Whitby
Whitby
A pretty seaport built around a protected harbour. The dramatic ruins of Whitby Abbey (founded in 657 AD) stand on the cliffs above the harbour. Whitby played host to a famous synod in 664 AD when King Oswiu of Northumberland decided that his kingdom would adopt the Roman rather than the Celtic form of worship.
History
The abbey was re-founded on Benedictine lines in 1078 and was dissolved by Henry VIII at the Reformation. The roofless ruins are magnificent, though little remains beyond part of the abbey church. This stands in an exposed clifftop position, and boasts a superb rose window piercing the north transept wall.

Below the abbey, accessed by a set of 199 steep steps, is the historic church of St Mary. The church served as a place of worship for both monks and townspeople, which explains how it was spared at the Dissolution of the Monasteries. St Mary's dates to about 1100 AD, but the interior is almost entirely Georgian, with a triple-decker pulpit and 19th century galleries. There are 18th century box pews, some inscribed with the curious phrase 'For Strangers Only'.

Captain James Cook was an apprentice in Whitby, in a 17th century house in Grape Lane, and it was from Whitby that he set sail on his famous voyage. Cook came to Whitby in 1746 as an apprentice to the Quaker ship owner Captain John Walker. When he was not away at sea, Cook lived in Walker's attic, along with his other apprentices.

A quiet lane by the harbour
A quiet lane by the harbour
The house is now the Captain Cook Museum and it offers a look at the eventful life and times of Cook and his roots in Whitby. See ship models, personal letters, maps, and objects brought back by Cook from the far-flung lands where he landed on his voyages around the world.

Dracula at Whitby
Bram Stoker was inspired by the ruins of Whitby Abbey to write his classic horror novel, Dracula. There are regular guided walks around the lanes and alleys of Victorian Whitby led by the Whitby Dracula Society 1897. Stoker used the graveyard of St Mary's church as a setting in his novel, and described the famous 199 steps up the hillside.

Another literary figure connected with Whitby is Herman Melvile, who based several characters in his novel Moby Dick on real-life Whitby whaling captains. Lewis Carroll came to Whitby several times and was inspired to write 'The Walrus and the Carpenter' after a walk along Whitby Beach. A 'White Rabbit Trail' around Whitby follows Carroll's footsteps and visits places that inspired the author.

Whitby is really a town of two halves, divided by the River Esk and the harbour. On the east shore of the river is the old half of the town, with winding lanes, and the 199 steep stone steps leading up to the parish church of St Mary and even further to the top of the cliffs where the ruins of Whitby Abbey stand. Its a delight to wander around the old town, and the combination of the church and abbey makes Whitby a treat for anyone who enjoyes heritage sites.

The harbour entrance
The harbour entrance
Date stone on Captain Cook's House Museum
Date stone on Captain Cook's House Museum
The 199 steps from the harbour to St Mary's
The 199 steps from the
harbour to St Mary's