History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: 7th century Whitby Abbey
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.
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.
Address: Whitby, Yorkshire, England
Attraction Type: Town
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
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NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Whitby Abbey - 0.9 miles (Abbey)
Fylingdales, St Stephen's Old Church - 4.7 miles (Historic Church)
Wheeldale Roman Road - 9.5 miles (Roman Site)
North York Moors National Park - 14.4 miles (Countryside)
Skelton-in-Cleveland Old Church - 15.4 miles (Historic Church)
Lastingham, St Mary's Church - 16.1 miles (Historic Church)
Scarborough Castle - 16.8 miles (Castle)
Pickering Castle - 17.5 miles (Castle)
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