My favourite place in England: Whitby, North Yorkshire

I don't particularly like my hometown of Birmingham in the UK, this is no secret. I'm not overly fond of my home country either which is why I left, there's a lot of problems there that I don't think will ever really be fixed. Having said that, there is one place in England that I adore, and if I ever had to move back home it would be the place that I'd settle.

Whitby is a small seaside town in North Yorkshire that appears to be frozen in time. Once a major whaling port and jewellery manufacturing town, it's main source of income now is the fishing industry and tourism.

The view from the East Cliff

A Brief History

The first recorded permanent settlement was in 656, when the first Abbey was founded. The town was known at this time as Strean√¶shealh. In 876 the monastery was destroyed by Viking raiders. The second monastery was founded in 1708 and around this time the town gained it's current name of Whitby, derived from 'White Settlement' in Old Norse.

Whitby Abbey

Around the mid-18th Century, Whitby developed as a major whaling port and shipbuilding centre. This nautical history is marked today by statues of Captain James Cook and William Scoresby, and the Whalebone Arch that stands on the West Cliff. There is also mini replica of Captain Cook's HMS Endeavour (called the 'Bark Endeavour Whitby') that takes tourists for short sailing trips.

During the mid-19th Century Whitby's whaling industry came to an end due to a succession of unsuccesful trips. Whitby's jewellery industry grew around this time. Whitby jet is a rare gemstone found only along a short strip of coastline just a few miles long. Jet can be found in other countries but Whitby jet is thought to be of the highest quality. The gemstone is black and very lightweight and is made of fossilized wood. It is still possible to find pieces on the beach. A couple of years ago I spoke to a jet carver selling his pieces on the street, he told me that he camps near the beach during storms just to find the washed up pieces of jet to use!
Whitby jet became very popular during Queen Victoria's reign due to it's black colour, and therefore was used in mourning jewellery.

Whitby at dusk

Dracula

Bram Stoker stayed in Whitby while he was writing Dracula. He stayed on the West cliff, with a view of the Abbey. It is also believed that he discovered the name 'Dracula' in a book in Whitby Library. The town is featured in the novel as the place where the Count's ship Demeter was wrecked.

St. Mary's Churchyard and Whitby Abbey

Whitby Today

Today Whitby is a vibrant, yet gothic town. The Abbey dominates the East Cliff, looming over the Victorian town. A whalebone arch stands on the West Cliff, with the view of the Abbey centred through the middle. The orignal whale jawbone was donated by a Norwegian whaling company in 1963 but due to weathering it eventually had to be replaced. In 2002 a new whalebone arch was donated from a town in Alaska.


Whalebone arch with the Abbey in the centre

It is beautiful in all seasons but my favourite time to visit is in the Autumn and Winter. The harsh Northern weather and moody Winter darkness make this town hauntingly beautiful. The first weekend in November, and the last weekend in April, there is the bi-annual Whitby Goth Weekend. It is a festival of music, crafts and all things spooky. Many gothic and Victorian-clad alternative folk ascend on the town and truly bring the place to life. Halloween is celebrated well in Whitby and I think it's the perfect time to visit.

Whitby in the Autumn

Jet jewellery is still available to purchase at any of the many jetworks in the town, and fishing is still one of the biggest industries there. It is said that you can get the best fish and chips in the UK from Whitby, and fresh Whitby scampi.

One of the weirdest local foods that you must try if you ever visit is a 'lemon top ice cream' (or goth tops during the WGW season). It's a cone of ice cream topped with a scoop of lemon sorbet (blackberry sorbet on goth tops). The ice cream is sweet and creamy but the sorbet is so sour and a sharp contrast to the ice cream. It's worth trying at least once!

Beach combing is a fun activity in Whitby, colourful sea glass lines the shoreline, and fossils and jet can sometimes be found. I found a decent sized ammonite on the beach during my first trip to Whitby. Most of the gift shops sell ammonites or inexpensive pieces of jet from the beach.

Whitby beach is full of treasures

I'd love to hear what your favourite town is, let me know in the comments below!

Loppy x

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15 comments:

  1. Ah I've been dying to visit England. Definitely adding this place to my list!

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  2. Looks beautiful! I would love to visit England someday.

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  3. What a great town—it has such an interesting history! My favorite town is Apsley, Ontario, Canada.

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  4. Lemon top ice cream, the best fish and chips, and gothic festivals...sold. Adding to my "want to visit" list!

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  5. Very interesting read. My husband studied in Bradford and I visited a lot but I don't we have visited Whitby. It looks beautiful and maybe I have a chance to go there in the future. I am also intrigued that you live in Iceland.

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  6. Whitby sounds like a slice of heaven. Definitely going to add it to my list of travel dream destinations. Thanks for sharing.

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  7. I see those picture and immediately picture a beautiful outdoor wedding in that location, it would be stunning. I would love the visit this region some day and see it in person.

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  8. Mmm I would love to try fresh Whitby scampi... sounds so good! Adding this to our travel bucket-list :)

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  9. I visited Whitby as a child but I think I need a revisit as an adult. It looks beautiful!

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  10. I have been to England a couple of times but did not get a chance to visit this part of town, definitely adding it to my list!

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  11. Thanks for introducing me to another place to add to my bucket list. It sounds amazing.

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  12. I would love to explore the beach at Whitby. You must find the most interesting rocks.

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  13. This looks incredibly peaceful and full of history!

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  14. Great read! this place looks so amazing. Whitby looks so gorgeous in autumn. Loved it

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  15. I've never been to England and would like to visit someday. I find all the places listed in this post very interesting, I will like to visit Whitby and would not hesitate to go an see these places, anytime I have the opportunity.

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