Five things we love about Whitby

Whitby fishing scene

Whitby harbour

We spent a day in Whitby while we were on holiday in North Yorkshire last month. It was the beginning of April when we stayed in a cottage in Pickering, ideally placed to visit our friends in York as well as the coastal towns of Whitby, Scarborough or even Filey a little further away.

The weather was pretty overcast but we were lucky to avoid the rain and get out and explore every day we were there.

It had been a few years since I’d visited Whitby – ok maybe 10 – so I was looking forward to going for a look round with Sam and Florence. As we live on the opposite coastline in Wirral, we are used to hanging out in seaside towns but this one really is a gem for young families.

Getting to Whitby was easy; it was only about a half-hour drive from our cottage but it was a pretty spectacular one. Driving over the moors was a bit like – in my son’s words – driving across the moon, with its wide open but desolate-looking space, a long, undulating open road across the moorland that eventually wound us down past several villages before ending at the coast.

If the moon were covered in bracken, perhaps it would look a little bit like the road to Whitby!

As we dropped down into the town, we managed to get lucky and drive straight through to the harbour to find a parking space in the pay and display there. It was a perfectly central base for our little adventure and coast us about £7 for the full day.

Whitby Abbey Sam and Flo

Whitby church yard

Five things we love about Whitby

The harbour

We started our day walking round the harbour, looking at the fishing boats and the nets piled high to one side. Even on this cloudy April day there were lots of people milling about and no shortage of places to grab a coffee and people watch a little. There were a few street entertainers for the kids to watch, like the man in the photograph who rode his bike every time you gave him some coins. Old hat to us maybe, but enchanting for the little ones.

There are boat trips which you can do and if we had had more time I think we would have taken one, but as we only had the one day we made our way around the back of the harbour to the cobbled streets taking us all the way up to the abbey.

The 199 steps

The famous 199 steps in Whitby lead up from the cobbles to the Church of Saint Mary, perched on the east cliff overlooking the harbour and the town. It looks like a long way up but it’s an easy climb, and thankfully the kids got new life when they reached the steps and I had to race to keep up with them. You get such a great view from the top of the cliff, you can’t really visit Whitby and not do the steps.

At the top, you’ll find the church graveyard which was the setting of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a book which he wrote after staying in the town back in 1890. Which leads me on to the next thing we loved about Whitby – its spooky, gothic, alternative feel.

Whitby fishing scene

The spooky vibe

The seaside town’s ties with Dracula are a pull for thousands of people each year, and you don’t have to go far to see signs of what is one of Whitby’s most famous attractions, the Whitby Goth Weekend.

In fact it’s over two weekends a year, in April and October, when the best-dressed goths and so-called steampunks fill the town for a celebration of music and fashion. The look I would say is a kind of Victorian England meets vampire, meets science fiction. It’s a style which crops up in many of the shops around the town, and which made my halloween-obsessed son’s eyes pop.

Some of the goth shop owners we saw caught Flo’s eye too, one who with his rather suspect dentistry, top hat and tails made my little girl stare. Thankfully, he saw the funny side too.

For older children there is a Dracula experience down near the arcades, where you walk into a kind of haunted house with actors trying to scare you as you go through. Although Sam was desperate to go in, a quick look inside the door was enough to send shivers down all our spines and luckily he agreed it was probably a bit too scary for him just now. Maybe we’ll wait a few years before repeating that one.

Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey

The Abbey

Going back to the top of the cliff, Whitby Abbey is well worth a visit. We walked up to have a look behind St Mary’s Church but to be honest, I didn’t think Sam and Flo would have much time for walking round the ruins of the abbey. How wrong I was. We only went into the ticket office to ask where the nearest baby change was (always fun when you need to change a nappy on top of a hill, no?) but we ended up paying to go in and have a look around too.

Both children absolutely loved running around the grounds, Sam pretending he was a great explorer and Flo stamping her feet and singing ‘Let It Go!’ like it was the sole purpose of her day.

We spent almost an hour walking around the ruins; I mean it isn’t really all that big, but we were just having such a good time up there and for me on my own with two kids, it was a break to have this wide open, safe space where there weren’t too many people or opportunities to get lost.

The arcades

The promise of an ice cream got us back down the steps, and we still had time to walk round to Funland for a quick half-hour on the penny slot machines before heading home. After our stay in Filey last summer, Sam and Flo are both pretty pro at the 2p machines, and let’s face it spending a coupe of pounds on them brings them a whole lot of joy, so it’s a winner all round!

Things we didn’t have time for…

If we had more time in Whitby, we would have spent some time in Pannett Park, a central park just uphill from the harbour with its own art gallery, museum and play area.

Had we not had fish and chips the night before, we would have sought them out for lunch, as you know, when in Rome and all that.

We also might have taken a boat trip around the harbour. We saw a pirate boat all ready to set sail for a cruise which I think was the replica HMS Endeavour. On board this trip you can hear stories of Captain Cook and sing along with sea shanties, it looks like so much fun for the kids. You can also take a trip on the old lifeboat, a fishing trip or a speedboat ride.

If you stay in Whitby there are loads of places to visit nearby, such as Robin Hood’s Bay, Scarborough or the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. Take a look at our last post on Pickering and Dalby Forest for some more ideas.

x Julia

Whitby Abbey with the kids http://rainbeaubelle.com

Whitby harbour entertainer

All of us at Whitby Abbey

#YorkshireFamily with Yorkshire Tots
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  • Reply
    Kim Carberry
    May 25, 2016 at 11:56 am

    It is such a wonderful place to visit….I used to go a lot when I was younger but I haven’t been for years!
    It looks like you fitted so much into your visit…Lovely photos x
    Kim Carberry recently posted…A messy bath. #wickedwednesdaysMy Profile

  • Reply
    Hayley @hayleyfromhome
    May 26, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    Whitby is somewhere I have wanted to visit for so long and this post is wonderful Julia! Everyone I know who has been loves it and you photos have made me want to visit all the more. I quite like that it has a spooky gothic side and the abbey looks beautiful. James has just finished reading Dracula so maybe we should try and plan a trip there over the summer and check it out, maybe we’ll give the Dracula experience a miss too though 🙂 xx
    Hayley @hayleyfromhome recently posted…Five Books That Are Weird & WonderfulMy Profile

  • Reply
    May 26, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    I remember it! I was about 10 but we had a superb school trip there – I did a project afterwards! Looks great and what a lovely set of photos too xx

  • Reply
    May 27, 2016 at 2:51 am

    I absolutely love Whitby. It’s somewhere I can’t wait to take my boys! I love the abbey too – it’s so picturesque with an every quality to it. I love how the whole town is built around the gothic culture and the Dracula story. The fish n chips are good too!

  • Reply
    Mary Smith
    May 27, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    Julia these pics are lovely and we love whitby too. It looks like you had a great day there!
    I have fond memories of it as a kid and its such a great place like you say…so many angles to it! I actually just messaged my mum this morning and said “lets do Whitby in half term” haha fingers crossed! x

  • Reply
    May 30, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    You made me feel homesick Julia, it is a very special place xx

    • Reply
      May 30, 2016 at 3:06 pm

      You made me feel homesick Jules, it is a very special place xx

  • Reply
    Erin Ek Rush
    June 6, 2016 at 1:07 pm

    What a gorgeous post! We love Whitby too – so much that it seems to be the place we end up over and over again. My daughter is desperate to try the Dracula experience too but at 5 I think we’ve got a long wait! Fantastic photos! Thanks for linking up with #YorkshireFamily

  • Reply
    Becky @ Educating Roversi
    June 6, 2016 at 7:51 pm

    Aw i love Whitby. We used to go all the time when i was a toddler. Lots of good memories and we go back at least once a year now. Glad you had fun #YorkshireFamily

  • Reply
    Its Adam Again
    June 19, 2016 at 9:18 pm

    We haven’t been to Whitby for years and despite a few trips haven’t done as much as you did on your day trip, so am feeling quite positive about our visit in July. I had no idea about Dracula – i will be reading up on that before we go. #yorkshirefamily

  • Reply
    michaela atkins
    June 23, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    im very lucky as i live in whitby with my family… lovely write up about the time you spent with us. glad you enjoyed your visit with us x

  • Reply
    Chris Ward
    June 24, 2016 at 9:16 pm

    Even in poor weather there is plenty to do
    I don’t know anyone to go and not enjoy themselves

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