Why Whitby Continues to be a Top Tourism Destination
Whitby continues to draw huge visitor numbers throughout the year. As such, you have to admit, there's far more to our wonderful location than Fish & Chips and Dracula. Whitby attracts visitors from around the globe because of the rich mixture of coastal and countryisde scenery, maritime heritage, ancient history and proximity to a wide array of nearby attractions such as the North York Moors Steam Railway, historic York and Heartbeat Country.
In this post we're exploring exactly what the Whitby area has to offer, to those who're new to the area, and those who've been several times before but want to experience something new.
The best of the Yorkshire Coast
Forget the stereotypes, Whitby really is the jewel in the crown of the North Yorkshire Coast. Nestled between the tall cliffs at the mouth of the Esk, Whitby has been inhabited since around 656AD. That's almost 1500 years!
From the dramatic position of the famous Whitby Abbey ruins on the East Cliff, to the magnificence of the sandy beach running 3 miles up the coast to Sandsend, no-one can say that our portion of coastline isn't beautifully rugged.
"Windy street in Robin Hoods Bay near Whitby North Yorkshire" by Thomas Tolkien from Scarborough, UK
We share the same stretch of coastline as Robin Hood's Bay and Staithes, both famously well-known locations in their own right. But between the three the picturesque beauty of the coastline varies dramatically. From the rocky scars stretching out into the North Sea at Robin Hood's Bay, with the world-famous view of Ravenscar, to the tidal harbour of Staithes.
Of course there are other villages perched on the cliffs within easy reach of Whitby - Runswick Bay for instance, Sandsend, Lythe and Kettleness. Our coastal location provides plenty for all to enjoy - with cliff-top walks and the disused railway path providing excellent access to the most amazing scenes.
We could stop here. Surely the best coastal scenery in the country is enough of a draw, but of course, there is so much more to enjoy!...
Easy access to the North York Moors
Head inland from Whitby and you're entering the North York Moors National Park. At around 550sq miles it is one of the largest expanses of natural heather moorland in the UK, but it's home to only 23,000 people.
And what is there to do here? Not a lot, you may be thinking. But you'd be wrong! The North York Moors National Park is home to the North York Moors Steam Railway, running from Whitby to Pickering with a big junction at Grosmont where you'll also find the engine sheds. This is an amazing way to see the wonderful scenery of the National Park, with the railway winding it's way through the undulating moorland. Experience the purple heather in late summer, the browns and earth tones of autumn or - for the more adventurous - enjoy the crisp perfect white of a snow covered landscape in the winter. Whenever you decide to embark on your steam-powered journey it's sure to be the most memorable day!
Dalby Forest is a large expanse of managed woodland in the heart of the Moors. Home to some of the best mountain bike courses in the country, as well as Go Ape, a great visitor centre and plenty of woodland and moorland walks such as visiting the Bridestones - some of the most dramatic rock formations you'll ever see.
With a huge array of public footpaths and bridleways, there's nothing stopping you from experience just about every corner of the North York Moors on foot - and don't forget to take your binoculars so you can enjoy the sights and sounds of our local wildlife too. Everything from badgers, foxes and deer to birds of prey and if you're near the coast, dolphins, seals and even whales are regularly sighted.
If you enjoy the attractions of a larger town or city, then York has everything you'll need! A rich history combined with all modern conveniences, York is a medieval walled city, and features the dramatic Minster in it's heart.
Access is easy via the A169 to Pickering, then get the Park and Ride from Monks Cross, where you'll also find some of the larger shops such as John Lewis.
Make sure you give yourself a good day to take in all that York offers. You won't be short of things to do and see, such as the Jorvik Viking Centre, the amazing street performers (weather permitting!) and the fantastic shops. You could even take a tour on the river, and if trains are your thing, make sure you visit the excellent York Railway Museum.
"York Minster from the Lendal Bridge" by andy - Flickr: York Minster.
There are restaurants and independent cafes, bars and pubs by the bucket load in York, so make sure you take the time to choose wisely - there really is something for everyone!
Picturesque Market Towns
But perhaps York's a bit big for your needs and you'd prefer something a little more intimate, in that case the North York Moors is home to a number of sleepy market towns, here are a couple of favourites:
25 minutes or so from Whitby you'll find Pickering - a small but perfectly formed market town offering all that you would need for a day out. A main station for the North York Moors Steam Railway, but also home to a couple of excellent museums and independent cafes, restaurants and bars to suit all tastes.
Pickering is also home to a historic castle, now owned by English Heritage and open throughout the year, as well as an ancient church in the centre of town.
There is a great selection of small shops and a fantastic Flea Market to explore. If you've got a day, or even just a couple of hours to fill, Pickering will cater perfectly to your needs.
Continue on on the A170 from Pickering you'll find yourselves in Helmsley, another historic market town also featuring a fantastic ruined castle. With an excellent market and plenty of independent shops, pubs and picturesque streets to explore, Helmsley is well worth the journey, as a taste of all that is great about rural Yorkshire!
"A beautiful English pastoral view - geograph.org.uk - 432515" by Carol Rose.
Fish and Chips by the Bucket Load
And so we return to the opening statement. Of course, there is more to Whitby than Fish and Chips, but that's not a reason to exclude them from this list!
With the best Fish and Chips shops in the country on our doorstep, you probably find somewhere different every lunch and tea time for a week, and still not sample them all, so choose wisely!
The Magpie takeaway is also excellent, as is Quayside next door - who won another award this year. Hadley's is a Whitby favourite, as is Mr Chips on the other side of the road.
Touched on elsewhere, but worth mentioning independently, Whitby has one of the richest histories of anywhere in Yorkshire. Having been the place where the date of Easter was formally decided and inhabited since before 656AD if you're interested in history you'll find more than enough here.
Take a trip to Whitby Museum in Pannett Park to explore some of Whitby's historic events and periods, and if you're interested in finding out more they'll be happy to point you in the right direction.
"Whitby Abbey image" by Chris Kirk - Whitby Abbey 1.
A Beautiful Harbour
Whitby itself is of course, a massive attraction. You could sit on the harbourside for days, people watching, and not get bored. The beauty of our tidal harbour is unrivalled, with the wonderful Swing Bridge opening it's mouth to let the boats in and out. Head further towards the coastline and you'll see the majestic Piers jutting out into the savage North Sea, protecting all that would find shelter in our coastal community. What's not to love?!
"Whitby harbour from new Quay - geograph.org.uk - 47082" by Graham Proud.
Independent Shops, Cafes and Businesses
Whitby is full of independents. It's the independent spirit which makes Whitby so special - it's a place and a people unlike anywhere else! Head over to Church Street, Sandgate and the Market Place and you'll find a wide array of amazing businesses, from small record shops to Jet jewellers, skincare specialists and outdoor clothing and accessories. Not to mention pubs, cafes and art galleries.
Stay on the west side of town and head up Flowergate and onto Skinner Street and you'll experience more art, the fantastic Whitby Deli, town centre services such as all the major high street banks, cafes, Bothams, Dr Crank's Bike Shop and Musicport - for everything from a Ukulele to a fairly-traded gift.
With new shops and businesses opening every few weeks, Whitby sees a fair amount of turnover of premises - which is why there's always something new and interesting to see. Go on, take yourself window shopping, you never know what you're going to find!
And finally in our ode to Whitby, it's got to be you. The traveller, the visitor. We welcome you with open arms - a community once powered by fishing is now fuelled by footfall and though it's sad to see ancient history being replaced, it is Whitby's visitors who bring the vibrancy and colour to our streets.
Don't get me wrong, Whitby is an amazing local community - full of people who'd do anything for their neighbours, and perhaps that's why people like visiting here.
There's something warm and welcoming in Whitby which people don't get elsewhere. It's like you've come home.
Have we tempted you enough?
I hope so! Give us a call and book your stay at Aislaby Lodge - we've easy access to all that I've mentioned above - being only a couple of miles from Whitby itself. And despite this week's weather, you're always guaranteed a warm welcome to our cosy cottages!