Monday, 30 November 2015

Wonderful Whitby

The River Esk flows all the way into Whitby alongside the railway, so you witness the river's joyful arrival. The bubbling waters become more stately and  the gulls swoop and glide calling out in welcome as the river widens and then majestically joins the sea.

You can see at once how hard the river has worked to create a steep sided valley and on the top of the far side are the magnificent ruins of Whitby abbey, a Benedictine abbey founded in 651 AD. Whitby was called Streonshalh (Streanæshalch), then, and it was in those days (664 AD) that an important synod took place there, when that King Oswiu of Northumbria ruled that his kingdom would calculate Easter and observe the monastic tonsure according to the customs of Rome, rather than the customs practised by Irish monks at Iona.

As you step outside the station you feel ten years old again. It is like entering a child's story book. Dotted about on the water there is an amazing variety of sea craft. Rowing boats, tug boats, pirate ships, fishing boats, all jostling for attention and inviting you to take a trip around the bay.

Anyone who grew up before the arrival of package holidays will feel they have stepped back in time as all around are the well-loved attractions of an English sea side resort, amusement arcades with their lights flashing and enticing you to get rid of your spare cash, fortune tellers inviting you to sort your life out, sticks of rock in old fashioned sweet shops to take home for friends, tea rooms, souvenir shops, lovely cottages to rent, beaches to romp on when the tide is out, and all the time the swooping and the calling of the gulls.

We crossed the swing bridge enthralled by all the activity of the boats on the estuary below and on through pretty, narrow streets towards the steps that lead up to the abbey.

It's then that you start to wish you were hungry and hadn't had so much breakfast because here they make the very best fish and chips in the world . Relish in the sight of everyone sitting in the sun, holding their fish and chips parcels with reverence, licking the salt off their fingers, their faces with a blissful expression.
Simple pleasures are so precious, fish and chips in the sun by the sea in Whitby.

Hold on though maybe we can fit in a cup of coffee and a scone, and maybe jam and cream too. Then we can discuss whether it is better to put on the jam or the cream first and we have to have two so we can decide...

Luckily we are about to embark on a climb up to the abbey to work off the scones.

There are one hundred and ninety-nine steps and you might hear the swish of a long Victorian gentlewoman's skirt, or the heavy stomp of a Norman soldier as you pant your way to the top. Here the view is breathtaking. Fill your lungs with the sea air and scan the horizon.

The view as you start to climb the 199 steps
At the top of the steps is a church called St. Mary's and it's worth a look round. Again you are aware of history, of the past, of all the people who have sat and admired the view and found inspiration in the words that were spoken in the church. The wife of one of the Victorian preachers was deaf but so keen to hear her husband's sermons that she had enormous hearing aids that look like trumpets and are still hanging there today.

Even on a sunny day it is not hard to imagine that Bram Stoker found his inspiration for his novel 'Dracula' here. This is where he is meant to have met Lucy. For the brave there are spooky tours and Dracula walks.

After exploring the abbey ruins it is time to walk back down away from the wind.

On the other side of the town, across the estuary of the River Esk, is a monument to Captain James Cook. He was born in Middlesborough in 1728 and when he was 17 he went to Whitby to join the Navy.
In 1769 Capt.Cook was chosen as commander of the ship HMS Endeavour and sent to observe the planet Venus pass in front of the sun in the southern hemisphere in Tahiti. He then went on to discover New South Wales. Around the foot of the monument is an inscription from the people of Australia thanking him for founding their nation.

Near Captain Cook's monument are two enormous whale rib bones because Whitby used to be a whaling station.

Whitby isn't very big, you can walk around it quite easily but the depth and variety of its' history is astounding. Dracula, the discovery of Australia, Whitby abbey, Celts, Anglo Saxons, Normans, have all trod here. Oh yes and Lewis Carroll found inspiration here to write 'The Walrus and the Carpenter'. There is a feeling of past, present and future, of people enjoying life and loving their town and happy to live here.

There are many shops selling jewellery made from jet, which is similar to coal but much harder and can be made into shiny stones and beads. Crystals and minerals have been used for healing and protection from primitive times, the Romans used them extensively and believed in their properties.

The jet in Whitby might not seem very appealing, being black and among all the spooky stuff about Dracula and Halloween but it is considered to be a stone of protection that carries wonderful healing properties. Carry some jet around in your pocket to ward off negativity and protect you.

Certainly after our day in Whitby I felt very positive and renewed, maybe it was the sea air, the wonderful friends, the momentary glimpse into the intriguing history of this lovely sea side town, the scones and cream and maybe all the minerals in the earth do radiate positive energy too.

The estuary of the River Esk and the coastline

The Victorian development of Whitby

Captain Cook

The view of the abbey from the Capt. Cook monument

Whale bones


  1. Whitby also has the most amazing museum...

    1. I'd love to have seen that, is it the Cook museum? It's such a lovely, lively town, I'd love to go back.