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The Yorkshire Series: Whitby

January 29, 2019

To continue with my series of posts which make up a very long love letter to my current home county of Yorkshire (previously featuring Fountains Abbey and the North York Moors). Up this week... the picturesque coastal town of Whitby.

 

I'd heard good things about the north Yorkshire coast and my first visit out to Whitby didn't disappoint. From the approach, after you come down from the North York Moors and glimpse the sea on the horizon, the cluster of oh-so-English seaside cottages make for a charming sight, standing grouped around the mouth of the River Esk. From the first glimpse it is impossible not to be taken by the mighty ruins of Whitby Cathedral whose half-crumbled walls dominate the view, casting an impressive silhouette which towers over the quaint town below. 

 

What I didn't know at the time but what any local Yorkie will tell you is that Whitby, as well as being such a quintessentially British seaside town, is also something of a Mecca to the global Goth community, given its connection to the most famous vampire tale ever told. It was here that Bram Stoker found much of his inspiration for his beloved novel while on holidays, and where part of the story itself takes place. With the foreboding ruins on the hill looming over the town, and the presence of famous Whitby jet in almost every shop window (a semi-precious stone of the deepest black typically used in mourning) it's not a stretch to see how an author writing a chilling tale such as Dracula might have been in his element. Still, every time the cobblestone streets lined by cute cottages gave way to some dark Gothic lair, I'd take a moment to reconcile the two.

 

There's another famous name whose legacy visitors are reminded of as they walk through the town, a name with which this Kiwi is very familiar. When he was 17, young Yorkshire lad James Cook moved to Whitby where his love affair with the sea began. It was the beginning of a journey which would see him captain a ship that he would sail to New Zealand, becoming the first European to map the coastline.

 

Yet it's the coast here at Whitby which had me most spellbound. Having grown up near the sea but living inland in England these past four plus years, I miss the sea more than I ever expected, and having been spoilt as all Kiwis are when it comes to seaside scenery, the coast in Britain, while lovely, has underwhelmed more than a few times/ Other times, although it has been truly spectacular, the coast here has not been accessible, so much as a dramatic sight to marvel at from a distance. Whitby provided a welcome break in this pattern. Once you walk out of the sheltered inlet where the town lies, the beach is long and wide and sandy, and the ocean that roared in was particularly loud and wild for my visit, to the point I could lean right into the wind coming off it.

 

I might have forgotten I wasn't in New Zealand if not for the characteristic line of brightly coloured beach huts which stretch along the beach. Like I said... oh-so-British, is Whitby. I can confidently say that Whitby provided the best fish and chips I've found on this side of the globe (shout out to Quayside restaurant).

 

A beautiful coastal town that is quite literally the stuff of legends... just one of the many, many things which makes Yorkshire so magical. Stayed tuned for more posts in the Yorkshire Series, and fall in love with this part of the world as much as I have!

 

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