North Yorkshire, United Kingdom
A dark past
63 people found this review helpful
"I bear messages which will make BOTH your ears tingle" Bram Stoker – Dracula.
BREAKING NEWS – A Russian ship The Demeter has run aground on Tate Hill Beach in Whitby harbour during a violent storm. All the crew are missing and the Captain was found lashed to the helm with a crucifix lodged between his bound hands. There are reports that an immense black dog leapt ashore and raced towards the Abbey.
Todays news agencies may have reported this event in this way, but this catastrophic event was fictional and part of the story of Dracula, published in 1897.
Abraham (Bram) Stoker was a business manager for the Lyceum Theatre in London from 1879 to 1898 and he supplemented his income by writing novels.
This classic Gothic horror was set in Transylvania and England, with Whitby playing a key role. Stoker had the good fortune to spend many a Summer holiday in Whitby and it is thought that the dramatic setting of the cliff-top Abbey with it's famous 199 steps gave him the idea of using it in his novel.
Whitby has recorded settlements back to Saxon times in the 5th century, but was certainly known by Bronze Age, Roman and Viking people. It has developed over the centuries from the building of the Abbey in 657 A.D.
Captain James Cook began his seafaring career from Whitby in 1747, becoming a famous explorer until his untimely death at the hands of the indigenous population of Hawaii in 1779. A fascinating museum about his life is in Grape Lane, and often has live actors in the Summer season.
Whitby became a whaling port between 1753 and 1837 when up to 55 whaling boats plied their trade in the wild seas around Greenland. Arched whale bones perched on the West Cliff are reminders of this grim and arduous trade.
I think Stoker had the better idea of sticking around Whitby, rather than going off to exotic places and this quaint town remains one of my favourite places today.
The modern holiday maker need look no further for a great day out or a weeks holiday.
One of the key attractions of the port is the Jet trade – no not the aircraft, but amazingly, the polished remains of fossilised Monkey Puzzle Trees. This jet-black (hence it's name) material is only found along a seven and a half mile stretch of coastline around Whitby and rough pieces can be found washed up on local shingle beaches. It is worked and polished by hand into wonderful pieces of jewellery.
This amazing gem was worked by Bronze Age, Roman and Viking craftsmen though the first recorded workshop was in 1808 and these grew to more than 200, mostly in dusty attics. Queen Victoria popularised it by wearing the black jewellery after the death of Price Albert and the trade mushroomed.
The museum in Pannet Park has displays of jet items from the Roman era as well as a 14th century elaborately craved cross and many other pieces.
There are still several active workshops and shops in the old part of the town beneath the Abbey cliffs.
Also there is the home of Fortune's Kippers, founded by William Fortune in 1872 and now in the hands of the 5th generation of the Fortune family. You smell the kippers before you see the shop, which has the smoke-house just to the rear. You can peek in to see the fish being cured over oak chips. You can even send some to friends by post. The kippers and the kipper pate are simply divine.
Speaking of freshly cooked fish, Whitby is amply supplied with fish and chips shops. The internationally acclaimed Magpie Café and Takeaway sits on the harbour-side, where there are ALWAYS queues to sample the golden delights within. Competitors include The Quayside, currently the holders of the title. Britain's Best Fish and Chip Shop. Could there be a scrap or will there be a battering??
To catch your own, take one of the many fishing boats for hire.
There is much more to Whitby, too many to list here but attractions include the wonderful West Beach, a broad and lengthy expanse of golden sand, Whitby Pavilion, a dance and show venue, whilst nearby are the glorious North York Moors and the North York Moors Heritage Railway. All the settings for tv series Heartbeat like Goathland and Grosmont are there.
Children will give cries of "ooh arrrrr" as they take to the high seas on the popular pirate ship which sails from the harbour, manned by pirates singing sea shanties as they go. Great fun.
As far as accommodation is concerned the luxury Raithwaite Hall Estate is nearby. This is a countryside estate hotel and spa with an additional Lake House and Cottage Suites.( www.raithwaiteestate.com)
The Moon and Sixpence (www.moon-and-sixpence.co.uk ) is a harbour-side bar and brasserie which also has three fabulously appointed rooms, whilst it's sister operation, the Marine Hotel (www.the-marine-hotel.co.uk ) is also harbour-side and is an oyster bar with live grand piano performances. This has four additional superbly decorated rooms.
For a more homely style yet still impressively immaculate and attractive, Dillons Hotel (www.dillonsofwhitby.co.uk ) overlooks Pannet Park and is a short walk from the town centre.
"Welcome to my house. Enter freely. Go safely and leave something of the happiness you bring" Bram Stoker. Dracula. Sorry, couldn't resist.
63 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.
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