History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: Site of the 7th century synod which effectively ended Celtic Christianity in the north of England
Sometime around 657AD St Hilda founded a double monastery on the cliffs above the natural harbour of Whitby. Remains of the 7th century foundations have been found to the north of the ruined abbey church we see today. That church was built after the Saxon monastery was refounded as a Benedictine priory in 1078. In the 12th century the priory was raised to full abbey status. The church was largely rebuilt in the first half of the 13th century.
The north wall of the north transept still stands to its full height, rising in three tiers to a huge rose window. The east and north walls of the chancel are almost complete, and show wonderful Early English style arcading. The west end of the nave is different in style, showing the transition from earlier lancet windows to pointed window openings with elaborate tracery.
Very little remains of the other monastic buildings that would have occupied the clifftop site. Just below the abbey on a terrace set into the hillside is the 12th century church of St Mary's (sometimes called 'The Dracula Church' because it featured in Bram Stoker's novel). Set into the slope of the hill is a modern visitor centre with finds from the site and displays covering the long history of the abbey and its foundation. From the visitor centre a long, very steep set of 199 stairs leads down the sloping hillside to the town and historic harbour.
I've been to the abbey twice now, and each time I'm struck by the sheer beauty of the site. There are other medieval monasteries with more complete remains, but I doubt any can outdo Whitby for the sheer beauty and drama of the location.
About Whitby Abbey
Address: Abbey Lane, Whitby, Yorkshire, England, YO22 4JT
Attraction Type: Abbey
Location: On the clifftop at the eastern edge of Whitby, above the harbour
Website: Whitby Abbey
Phone: 01947 603568
English Heritage - see also: English Heritage memberships (official website)
Whitby Abbey Photos
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
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NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Fylingdales, St Stephen's Old Church - 4.2 miles (Historic Church)
Wheeldale Roman Road - 10.1 miles (Roman Site)
North York Moors National Park - 15.1 miles (Countryside)
Skelton-in-Cleveland Old Church - 16.2 miles (Historic Church)
Scarborough Castle - 16.4 miles (Castle)
Lastingham, St Mary's Church - 16.7 miles (Historic Church)
Pickering Castle - 17.9 miles (Castle)
North Yorkshire Moors Railway - 18 miles (Museum)
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