Whitby North Yorkshire

Discovering Great Britain By Rail

Introduction to Whitby North Yorkshire

Today, I’m going to visit one of North Yorkshire’s famous and frequently visited seaside resorts, Whitby. I’m going to browse this scenic and dramatic resort and discover the exciting attractions that draw people from all over the globe. Situated on the North Sea, the resort faces northwards and the two sides of the resort are split by the River Esk into the historic east side and the relatively more modern west side. Coming up shortly, I will starting at one of Whitby’s newest attractions, the HM Endeavour which is a mock of the famous ship captained by James Cook. I will also be discovering how Whitby reflects on this world famous explorer with its statue and memorial museum. I will be enjoying the sounds of steam from one of North Yorkshire’s famous attractions the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. I will also be discovering the iconic swing bridge that spans the River Esk and how it divides the upper and lower harbours, sitting alongside Whitby’s fishing industry. I will be enjoying the views from Whitby’s whalebone monument and taking a walk along the West pier, one of Whitby’s guiding arms for marina’s. I will be then heading into Whitby’s east side and exploring its historic association with both jet and religion, captured in its elevated church and abbey overlooking the North Sea. I will finally be taking a walk through Pannet Park which is the home of Whitby Museum and Art Gallery. Welcome to Whitby!

Getting to Whitby

Whitby Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

If you are travelling from abroad the closest airports are Tees Valley Airport, Leeds Bradford Airport, Robin Hood Airport and Manchester Airport. You can travel by conventional railway by alighting at Middlesborough and changing trains for Whitby along the very scenic Esk Valley Line. Whitby Station is also associated with the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, a heritage steam and diesel railway from Pickering and is one of Whitby’s prominent attractions.

If you are travelling by bus, the Transdev Coastliner runs buses between Leeds, York, Malton and Whitby with free wifi and usb charging. Arriva buses also run services between Middlesborough and Scarborough. There is a Park and Ride service into Whitby too with 450 spaces. It is situated on the junction for the A171 and B1460. The postcode is YO21 1TL. However, parking is available in the town itself parallel with Whitby Station however these can get full in very busy periods. The A171 brings you in from the north whereas the A169 brings you into Whitby from the south, both scenic routes in their own right.

Let’s discover the many attractions Whitby has to offer in this feature full and compact seaside town.

Whitby North Yorkshire

Whitby Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

Whitby is found in North Yorkshire on the east coast of England. If you have travelled by car, bus or rail the first attraction you will notice other than the North Yorkshire Moors Railway is the HMS Endeavour.

HMS Endeavour

Whitby Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

The HMS Endeavour was also known as the HM Bark Endeavour and was launched in 1764 as a cargo boat designed to carry coal, actually under the name of Earl of Pembroke. The ship was renamed after the Navy acquired her for science voyages. It was in 1770 that the Endeavour became the first ship to reach Australia. The ship ran aground on the Barrier Reef so Cook had to throw her guns overboard in order to lighten her, narrowly avoiding disaster.

The HMS Endeavour was also known as the HM Bark Endeavour and was launched in 1764 as a cargo boat designed to carry coal, actually under the name of Earl of Pembroke. The ship was renamed after the Navy acquired her for science voyages. It was in 1770 that the Endeavour became the first ship to reach Australia. The ship ran aground on the Barrier Reef so Cook had to throw her guns overboard in order to lighten her, narrowly avoiding disaster.

After her epic voyages, the Endeavour was somewhat forgotten about for some time until she was sold into private hands in 1775. She made several visits to the Falkland Islands during this time. When she was sold she was renamed once again into Lord Sandwich! She was also used as a British troop transport during the American War of Independence.

Although the vessel was constructed in Whitby, her home port was actually Plymouth. The term Bark in bark Endeavour actually means a type of vessel with 3 or more masts with the fore-masts being rigged square. Her top speeds were around 13-15 km per hour or in nautical terms, 7 to 8 knots. The Endeavour was just under 100 ft in length and 30ft heigh.

This mock of the Endeavour which is open to the public, was berthed at Stockton on Tees for some time before arriving in Whitby in 2018. I used to ramble by the Tees from the Middlesborough Transporter Bridge and finish at this vessel in Stockton on Tees.

This mock of the Endeavour which is open to the public, was berthed at Stockton on Tees for some time before arriving in Whitby in 2018.

Captain Cook Memorial Museum

Whitby Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

The Captain Cook Memorial Museum can be found on Grape Lane on the east side of the Esk. It is situated in Walker’s House where James Cook came to be apprenticed to Captain John Walker back in 1746. This is the only surviving historic building associated with James Cook and it was built back in 1688.

The museum itself consists of many exhibits from James Cook’s personal letters to models of his ships. There are many collections all pertaining to Captain Cook and those who sailed with him on the voyages he took. This also includes his wife Elizabeth Cook.

Captain James Cook Statue

Whitby Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

James Cook was very much the explorer born in 1728 until 1779. He sailed thousands of miles in 3 voyages, and even created detailed maps of Newfoundland prior to these voyages.  In a few moments we’ll pass the mock up of the HMS Endeavour, the famous vessel in which he sailed, as well as the Captain Cook Museum on the east bank. He was actually from a village called Marton and relocated to Whitby. Before coming to Whitby, he worked as a shop boy in Staithes, until he became associated with the Walker family who were prominent ship owners in the coal trade. The HMS Endeavour, the real one, ran aground in the Barrier Reef.

He was apprenticed to Captain John Walker in 1746 but by 1755 he volunteers for the Royal Navy and joins the HMS Eagle and it wasn’t until 1763 that he was appointed as a surveyor of Newfoundland.

His first of his three major voyages began in 1768 in Plymouth when he was promoted Lieutenant to command the Endeavour. His second voyage was 4 years later in 1772 and his third in 1776.

He also took part in the seven year war against the French and learns new surveying techniques in 1756 to 63. This included the capture of both Louisburg and Quebec.

Whitby Station

Whitby Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

Whitby Railway Station not only serves the North Yorkshire Moors Railway but also the line from Whitby to Middlesbrough via the Esk Valley Line. Both lines are particularly scenic. Although the North Yorkshire Moors Railway ends at Pickering, it was not always so. It originally went further meeting up with the York to Scarborough line near Rillington close to Malton.

The station buildings were designed by George Townsend Andrews and built in 1845. The goods shed was bombed during the second world war. On the inside is the original map of the North Eastern rail network as it was then. In fact, the entire line and stations were built the same year for the York and North Midland Railway that began in 1839.

Whitby Swing Bridge

Whitby Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

The present swing bridge in Whitby is indeed an historic structure, but it’s certainly not the first bridge to exist here, as a crossing has existed for centuries. In 1351, a grant was made by Edward III allowing the collection of a toll to maintain the bridge. It wasn’t until 1629 an agreement was made to replace a wooden crossing in favour of a bridge consisting of moving parts. The bridge we see today however was built in 1908 and designed by J Mitchell Moncrieff who later became president of the Institution of Structural Engineers. Although the bridge was designed and constructed by Heenan and Froude. It was opened by the daughter of the Viscount of Helmsley. The bridge is obviously a swing bridge, and is was built because the previous bridge had restrictions on the size of vessel passing through it. It originally carried the A171 but in 1980 another high level bridge was opened instead to avoid congestion.

Today’s 75ft long swing bridge however has a load limit of 7.5 tons and had a construction cost of £22,582 which is around 2.5 million in todays value. However, prior to 2011 the bridge had a maximum weight of 17 tons but was reduced the North Yorkshire County Council. The bridge opened in 1909 a year after construction started.

Whitby Harbour and Mariner

Whitby Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

The harbour that we see today is somewhat of a naturally made harbour owing to the River Esk. However, it has seen improvements over many centuries. As it is still a working harbour, a dredger has to laboriously deal with the silt and mud. The harbour is split by the swing bridge into two, the upper and lower harbours. The upper harbour is where the marina yacht berthing is situated and the lower harbour is where we find many of the fishing boats and the pleasure boats available for the visitors to Whitby. The tour boats tend to be inexpensive and make a pleasant outing upon the North Sea.

It’s certainly no secret that Whitby’s economy was at one time predominantly sea fishing including whaling. Today, Whitby is still has a working harbour. However, during Georgian times, Whitby was known for another commodity, that being spa water. The three springs aroused interest and became popular for their medicinal and tonic qualities. This produced lodging places in the town and by the time of the railway’s arrival in 1839, brought Whitby into tourism. The railway at this time connected Whitby to York, linking the town to a greater rail network there. Wooden sea faring vessels were built in Whitby but by the time the iron ships were being built along the River Tees in the 19th century, smaller towns decreased their production. The wooden boat building in Whitby is reflected in a statue beside the Esk. However, there is a ship maintenance yard on the opposite east bank.

In times past, it was considered that the only method of getting to Whitby was via the sea. This was because the North York Moors was difficult to cross until around 1764 when a road was built. In fact, the harbour is the market square of the town because Whitby is centred on the harbour and not market trading such as Malton for example. Having said this, by the 1300’s shipments were arriving from all over Northern Europe.

During the 1600’s alum shale became a feature as it was found in the local area. However, to achieve the finished product many shipments of coal and also in order to create ammonia, urine was also required.

From 1702 forward, each vessel passing into the harbour had to pay a toll for the upkeep and maintenance of the stone harbour pier that was built in 1632 by instruction of Sir Hugh Cholmley who was the lord of the manor at this time. However, both the west and east piers were modified several times since. These modifications made it easier for ships to navigate and also to lessen the problem of silting. Of course, the rough seas on the Yorkshire coast still effect the piers and they require maintenance today, and you will notice from our footage that they are being maintained during filming.

Whitby Lifeboat Station

Whitby Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

Whitby lifeboat station was actually one of the earliest lifeboat stations to be established, which is not surprising in historical Whitby. The lifeboat station was opened in 1802 and the 31ft lifeboat was built by Henry Greathead of South Shields. By 1861, the lifeboat station was taken over by the Royal National Lifeboat Institute which is a charity organisation that exists today.

However, the Lifeboat Museum and Whitby Yacht Club are found in this double boathouse on the West side of the Esk. This building was used by the RNLI between 1895 until 1957 and is now of course a museum which is clearly indicated by the large blue and white lifeboat tucked inside. There is also a RNLI shop in order to support the charities lifesaving work.

Whitby Whalebones

Whitby Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

Making our way up some steps to the top brings us to Whitby’s whale bones that form an archway over the footpath, almost like a church doorway.  In the 18th and 19th centuries whaling was a very lucrative business and thriving in Whitby. However, it was oftentimes very dangerous, capsizing boats and men being killed as a result. These 20ft jaw bones capture Whitby’s strong connection with whaling in a single monument. Commercial whaling was banned in 1986 under the IWC’s moratorium.

In 1753, a group of Whitby merchants established a whaling company equipping two ships known as the Sea Nymph and the Henry and Mary. However, unsuccessfully catching just 3 whales in an entire year, they employed a further two ships in 1754 known as Anne and the Dolphin. They also employed Dutch specialists as the whaling business was a very skilled job. At this particular time Thomas Grey was the only harpoon operator in Whitby. Not only were these whalers required to endure the cold in the Arctic but they were also subject to press ganging as well as privateers.

Whitby’s East and West Piers

Whitby Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

If you look at the map of the Yorkshire Coast you will notice that Whitby’s coast faces northwards. Therefore, Whitby is split by the Esk into East and West rather than North and South as you might have expect.

You’ll notice the lighthouses on both piers which the west is open to the public. The west lighthouse was constructed in 1831. You’ll notice that it has a stone tower with a wooden section on top. It stands at 46ft and has a viewing range of just under 6 miles.  As you would expect, it is grade ii listed. You’ll also note the wind direction at the top.

The extension you will notice at the end of both piers was established in 1912. The Yorkshire Coast being quite a perilous one for sea faring vessels in stormy weather in particular, had the sands between the two piers as a soft buffer in such times. It is still known as Collier’s Hope in the present times, but of course, they are known to the youngsters as simply the beach!

Sadly, we cannot take you to the east lighthouse owing to maintenance. However, this lighthouse was built in 1855 and is shorter at 56ft. Its focal height is 46ft and has a range of 5 miles. You’ll notice that the landscape beyond the east pier is very rocky which made it very perilous for vessels.

On the West pier you can walk all the way to the end for a view over the North Sea. It’s nice to stop for a moment and take in some of that fresh sea air.

As a rule, I will give you some safety information as I will today. When you encounter seagulls, it is necessary not to feed them. This isn’t because they are vastly overweight, but because they can get somewhat volatile when it comes to food. In fact, they have been known to attack individuals with food in their hands. Of course, we do not want to attack them for their food either!

St Mary’s Church

Whitby Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

Churches often serve as striking landmarks in most towns and villages but Whitby probably even more so. This is because the church is elevated above the town and harbour below it on the hillside. Taking a stroll towards the church we can see more of this impressive structure dating back from 1110.

The church is an Anglican Parish church serving the town and open to the public. Inside you will see the three decker pulpit from the 1700’s. It also has art from the 19th century which are accessible to view using the staircases. It’s world famous as it is also a setting in Bram Stoker’s Dracula and the abbey features in this works too.  Although the church is Norman, it has been added to and changed since 1110.

On your way past, you also notice a large cross known as Caedmon’s Cross prior to your descent down the 199 steps, who was an early English poet from Northumbria. He was also an Anglo Saxon who cared for the animals at Whitby Abbey. This was because he knew none of the songs, so while the Monks were singing early morning, he would go out and sleep with the animals.

Whitby Abbey

Whitby Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

The more larger neighbour to St Mary’s Church is of course Whitby Abbey. The site of Whitby Abbey dates way back to AD 657 when Abbess Hild founded a monastery for both men and women, which was somewhat controversial at the time. The land was donated by King Oswiu and it became one of the most important religious centres in Anglo-Saxon times. A landmark meeting was held here to decided the date of Easter. The issue was that the direction of the English church hit an impasse when they had to decide to follow the Celtic or Roman Christian tradition. However, by the time of the 9th century, the monastery was abandoned owing to Danish raids, but the longevity of the abbey did not end here. This is because the Benedictine monk Rienfrid reestablished a community once again in 1078.

Many abbey’s today you will have noticed are ruins. This is because of the dissolution of the monasteries under the reign of Henry VIII. This is sometimes referred to the suppression of the monasteries. It is considered that Henry VIII wanted to disband the monasteries so that funds could be dedicated for military purposes and some argue simply for the crown. Whitby Abbey was suppressed by Henry VIII in 1539, which is why we see only ruins today. Not to help matters, during the Great War both the Abbey along with Scarborough Castle endured bombardment. Like York Minster, what is left of the structure is an example of Gothic architecture. When you look at the structure, try to imagine in your mind’s eye what it must have looked like in its heyday.

If you are not a great stair climber and are not keen on climbing the 199 steps, then you can find the alley from the sharp bend after the swing bridge called Caedmon’s Trod. This is more gradual than the 199 steps and takes you right around the Abbey itself to receive some good views.

Whitby Abbey House

Whitby Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

You might be confused by the house beside Whitby Abbey and its relationship with it. Whitby Abbey house is a grand house with gardens dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries. It was formerly the Manor House in Whitby. The oldest section is found at the south side as it is thought it was built by some of the Abbey’s ruins. It is at the former site of the Abbotts house. After the dissolution of the monasteries, the Abbey House was purchased by Richard Cholmley who later knighted in 1544. It remained in the Cholmley family until 1791.

The 199 Steps in Whitby

Whitby Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

One of Whitby’s most famous landmarks is the 199 steps of which some find debatable . This is because some consider the stair case, also known as the church steps, to have only 198 as you shouldn’t count the step at the top. In any case, they are a kind of misnomer because as the steps are quite shallow you can often take two at a time! Confused? In any case, they good cardio and will certainly increase your heart rate and breathing. Imagine St Hilda who would have climbed these steps regularly and must have been the fittest woman in town. Apparently, to her it was considered to be a test of faith. In present times, they are more a test of endurance but with a fantastic reward of a superb view over Whitby from the top. The first record of the 199 steps was in 1340 but it is believed they have existed along time before then. Having said this, the original steps were made from wood and it wasn’t until 1774 they were upgraded with Sneaton Stone.

Whitby Town and Streets

Whitby North Yorkshire

On your left coming down the steps you will see one of the narrow shopping streets in the old town. However, don’t be drawn away from the fisherman’s cottages that can be found on the right hand side that leads to the east pier. These cosy cottages stand facing each other over the cobbled street between. However, we’re going to turn left and walk down the cobbled street which almost feels like The Shambles in York.

It won’t take you too long to find a jewellers in the old town because of something else that Whitby is famous for, that being jet. Jet was very popular especially with Victorians, and this gemstone is also popular today. In fact, Whitby has a jet museum just further along the same street. Jet is actually a precursor to coal and like coal it has an organic origin. In fact its a high pressure decomposition of wood and jet has two forms, hard jet and soft jet. The word jet is the English version of the French word for the same material.

Not far from Whitby Jet Museum is the old town hall and market square. Again it is a grade ii listed building, and it has an interesting clock tower. There are also public conveniences here if you need them. However, it is not the building that old refers to, but rather the old town on the east bank. The building is also old dating back to 1788. It replaced the decaying town hall on that was once on the west bank. It has an interesting wooden clock tower.

You will find a narrow street being Grape Lane. You’ll discover some interesting artisan shops in the same vicinity including Whitby Jet, Persian Rugs and a lot more. These shops and their position give you a feeling of deep local and cultural history.  Just further along on the right you will observe the Captain Cook Memorial Museum open to the public. If you enjoy history and museums it is worth a look inside.

The museum is in a fitting location because just a short walk around the corner along Church Street you will notice that you get a good view of the HMS Endeavour, or at least the mock Endeavour.

The west side of the Esk takes us through a shopping area with eateries as well as amusements further along. The east of the Esk is the old town where you will find some of the more artisan shops and the west of the Esk is more of the high street retailers and amusements. This is what makes Whitby popular as it has something for everyone wrapped in a scenic coastal town.

Again almost as famous as Whitby is The Magpie which serves excellent fish and chips. You’ll note that in the height of the season fish and chips are very popular so much so that queues begin to form.

Dracula is a Gothic Horror novel that was written by Irish Author Bram Stoker in 1897. The theme of the novel consisted of Count Dracula wanting to move from Transylvania to England in effort to find fresh blood to spread the undead curse. His efforts met with opposition from Professor Abraham Van Helsing and a group of people. Whitby was the setting for this horror story which is why you’ll find many references to it here. Therefore be a little careful of the locals!

Whitby also has a museum and art gallery set in the very stunning and tranquil Pannett Park. It is run by the Whitby Literary and Philosophical Society archaeology, social history, ceramics, Captain James Cook, fossils, paintings, photographs, militaria and toys & dolls. Pannett Park is set on the hill side and you can slowly make your way downhill through this stunning park. There are also some seating opportunities too so it is a great place to sit and enjoy an ice-cream or simply take things easy. In any case, the park is full of colour especially in the summer and you can still receive that sea breeze here too.

Until next time!