A weekend in Whitby
Top-rated picks for a charming coastal getaway
Whitby occupies a dramatic location on the Yorkshire coast, its traditional whitewashed fishing cottages clinging to the steep slopes on either side of the River Esk as it empties into the North Sea.
Once the only safe harbour between the Tyne and the Humber, the town has a long history as an important sea port, and even today continues to owe much of its prosperity to its relationship with the sea, as well as its enduring appeal to visitors. Take a look at our recommendations for things to do and where to eat and stay, all rated by the AA and/or VisitEngland.
Things to do
Whitby rose to prominence in the 7th century AD, when a monastery was founded on Whitby’s eastern cliff, presided over by Abbess Hild, the daughter of King Oswy of Northumberland. As word of Hild’s piety and purity spread, she was recognized as a saint – Saint Hilda. The original Whitby Abbey was destroyed by the Vikings, but the atmospheric clifftop ruins of the later medieval building that replaced it and are well worth a visit, as is the nearby 12th-century St Mary’s Church.
The town’s windswept character and moody architecture almost certainly contributed to the creation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which uses the town as the setting for much of its story. Guided Whitby Walks take in many of the locations that appear in the tale, including the graveyard of St Mary’s Church. These days, the gothic vibes of the town add to the popularity of its twice-yearly Gothic Weekend.
From humble fishing cottages to fine Georgian townhouses, Whitby’s maritime history is writ large in its streets and architecture. The town has gained wealth and prosperity over the centuries from fishing, whaling and exploration. Visit the Whitby Museum and the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, or perhaps head into the North Sea yourself with Whitby Whale Watching.