Whitby is so much more than the average British seaside town thanks to its unique history and culture. Its important role in the novel Dracula has made it the Goth capital of the UK, attracting black-clad hordes for the Whitby Goth Weekend twice every year. The dark and slightly morbid attractions don’t stop there, either. Be sure to check out the arch made of a whale’s jaw bones, as well as the mummified human hand in the local museum!

    Despite these creepy highlights, Whitby is still a fun and joyful place to visit, with quayside arcades, beautiful scenery, and some of the finest fish and chips in the country. It may be quite a small place, clinging to the coast on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors, but it has an important place in history and our hearts. Accommodation options in Whitby range from luxury to budget-friendly.

    What are the best things to do in Whitby?


    Khyber Pass

    No, we didn’t take a wrong turn via Pakistan...

    • History
    • Photo
    • Budget
    • Unusual

    Khyber Pass is the name of the small road up the hill behind Pier Road and the quayside. The West Pier, by Whitby Beach, is a great place to start your day, with a bracing sea breeze to blow away the cobwebs. Grab your morning coffee on the sea wall, by the old Gun Battery.

    Heading inland along the Pass, you’ll see a flight of stairs on your right. Climb them and you’ll find the Whalebone Arch – a reminder of the town’s history as a harbour for whaling ships. While there’s been an arch here since 1853, the current bones are the third set to stand in this place.


    Whitby Beach

    Roll up your trousers and go for a paddle

    • Families
    • Photo
    • Budget

    It’s not a proper visit to a Yorkshire beach without a quick paddle in the North Sea! On summer days, Whitby Beach and the surrounding coves can get quite busy. Keep walking along the sand for a couple of miles and you’ll reach the aptly-named village of Sandsend, right at the end of the sandy beach. It’s one of the more popular places to sit in the sun. Accommodation here ranges from grand country retreats to cosy B&Bs. Take a look for yourself and browse the hotel options located in the Sandsend area

    You’ll find the usual traditional British beach experiences in and around Whitby during the summer months, like donkey rides, ice cream vans, and colourful beach huts. It’s also a pretty good place for surfing, kite flying, and fossil hunting.


    The Captain Cook Experience

    See the Whitby coastline from a replica of the Endeavour

    • Families
    • History
    • Photo

    Whitby has quite a close association with Captain James Cook, the famous British explorer. The man himself was born in the village of Marton, about 30 miles away, but he served his naval apprenticeship in Whitby and his ship, HMS Endeavour, was built here, too.

    This association is celebrated with a memorial statue near the Whalebone Arch, a museum in the house where he served, and a scaled-down replica of the ship. Slightly less than half the size of the original and powered by a motor instead of the wind, the ship sails every day from Fish Quay in Whitby Harbour, heading along the coast to Sandsend and back.

    Location: Grape Lane, Whitby YO22 4BA, UK

    Open: Captain Cook Memorial Museum: Daily from 9.45 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1947 601900


    photo by PJMarriott (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    St Mary’s Church

    Don’t forget to count the steps

    • History
    • Budget
    • Unusual

    The stairs from Church Lane up to St Mary’s Church provide a backdrop for the dramatic end to Bram Stoker’s Dracula (the book, not the movie), and Whitby Harbour provides an equally dramatic backdrop to the views available as you climb them. It’s traditional to count each step as you climb, so don’t be surprised if you pass people muttering to themselves along the way.

    Once you get to the top, the old church itself is quite a remarkable sight, but not as remarkable as the graveyard. Some of the harbours in the area were once popular with pirates and smugglers, and several of their gravestones have skull-and-crossbones engravings.

    Hotels located in the area follow suit with traditional Georgian-Victorian architecture. Even though some are old buildings, the rooms are quaint and full of character.

    Location: Abbey Plain, Whitby YO22 4JR, UK

    Phone: +44 (0)1947 603421


    Whitby Abbey

    Explore goth mecca

    • History
    • Photo
    • Budget

    There’s been an abbey on this stunning headland since about 657AD, but the ruined remains that stand here now were constructed in the 13th century. They have that distinctive gothic look, which helped to inspire Bram Stoker and, with his help, has made Whitby the Goth capital of the UK.

    Despite having been damaged by centuries of storms since its closure by Henry VIII in 1540 and even by the German Navy during the First World War, the general shape of the abbey is still clear. Two tall walls remain standing, in dramatic defiance of everything that’s been thrown at them.

    Location: Abbey Lane, Whitby YO22 4JT, UK

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 6 pm


    Whitby Museum

    Explore millennia of local history

    • History
    • Unusual

    The Whitby Museum is home to an extensive and eclectic collection of artefacts from as far back as the Jurassic era, particularly focussing on finds from in and around the town. Easily the most interesting attraction is the Hand of Glory – a mummified human hand, which folklore suggests was used by burglars to help put their victims to sleep.

    If that’s too creepy for you, consider checking out the Pannett Art Gallery, in the same building. Here you’ll find a mix of 19th- and 20th-century paintings on permanent display, mostly depicting local scenes.

    Location: Pannett Park, Whitby YO21 1RE, UK

    Open: Tuesday – Sunday from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm (closed on Tuesdays)

    Phone: +44 (0)1947 602908


    North Yorkshire Moors Railway

    Visit Hogsmeade Station

    • Families
    • Couples
    • History
    • Photo

    Whitby is right on the edge of the stunning North Yorkshire Moors National Park. One of the best ways to enjoy its natural splendour is aboard the steam railway which runs from Whitby to Pickering, near York. 

    The journey follows the amazing Esk River Valley, crossing historical viaducts and passing charming remote villages. One of the stops along the line will be especially familiar to fans of the Harry Potter movies. Goathland station played the role of the final stop of the Hogwarts Express – Hogsmeade.

    Although it's only one hour away, you may want to book a room in a hotel situated nearer to Pickering for a change of scenery - options include B&Bs, cottages and family-friendly hotels.

    Location: Whitby station, 29 Windsor Terrace, Whitby YO21 1QZ, UK

    Open: Daily services from March to November

    Phone: +44 (0)1751 472508


    Whale watching cruises

    Explore the waters around Whitby

    • Families
    • Couples
    • Photo

    Boats sailing from Whitby still seek out whales, but not to kill them. Instead, they carry passengers hoping to have a close encounter with these beautiful sea mammals. Daily voyages during the summer have come across minke, sei, fin and even humpback whales, as well as dolphins, porpoises and thousands of seals.

    If you’re not in Whitby for summer, there are still several daily coastal cruises available. One route takes you south to the Ravenscar seal colony while another heads north to the charming fishing village of Staithes. You can even take a river cruise into the North Yorkshire Moors along the Esk. The sunset sea cruises are a delight.

    Location: St Ann’s Staith, Whitby YO21 3PW, UK

    Phone: +44 (0)7941 450381


    Dracula Experience

    Come for the literature, stay for the ghosts

    • History
    • Nightlife

    Most of modern vampire lore is based on Bram Stoker’s famous novel, Dracula. A lot of that novel is set in Whitby, among the historical streets and around the famous landmarks. The Dracula Experience is a cross between a haunted house ride and a literary adventure, bringing 8 scenes from the book to life with live actors and special effects.

    The building which houses this experience has its own dramatic history. You can return after dark on the first Saturday of each month for a guided ghost hunt, when any weird lights and strange sounds you encounter will definitely not be special effects!

    Location: 5 Marine Parade, Whitby YO21 3PR, UK

    Open: Daily from 9.30 am to 5 pm (weekends only during the winter season, from November to Easter)

    Phone: +44 (0)1947 601923


    photo by Steve Daniels (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Eat fish & chips on Quayside

    Enjoy a classic seaside meal

    • Food

    The British seaside is synonymous with fish and chips. The traditional dish, consisting of battered fresh cod or haddock and chunky chips lathered in salt and vinegar, is somehow improved by the sea breeze. While it’s best enjoyed as a takeaway dish, perhaps eaten in the refuge of Whitby Bandstand, be wary of the seagulls trying to steal your chips – they can be particularly big and mean around the quay.

    The best place to find this delightful meal is Quayside. The restaurant was winner of the 26th annual National Fish & Chip awards, claiming the title of the best chippy in the country in 2014. You’ll find them on Pier Road, surrounded by many other restaurants, as well as pubs, shops, cafés and amusement arcades.

    Location: 7 Pier Road, Whitby YO21 3PU, UK

    Open: Daily from 11 am to 8 pm (7 pm in the winter months)

    Phone: +44 (0)1947 825346


    photo by Bill Boaden (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    Ben Reeves | Compulsive Traveller

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