Whitby

North Yorkshire

As a seaside resort it is slightly more isolated from the rest of Yorkshire than some of the region's other seaside towns, but only through having to cross the beautiful landscape of the North York Moors National Park to get there.

Getting there is well worth it. The town is centred around its charmingly picturesque harbour where the River Esk meets the North Sea. On the East Cliff are the magnificent ruins of Whitby Abbey and the historic Norman Church of St Mary the Virgin, reached by a flight of 199 steps. At the opposite side of the harbour at the top of the Khyber Pass on the West Cliff is a whalebone arch landmark commemorating the town's whaling history and a statue of ocean explorer Captain James Cook, who served his apprenticeship in Whitby.

In an age of wooden shipbuilding between the mid 18th and 19th centuries, Whitby was one of the largest shipbuilding ports in the country. The coal-carrying ship later converted by the navy to Cook's HMS Endeavour was among the most famous to be built there.

At around the same time, Whitby was also a prosperous whaling port with 55 whaling ships and boiler houses on the harbour side. These turned whale and seal blubber into oil, used, among other things, for soaps, candles, lubricants, paints and street lighting.

Although the whaling industry eventually ended, Whitby's history as a traditional fishing port continued and still does, albeit to a lesser extent today. But the harbour is busy with an amazing selection of sea trip boats ranging from coastal cruises to trips in a miniature replica of Captain Cook's HMS Endeavour or one of the town's old lifeboats. There are also longer whale-watching excursions and sea fishing trips. The port has plenty of sea fishing charter boats available.

Below the West Cliff a sandy beach has an international Blue Flag Award as well as a Keep Britain Tidy Seaside Award. It has traditional multi-coloured beach huts and stretches for around 3 miles northward towards Sandsend. At the top of the cliff are a number of seaside attractions, including crazy golf, go karts and an indoor leisure centre.

Whitby has become famous for some its places in literary history. Whitby Abbey is where Caedmon awoke to poetry. The 7th century poet, in what was then part of the Kingdom of Northumbria, was the earliest named poet on record in England. More recently, Whitby was an inspiration of the 1897 Gothic horror novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. It has led to Whitby hosting an annual Goth Weekend (November 4-6, 2016), an event which has grown since 1994 to become one of the foremost events in the calendars of those who celebrate all things Gothic.

There are other Yorkshire seaside places to visit a few miles away, picturesque villages including Staithes, Runswick Bay, Sandsend and Robin Hood's Bay. The North York Moors National Park starts just outside the town as does a 36-mile section of Heritage Coast, one of three sections of the Yorkshire coastline so defined by Natural England.

The town has plenty of places to stay, including hotels, but more noticably a large number of high-quality guest houses to choose from.

Town features

On the west side of the harbour is a traditional town centre and seaside shopping, but cross the swing bridge across the Esk to parts of the town close to the old Market Square beneath the East Cliff and you will find a host of craft, art and jewellery shops, some selling the black jet jewellery for which Whitby has become famous.

The main post office in Whitby is at Bridge Street. There are also branches at the Co-op at Endeavour Wharf and at The Parade, in Upgang Lane.

Whitby has bank and building society branches.

Whitby has a number of pharmacies.

A good selection of pubs centred around the harbour keep the area lively well into the evening. Some have expanded to cater for the tourist trade with a few offering live music at weekends without intruding too heavily into the peaceful harbour setting. There are also plenty of quieter and less bustling pubs in villages around the Whitby area.

Whitby has some of Britain's finest fish and chip and seafood restaurants, but within its quaint streets can also be found cafes, restaurants and pubs catering for many different tastes.

Whitby has a good range of guest house accommodation, a few hotels and self-catering cottages.

Tourist Information can be found at Langborne Road, between the harbour and the station.

There are a number of public toilets around Whitby which are run by Whitby Town Council which varies opening times depending on the season and requires school parties to fill in a form and pay a £10 fee in advance if they need to use the loo. Find the form via this Whitby Town Council  web page. Scarborough Borough Council run toilets at Whitby beach and at the Marina Car Park between 7.30am and 6pm. This Scarborough Borough Council  web page has more details.

Whitby has Anglican, Catholic, Methodist, Baptist and United Reformed places of worship.

Among the churches in Whitby, the Norman Church of St Mary the Virgin on the East Cliff stands most prominently in the local landscape in front of the ruins of its historic abbey, about which there are more details below.

Entertainment


Whitby Pavilion
West Cliff
Situated on the town's West Cliff overlooking the beach, Whitby Pavilion is a multi-purpose entertainment venue with music, comedy and drama, dances, cinema, cafe and an exhibition, conference and banqueting hall.



Sport

Whitby Town

The Seasiders play at The Turnbull Ground, Upgang Lane.
 Whitby Town official website.

Whitby Rugby Club

Whitby Rugby Club play Rugby Union at White Leys Road.
 Whitby Rugby Club official website.

Whitby Cricket Club

Whitby Cricket Club play at Upgang Lane.
 Whitby Cricket Club official website.

Museums

Captain Cook Memorial Museum

Grape Lane, Whitby
A fascinating and detailed insight into the great voyages and life of Captain James Cook and his crews as he navigated coastlines and charted much new territory, including circumnavigating New Zealand and building upon the work of other sea explorations and Dutch explorers who had sailed to Australia before him. Excellently presented information about the explorer is contained in the museum in a 17th century house where Cook lodged as an apprentice and trained as a seaman. The museum is open from February to November with opening by appointment in the winter.
More details at the  Captain Cook Memorial Museum website.

Whitby Museum

Pannett Park
Whitby Museum is in Pannett Park, a short walk from the harbour and station and the West Cliff area. It tells many aspects of the town's history with whaling, natural history and jet jewellery among several featured collections. The museum is run by the Whitby Literary and Philosophic Society, founded in 1823. Admission to Whitby residents is free but there is an admission charge for visitors. The museum adjoins the municipal art gallery, which is free to enter for all and features a fascinating collection of historic paintings of Whitby and other subjects.
More information at the  Whitby Museum website.

Whitby Lifeboat Museum

Pier Road
An exhibition celebrating the lives saved by volunteer crews from Whitby since 1802 is in a boathouse used by the RNLI from 1895 to 1957 which still houses one its historic lifeboats. Stories are documented of tragic wrecks and amazing rescues which have led to no less than 36 RNLI gallantry medals being awarded to Whitby crews over the years. Admission is free, but the RNLI is a charity which depends on public donations to help save lives at sea.
Find out more at the  RNLI - Whitby Lifeboat Museum web page.


Places to visit


Whitby Abbey

The hilltop of the East Cliff at Whitby was first settled with a monastery in 657. It is of religious significance as the location of the Synod of Whitby of 664 where Christians in the then Kingdom of Northumbria adopted Roman rather than Ionian traditions as the norm when both had prevously been practised. The abbey church ruins exisiting today date from the 13th century. They are a significant landmark high above Whitby, which can be reached from the town via the flight of 199 steps. For the less energetic there is a bus service and a car park nearby. Though a substantial part of the abbey remains, it has over the years suffered the damage of storms and an attack on Whitby by the German navy in 1914. Fascinating finds are exhibited in the Abbey House, an extension of what was probably the abbot's house after the supression of the monastery. The abbey hosts events for wildlife spotters and for fans of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Whitby Abbey is managed by English Heritage.

More information at the  English Heritage - Whitby abbey website.  Find Whitby Abbey on map


Heritage coast

Whitby is at the centre of 36 miles of coastline which make up the North Yorkshire and Cleveland Heritage Coast. This is Yorkshire's Jurassic Coast, where ammonites can easily be found and occasionally bones from marine reptiles and dinosaurs have been discovered. For more see our Heritage Coast page.


North York Moors National Park

Starting just outside Whitby is the beautiful scenery of the North York Moors National Park, which covers 554 square miles (1,435 square kilometres). Within its area are moorland and coast, historic stateley homes, remains of castles and abbeys and attractive villages including, not far from Whitby, Goathland, famous as the location for TV's Heartbeat, and Grosmont, location of the locomotive sheds of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. For more information see our page dedicated to the North York Moors.


Travel

Whitby

Station Square
Whitby is a terminus station with two platforms. Northern trains operate along the Esk Valley line towards Middlesbrough through the North York Moors National Park with stations at Ruswarp, Sleights, Grosmont, Egton Bridge, Glaisdale, Battersby and Great Ayton.
Some journeys on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway between Pickering and Grosmont, usually steam-hauled, are extended along the rail network to start and finish their journeys in Whitby.

Station managed by Northern. Operators: Northern and the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

 Northern - Whitby Station and departure information at Northern website.

 North Yorkshire Moors Railway Website of the heritage railway with trains to Whitby.

Bus services

Whitby bus station is the destination of the trip voted Britain's Most Scenic Bus Route in 2018 - the 840 Yorkshire Coastliner bus operating across the moors to Thornton le Dale, Pickering, Flamingo Land, Eden Camp, Malton, York and Leeds. Whitby's small bus station is conveniently just outside the station, connecting the railway with bus journeys to other coastal destinations, including northwards to Sandsend, Runswick Bay, Staithes, Saltburn-by-the-Sea and Redcar and south to Robin Hood's Bay and Scarborough. Buses also operate through the North York Moors via Guisborough to Middlesbrough and there are local and park and ride services.
An open top Town Tour bus also runs around Whitby from the harbour-side bandstand to the West Cliff, Pannett Park and Whitby Abbey.

Road travel

Reaching Whitby usually means travelling by one of the main roads across the North York Moors National Park. From the north the most direct route from Middlesbrough via Guisborough is the A171, while the A174 takes a longer route from Middlesbrough, past Redcar and some of the magnificent seaside towns and villages along the coast. The journey north from Scarborough is also via the A171. Long lanes from this slightly inland route lead to the coast at places like Ravenscar and Robin Hood's Bay. The short cut from the centre of Yorkshire to Whitby is on the A169 from Malton to Pickering and across Fylingdales Moor.
Whitby is a town for exploring on foot having first found somewhere to park. There are busy car parks near to the station and some controlled on-street parking, principally around the West Cliff area. There is also a car park near Whitby Abbey. A late-March to late-October park and ride scheme operating from the A171 near Cross Butts Farm at Low Stakesby, just outside Whitby, aims to take the pressure off finding a parking space in the town by offering a 15 minute bus service.


Emergency services

North Yorkshire Police  North Yorkshire Police website.

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service  North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service website.

Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust  Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust website.

HM Coastguard  Coastguard - Coastal safety webpage.

Local government

Civil parish council

Whitby Town Council
Whitby Town Council provides public representation and a limited range of services in the town and elects a Town Mayor and deputy each year. It holds its meetings at the Pannett Art Gallery (pictured).
 Whitby Town Council website.

District authority

Scarborough Borough Council

Scarborough Borough Council covers a large district extending for around 40 miles along the coast to the north and south of Scarborough itself and for several miles inland, also including the towns of Whitby and Filey and many villages.

A large proportion of the district is within the North York Moors National Park.

Elections are held every four years.

A revision of wards on the council from May 2019 means the number of wards of Scarborough Borough Council is reduced from 25 to 20 and the number of councillors elected is reduced from 50 to 46. Each ward has one, two or three councillors.

Link to council website
 Scarborough Borough Council .

The political composition after the 2015 election was:
2613542
50 members

The political composition after the 2019 election is:
16141321
46 members

County authority

North Yorkshire County Council
Includes the Scarborough borough and six other non-unitary districts of North Yorkshire.
 North Yorkshire County Council council.

Police and Crime Commissioner

Police and Crime Commissioner North Yorkshire
Covers the county of North Yorkshire and City of York.
 Police and Crime Commissioner North Yorkshire website.

Fire Authority

The North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service was previously governed by the North Yorkshire Combined Fire Authority made up of elected members from across the broad areas of North Yorkshire and City of York councils which it serves. Following a ministerial announcement in June 2018 the governance of the fire service was transferred to the Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire from 15 November 2018.
Further information at the  North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service website.
 Police and Crime Commissioner North Yorkshire website.

National government region

Yorkshire and the Humber

Ceremonial county

North Yorkshire

Historic

1894-1974 Whitby Urban District and Whitby Rural District (for areas around Whitby) within North Riding of Yorkshire.
1974-present Part of the enlarged Scarborough district authority within county of North Yorkshire.

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