First things first, Whitby is not your usual seaside town.
Before we check into the B&B, Janet and we took a little wander around this rightfully legendary seaside town. There’s a palpable history here in Whitby present in some exquisite old buildings and charming architecture.
Everywhere we look there are nods to the past: shops have traditionally painted signage, there are book shops everywhere and even the hotels seem to be getting in on the action, lending the town an eerie anachronism which is only highlighted by the impressive number of goths scattered throughout the streets. If we were visiting a metropolitan city then we would assume that there was some sort of rock concert on, but this is Whitby and there is an altogether different reason for this many black-clad people converging here.
When visiting Whitby in the years before publishing his most famous novel, Bram Stoker found himself drawn to the grand Gothic ruin of Whitby Abbey. So taken was he by the 7th Century building that he decided to have his titular vampire arrive in England by way Whitby; for that reason Goths and occult tourists alike flock to the town in droves (especially during Halloween) and spend thousands of pounds on jet trinkets and black coffees.
All of this useful contextual information is passed on to us by our hosts at High Tor Guest House, a charming, luxurious Victorian property run by Sue and Gary. 7 well decorated en suite bedrooms are kept in pristine condition in this tastefully decorated town house makes for a perfect getaway for couples. Janet was very pleased with the quality of the towels and complimentary toiletries, and I was more than happy with their generous cooked breakfast. Their Full English is a hearty plate, coming with 2 rashers of bacon, sausages, tomato, hash browns and mushroom. Janet opted for the lighter option of poached eggs on toast, and we were both happy with the range of preserves available to guests. The dining room is light and airy, the perfect place to spend a relaxed morning eating and reading the papers before heading out to explore Whitby.
Buying some Jet
Although the gemstone Jet can be found all over the world, the finest specimens are to be found in Whitby (or so the owners of numerous gift and souvenir shops are to have us believe). You won’t have to look hard to find a shop selling these wares, but their quality does vary from place to place, so it’s best to take a good look around before you settle on making a purchase. Staff in most of the shops aren’t pushy and will give you space to browse without pressuring you.
Visiting Whitby Abbey
The Abbey is a must-visit location and although the 199 steps leading up to the ruin are a much touted challenge, Janet and I didn’t find them too difficult, but were certainly grateful for the flask of tea that we brought up with us. As we’re both members of English Heritage, entrance was free for us, but prices seemed pretty reasonable for non-members (£7.90 for adults, £4.70 for children). At the top you’ll find some terrific views and a quick walk will take you to the Mansion Visitor Centre which houses plenty of interesting information.
Grabbing some Fish’n’Chips
Trenchers Fish’n’Chips doesn’t mess too much with the tried and tested formula of the English chip shop, in fact it’s so rigidly traditional that you might be initially put off. Hipsters seeking out a modern take on this seaside classic will probably turn their noses up at the door, but in doing so they’ll be missing out on the best Cod and Chips that Yorkshire has to offer. Trenchers was the only shop in the North short-listed for the top prize of the National Fish & Chip Awards, an honour that is well deserved.