Written by Lynsey Oxton
[UPDATED: July 2021]
Forget Scarborough and Filey – Whitby is the seaside town to visit when you’re in Yorkshire. At least, it is in my opinion.
Whitby is a quaint, coastal fishing village with character and charm by the bucket (and spade) load!
Famed for its association with Bram Stoker’s Dracula and the best fish and chips the Yorkshire folk have to offer, it surely can’t fail to tempt you!
First off: Where to stay:
Over the years, we have stayed in town houses, guest houses and cottages. A particular favourite is Coral Cottage right in the centre of the town, with all the amenities needed and a spacious rooftop terrace to take in views of the Abbey.
If you’re a small family of four (or two couples) this is the perfect sized accommodation. As an added bonus, the rental also included one car parking space which saved on expensive parking costs.
West Cliff Beach
With its golden sands and rock pools, West Cliff beach stretches for miles and is great for a leisurely stroll or a day sunbathing, surrounded by the sheer cliff face above.
Depending upon what time of year you visit, you may well be lucky enough to have the beach to yourself. Come the Summer months, however, holiday-makers and day-trippers will line the sands, looking for a cheeky paddle in the sea or to make a big sandcastle.
From beach huts to hire, to donkey rides, to amazing sunsets, this really is the epitome of the Great British Seaside!
Tip: Any trip to Whitby would not be complete without sampling one of the local delicacies – something you’ll struggle to find anywhere outside of Yorkshire – the ‘Lemon Top’. Mr Whippy topped with a generous swirl of lemon sherbet sorbet – it’s enough to turn the head of any ice cream connoisseur!
The Whale Bones
Before you leave West Cliff, a tourist attraction (and selfie hotspot) must be seen!
Here you will find a huge 20 foot whalebone arch that commemorates the Whitby whaling industry in the 18th and 19th centuries.
However, this is not the original arch – in fact it is the third – with the most recent having been brought across from Alaska. The reason behind the first two going? – they fell victim to extreme weathering from storms.
Judging by this latest addition, I don’t think it will be too long before a fourth is needed! Also in the area is a Captain James Cook monument in remembrance of the famous English explorer and navigator of the seas.
199 Steps To Whitby Abbey
If you’re feeling energetic, it’s well worth climbing the 199 steps (or ‘church steps’) up to the Church of St. Mary, accessible from Church Street.
Make the trek and you’re guaranteed fantastic panoramic views of Whitby from up high.
Once at the peak and just behind the church, sits one of Yorkshire’s most visited attractions – the gothic and domineering Whitby Abbey ruins.
Add an overcast day to the mix and it becomes even more atmospheric!
The Abbey was the inspiration for Bram Stokers ‘Dracula’ back in 1890, when during a stay in the town, he was overawed by the dramatic, atmospheric cliff tops and the bats circling the Abbey. And there began the story of the worlds most famous vampire.
As such, Whitby has become something of a goths playground and even plays host to a ‘Goth Weekend’ annually.
As an English Heritage site, you can visit for a small fee (around £12) and see the ruins up close. There’s also a rather large gift shop at the end and the opportunity to enjoy something ‘bloody lovely’ in the picnic garden, with picture-postcard harbour views below.
Talking of eating….
There are plenty of lovely restaurants to be found in Whitby, many specialising in fresh seafood straight from that mornings catch. You can’t go wrong with the famous ‘Magpie Cafe’, which serves up a huge menu of delights. I can absolutely recommend the salmon and haddock gratin!
Be aware that the queues are gigantic for The Magpie, so be sure to book a table in advance. If you can’t get a table, fear not – they also have a takeaway fish and chip shop next door – just watch out for the seagulls!
Just a few doors down from the Magpie, the Marine comes well recommended too, as a lobster lovers’ dream! The cocktails (not of the prawn variety) are pretty spectacular too! The lunch time special is really good value and should definitely make your ‘to do list’. Top harbour-side views too.
So that’s a lot of seafood….if your tastebuds prefer something a little different, you can be sure you’ll find it in Whitby! Also recommended is the candlelit ‘Mademoiselles’ on Skinner Street for French fine-dining – or the 1940s themed ‘The Blitz’ on Church Street for tasty tapas and a super sangria!
A good way to walk off a big meal is to have a leg stretch along the pier, all the way to the lighthouse at the end.
It’s often a little foggy, but when the mist lifts, there are good views back to the beach and around the Yorkshire coastline.
The Two Faces of Whitby
When you visit Whitby, you’ll see that the town seems almost split in two, linked only by the beach and a small swing bridge.
On one side you have what can only be described as ‘the touristy bit’ – with the famous Magpie Cafe and the amusement arcades for the little (or big) kids.
Across the other side of town, you’ll find an altogether different vibe; oldie-worldie, charming and bearing a slight resemblance to York, the cobbled streets and little alleyways are a world away from the arcades.
You’ll find many an independent shop and cafe here, from jewellers selling Whitby jet, to cute cake shops, art galleries, pie and mash cafes and the Lucky Whitby Duck shop.
This is my favourite part of Whitby and to miss it, you’d miss out.
Venture down the road…
Whilst in Whitby, you should really make the five mile trip down the road to Robin Hoods Bay! This is easy to reach by car, bus or even on foot, if you’re a keen walker!
Why? Well because it’s just so pretty! It’s not as big as Whitby – far from it – but it has a handful of cute shops, cafes and pubs, as well as a huge stretch of sand that is renowned by fossil hunters as being one of the best!
Having been to Cornwall recently, I can say that Robin Hoods Bay easily rivals many of the fishing villages the South coast has to offer.
If you’re staycation-ing this Summer (or if you’re visiting the UK and on the look out for a seaside experience), you simply MUST pop Whitby on your agenda.