A Late Summer Day in Whitby

Whitby Inner HarbourDropping down from the sometimes bleak yet beautiful North Yorkshire Moors we see the distant shimmer of the North Sea reflecting blue from the warm late summer sky. The sea glints and sparkles passively in the gentle off-shore breeze and the small town of Whitby nestles seemingly peacefully in the valley. The town straddles the estuary of the River Esk as it discharges its peaty brown heath and moorland waters into the green/blue vastness of the open sea. We can see the ruins of the cliff top Abbey silhouetted against the watery backdrop and the ancient lighthouse that marks the harbour pier. As we descend through the village of Sleights the distant view of hills, valley, sea and town is lost, but soon we will arrive.

Whitby Outer Harbour & Old TownIt is still holiday season, the town is full of happy people escaping the reality of work and daily routine.  Around the harbour there is a smell of street food; fish and chips, cockles, whelks, hot-dogs, burgers, doughnuts. On the west side of the river are the amusement arcades, the fish docks and cafes. Behind and above on the steep sided valley on this north side is the Victorian/Edwardian area oWhitby Abbeyf town with the main streets and cliff top guest houses. The Royal Hotel, where Bram Stoker reputedly stayed and was inspired by the view across the harbour towards the Abbey to write the novel “Dracula”, sits atop the cliff behind the famous whale bone arch. The Victorian grandeur is long gone but signs of its heyday are everywhere. On the east side of the river is the ancient part of Whitby dating back to the 1500s and still with many old characterful terraced cottages and cobbled streets.

Whitby AbbeySome properties in the town would have originally been occupied by ancient whalers and fishermen living hard and dangerous lives, yet in a different era others would have been occupied by wealthy Victorians and Edwardians who would promenade along the harbour walls and cliff-tops in their extravagant finery. Now these same properties are often holiday homes, sadly unoccupied for half the year giving the town a slightly ghostly feel on quiet dull days mid-winter. It is difficult to imagine the ancient fishermen mending their nets around the harbour that would be packed full with enumerable working sailing ships, or later the ladies discretely enjoying the waters of the sea Whitby Abbeyvia their “bathing machines” that seem so comical to our modern thinking.

Today it is summer and we can ignore the crowds and simply enjoy the uniqueness of the surroundings. We can sit and sip coffee watching the milling multitudes of holiday makers walking the same routes as those wealthy Victorians of the past but without the same style or aesthetic grandeur, but there is still tranquillity to be found and pleasure in simply taking in the surroundings. It is a short visit and soon we will be gone, but we will return, it is a lovely place in a beautiful part of England and the smell of the sea or of wild heather on the moorland hilltops is a constant pull on my island soul. So until the next time……

Whitby Abbey