, a swing bridge, much history, a relaxing atmosphere and an olde worlde feel about it. The town also has boat trips, a steam bus, a sandy beach, donkey rides, rock pools to investigate and the Magpie fish and chip shop serving some of the best fish and chips in the world. The Tourist Information Centre is in the square opposite the railway station where a steam train comes in on certain days from Pickering and is also where the Viking ship the Endeavour once harboured. A small replica of the Endeavour taking tourists for a 30 minute cruise trip (seasonal) round Whitby leaves the harbour near the Magpie fish and chip shop. The Cleveland Way, a National Trail, which runs along Whitby’s coast, provides wonderful views of the North Sea. The 110 mile trail which opened in 1969 starting at Helmsley, skirting the North York Moors and finishing at Filey Brigg was the second official National Trail to be opened.
The Whale Bone Arch commemorating the Whaling industry and the bronze statue of Whitby’s most famous explorer Captain James Cook stand proudly on the West Cliff facing directly across the harbour to the Abbey and the statue of William Scoresby who designed the crow’s nest, situated by the inner harbour all point to a maritime heritage. Captain Cook (1728-1779) learned his seamanship as an apprentice in Whitby and all of the ships used on his three world voyages of exploration were built on the banks of the River Esk below. The Captain Cook Memorial Museum in Grape Lane is the house where he lodged with his master.
Whitby Jet has been used to make jewellery since the Bronze Age and popularised by Queen Victoria who wore it during her many years of mourning foe Prince Albert. Jet is fossilised wood which turns from its natural brown colour to the deepest black once it was polished. The trade expanded in Whitby as women began to wearing jet ornaments like their Queen but by the time of Victoria’s death the demand was much less. Original pieces of jewellery are displayed in Pannett Park Museum and for sale in the town’s antique shops.
Whitby is over looked by St Marys Church and the ruined St Hilda’s Abbey both of which sit on the headland dominating the skyline on the east side of the town. St Mary’s Church originates about 1110 AD and was sponsored by the Abbot for the use of his manorial tenants. The churchyard is packed with graves and when part of the steep bank below the church fell away some of the graves were destroyed but some were exposed and had to be re-buried. The graveyard was the haunt of Count Dracula in Bram Stokers horror novel “Dracula”. Look out for the skull and crossbones gravestones near the top most gate, these are said to have inspired the novel. Originally St Hilda’s Abbey was destroyed by Viking raiders and re-building began in the 11th century. It was re-built several times and the ruins you see today are 13th and 14th century. The former Banqueting Hall houses the Abbey Visitor Centre and behind the centre is Abbey House originally the Abbot’s lodging. Abbey House has been beautifully restored and is now a Youth Hostel and its dining room doubles as the Visitor Centre Tearoom by day.
Whitby Gothic Weekend held at the Whitby Pavilion was founded in 1994 by Jo Hampshire who runs Top Mum Promotions. WGW for short started with a group of around forty pen-pals who had met through New Musical Express Magazine and they arranged to meet in Whitby because of its Dracula connections. The festival was held yearly in October around Halloween until 1997. The festival is a now twice yearly event in April and October attracting Goths, Punks, Steampunks, Emos, Bikers, Metallers and all sorts of weird and wonderful characters in their strange but lovely costumes. The festival has grown into one of the most popular Gothic events in the world attracting all generations from across the UK and around the world. The weekend festival which can start on a Thursday through to Monday includes markets, football matches, competitions, boat trips, club nights, photo shoots and much more boosting Whitby’s revenue and businesses.
This is not an actual walk but a showcase of Whitby filmed over the years. We park at the side of the road on North Promenade and walk forward with Whitby Sands down below on our left to West Cliff, Captain Cook’s Monument and the Whale Bones. We then make our way down the steps, where we saw the gull chicks, to the pier. At the bottom of the cliffs opposite the lifeboat station is where you can catch the steam bus for a tour of Whitby. We follow the coast road by the side of the harbour passing the Magpie fish and chip shop and the point where the small replica of the Endeavour goes out on cruises. We make our way to the bridge but before we cross the bridge we head forwards to the Tourist Information Centre in the Square then cross the road into the railway station to watch the Whitby to Pickering steam train come in and go out of the station. We head back to the bridge cross over and make our way through the cobbled streets to the bottom of the steps that lead up to St Mary’s Church and St Hilda’s Abbey. Before going up the steps we bear left along Henrietta Street to see where the famous kippers are still smoked. We then back track and walk up the 199 steps. After a wander around the churchyard where the Goths did there photo shoots we make our way back down the steps and retrace our footsteps back to our parked car.
This is an easy walk round Whitby old town and harbour with 199 steps to and from St Mary’s Church and St Hilda’s Abbey.
Elevation: Approx lowest point 0.60m (2ft) approx highest point 50m (164ft)
Approx 3.75 miles return. Allow at least 1½ hours adding extra time for wandering around Whitby town centre. Use OS Explorer map OL27, North York Moors Eastern Area.
Start Point: At the side of the road on North Promenade.
Whitby seaside town on the east coast of North Yorkshire.
Directions and Parking
From York take the A64 then take the A169 to Pickering. At Pickering roundabout go straight over staying on the A169 which runs over the North York Moors to Whitby. There are also a number of different routes from the A1 which skirt round the North York Moors.
Parking: There are ten long stay and three short stay pay and display car parks. There is some free parking at the side of the road along the cliff top on North Promenade.
Toilets and Refreshments
There are ample public toilets and for refreshments there are many shops, cafes, take-away, pubs and restaurants.