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An insider

An insider's guide to Whitby

Julie Smith 20 March 2022

Whitby is one of the most popular destinations on the Yorkshire Coast and there’s a lot to love about a visit to this historic seaside town.  From enjoying fresh fish and chips by the harbour to shopping for some precious Whitby Jet, there’s much to see and do during a short break or holiday.

Four-legged friends are also welcome throughout much of Whitby with dog-friendly beaches and an assortment of cafes, pubs and cottages where they can happily join you during a short break or holiday. To help you plan your next getaway to this gorgeous seaside town, Gorgeous Cottages have compiled a handy Whitby Guide with all the information you’ll need.


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The best things to do at Whitby

Whitby things to do

There’s something to keep the whole family occupied during a visit to Whitby. Here are just some of our favourite things to see and do:

Climb 199 steps to Whitby Abbey

Whitby things to do - Whitby Abbey

One of Whitby’s most iconic images is the gothic Whitby Abbey, which sits imposingly at the top of a cliff and is reached by climbing 199 steps from the narrow cobbled streets of Whitby old town. The 199 steps were famously featured in Bram Stoker’s Dracula and the views when you reach Whitby Abbey are spectacular. You can spend time exploring the gorgeous abbey ruins, have a picnic with a view or let kids run around and let off steam in the dog-friendly grounds.

We recommend:

  • Explore the fascinating on-site visitor centre which is hosted in a 17th-century mansion and features a rare, signed copy of Dracula.
  • Play hide and seek in the grounds - there are lots of places to crouch down and hide amongst the sprawling ruins.
  • Take a family-friendly explorer trail around Whitby Abbey; there are various special events throughout the year to coincide with school holidays.   

Attend a fun Whitby event

Whitby events - Whitby regatta

Whitby is home to a number of family-friendly events that take place throughout the town at various times of the year. One of Whitby’s most famous festivals is the Whitby Goth Weekend, inspired by Whitby’s gothic past which takes place twice yearly in April and October. There’s also regular steampunk events and the annual Whitby Regatta in the harbour which always ends with a spectacular firework display.

Don’t miss:

  • The amazing array of outfits worn by many of the visitors that come to Whitby Goth Weekend, there’s also live music and lots of shopping stalls to browse.
  • A full timetable of special events at Whitby Abbey that includes half term explorer trails and the mesmerising Illuminated Abbey at the end of October.
  • Regular live music events at Whitby Pavilion that include a 60’s festival and the Whitby Soul Weekender.

Have some family fun at the seaside

There’s nothing quite like a traditional UK seaside holiday, and there’s lots of family fun to be had on a short break or holiday to Whitby. Souvenir shops dotted around the town sell buckets and spades with an assortment of bats and balls so you can spend the day building sandcastles and playing on the beach. Classic sticks of rock and sweet shops are also in plentiful supply around Whitby, with local Trillo’s ice cream sold in a variety of places around town.  

We recommend:

  • Whitby’s West Cliff is home to a variety of family-friendly activities including mini golf, an outdoor paddling pool and bumper cars. You can also catch the cliff lift from here directly to the beach below.
  • You’ll find a selection of amusement arcades dotted amongst the ice cream parlours and fish and chips shops on the vibrant Pier Road. Pleasure Island is a great option for kids, with classic 2p machines, arcade games, ten-pin bowling and pirate-themed adventure golf.   
  • Going for a paddle in Whitby’s blue flag waters and trying a range of watersports including surfing and stand-up paddleboarding. 

Take a boat trip out to sea

If you fancy taking to the waves yourself there are also a whole host of different Whitby boat trips available, ranging from a 30-minute jaunt to nearby Sandsend to a full day out at sea. Boats available to catch from the harbour include the Mary Ann Hepworth, a former lifeboat from the 1930s, and the distinctive yellow Summer Belle cruiser. Many of the boats are dog-friendly too so it’s a great activity to do with four-legged friends.

We recommend:

  • See if you can catch your own supper on a Whitby fishing trip. Rods and tackle will be supplied with expert tuition provided by the experienced skipper of the boat.
  • Try and spot some spectacular marine life on a Whitby whale-watching cruise - these majestic creatures are regularly seen swimming in the North Sea off the coast of Whitby.
  • Join in with traditional shanties and learn about the life of Captain Cook on board the Bark Endeavour, a replica of the sea captain’s famous ship.

Seek out a hidden gem near Whitby

Just a couple of miles from Whitby is Falling Foss, a magical tea garden and waterfall that’s hidden amongst beautiful North York Moors woodland. Follow a family-friendly trail around the woods to seek out the tumbling 30-foot waterfall, paddle in the tranquil shallow waters of May Beck, then play a game of pooh sticks from the bridge above. The tea garden itself is in the heart of the forest, and you can enjoy a cuppa and homemade cake whilst soaking in the tranquil surroundings.

Other hidden gems near Whitby:

  • A short walk from Falling Foss is a cave carved out of a rock face called The Hermitage which was once the home of an 18th century hermit. 
  • Hayburn Wyke is a secluded cove with a pretty waterfall that’s just a short drive from Whitby; it’s the perfect spot for a peaceful picnic if you fancy getting far from the madding crowd.
  • Mulgrave Woods is located close to the pretty village of Sandsend and you can enjoy a series of scenic trails through this vast estate with a selection of streams and winding footpaths. In the centre of the woods are the ruined remains of Mulgrave Castle, which are well worth seeking out.

Catch an NYMR steam train to Pickering

You can travel in style through the North York Moors countryside with a trip on a vintage NYMR steam train between Whitby and Pickering. The handsome steam trains chug their way over 24 miles of restored heritage tracks, and the period carriages and classic station master uniforms have come straight from a bygone age. You can take a tour of the engine sheds at Grosmont Station and the trains are turned into the ‘Santa Express’ during December for an unforgettable festive experience.

Don’t miss:

  • Goathland is a beautiful old railway station with original buildings and a characterful bridge which featured as Hogsmeade in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.
  • Get off at Levisham station in the heart of the North York Moors and take a walk around the Hole of Horcum, a natural amphitheatre that’s also known as The Devil’s Punchbowl.  Special Pullman Dining Experiences mean you can enjoy a fabulous four-course meal or an elegant afternoon tea as the train winds its way through the heather-clad moorland. 
  • The trains also become the Santa Express in December for an unforgettable festive experience..

Spend time together at Pannett Park

This lovely family and dog-friendly park on the edge of Whitby is an area of green space that’s completely free and available throughout the year for anyone to enjoy. A Jurrassic garden features a replica Gharial crocodile which was found at nearby Saltwick Bay with a footpath that details some of the fossils found in the area and links the park with the nearby Whitby Museum. There’s also a tranquil lily pool garden and a ‘help yourself’ herb garden and vegetable taster bed.

Don’t miss

  • Pannett Park is a haven for wildlife including birds, butterflies, hares and badgers and there are a variety of trails to follow around the 3.3 hectares to help you make the most of it.
  • There’s a fun play area at Pannett Park for little ones to enjoy with maritime themed climbing frames, swings and slides.
  • Located in the centre of the park is both Whitby Museum which houses treasures from the past and the Pannett Art Gallery which features The Staithes Collection, a group of late 19th century impressionists who painted scenes along the Yorkshire Coast.

Go crabbing at Whitby Harbour

Trying to catch a crab at Whitby Harbour has been a favourite pastime for families through the years because you don’t need much equipment and it’s an easy activity that anyone can try. The best spot to try and catch one from is next to the iconic swing bridge that separates the harbour from the old part of town and you can watch it being raised and lowered as the boats come in with their own catch of the day. 

We recommend:

  • Purchasing a crab bucket, crabbing line and bait from one of the shops in Whitby Harbour then choosing your spot in the designated area next to the swingbridge. 
  • Dropping your baited line into the water below to see what you can catch and keeping any crabs nice and comfortable with sea water and seaweed in your bucket before releasing them back into the sea.
  • If you fancy sampling some fresh Whitby crab you can head to The Seafood Shack in the harbour, remember any crabs you manage to catch will be too small to eat and should be returned to the water.

Discover Dracula in Whitby

Bram Stoker arrived in Whitby during 1890 and was inspired by the atmospheric town and gothic abbey when it came to creating his classic novel Dracula. He included several references to Whitby in the book including the famous passage where Dracula runs up the 199 steps after his ship is wrecked on Tate Hill Beach. If you fancy seeking out the legend of Dracula in Whitby, there are several ways to do this.

We recommend  

  • Heading to The Dracula Experience on Marine Parade which features special effects and live actors to give visitors a spine-chilling experience.
  • Taking a Dracula tour and ghost walk around the town with Whitby Storyteller. The walk starts in the St Hilda’s graveyard near Whitby Abbey and isn’t for the fainthearted!
  • Visiting St Mary’s Church which sits alongside Whitby Abbey and was an inspiration for Bram Stoker. There’s even a tombstone in the graveyard of a Mr Swales, the name that was eventually used for Dracula’s first Whitby victim.

Uncover the history of Whitby

Whitby is a coastal town with a rich history and an old town that’s full of beautiful period buildings and traditional fisherman’s cottages dotted along narrow cobbled streets. Fishing in Whitby dates back to Elizabethan times and you can still see lots of traditional wooden fishing boats and lobster pots in the beautiful historic harbour.  One of Whitby’s most notable former residents is Captain James Cook who famously sailed to Australia in the 18th century. You can learn more about his life at the Captain Cook Museum, which is based in the 17th-century house where he once lived in the town.

We recommend

  • Whitby is part of the Jurassic Yorkshire Coast and budding fossil hunters can find an assortment of ammonites around the ancient cliffs and beaches. Keep an eye out for Whitby Jet, a black gemstone formed from prehistoric fossilised wood.
  • Seeking out the 15-foot whalebone arch which dates back to 1853 and frames a view of Whitby Abbey from its location on the town’s West Cliff.
  • Visiting the Whitby Lifeboat Museum which is housed in a Victorian building that was once the town’s RNLI lifeboat station and still contains the actual boat used to save countless lives over the years, along with various medals and mementos.

Whitby Beaches

1589902320590-beachesatwhitby.jpg

The Yorkshire Coast is home to a collection of lovely beaches that range from wide swathes of golden sand that are perfect for building a sandcastle to secluded sheltered coves where you can enjoy some peace and quiet. There are dog-friendly Yorkshire beaches where you stretch your legs with four-legged friends and bays backed by towering cliffs that are home to thousands of migrating seabirds.

Here are some of the best Yorkshire beaches to visit that are in and around Whitby:  

West Cliff Beach

This long stretch of sand is often referred to simply as Whitby Beach and is best known for its colourful beach huts. Even though this is a popular beach there’s plenty of space for everyone to enjoy themselves whether you fancy flying a kite or simply hiring a deckchair for an afternoon by the sea.  Whitby Surf School offer surfing and stand-up paddleboarding from West Cliff beach and there’s also a skate park and paddling pool just a short walk away/ 

Tate Hill Beach

Located on the other side of the River Esk and accessed from Whitby Old Town is Tate Hill Beach, a small bay that's' completely dog-friendly all year round. It’s a more peaceful stretch of sand than West Cliff Beach and its location means it’s also sheltered from the wind making it the perfect spot to relax with your family and build a sandcastle. There’s a selection of sweet shops close by and we recommend getting a Trillo’s of Whitby ice cream on your way to the beach.     

Sandsend Beach

Just a couple of miles away from Whitby is the pretty village of Sandsend which has a large stretch of sand that connects directly to West Cliff Beach. There’s a couple of beachfront cafes at Sandsend where you can enjoy a bite to eat and you can walk all the way to Whitby along the sand. Sandsend Beach is a great choice for rockpooling  



Whitby shopping

Guide to Whitby

The old town section of Whitby is filled with red-roofed houses and a maze of charming narrow streets that contain an assortment of independent shops dotted around an ancient market place.

Whitby Jet

Whitby Jet is a gemstone that's find along the shores of the North Yorkshire coast and as you would expect it's found in many of Whitby's shops. You can pick up pretty Whitby Jet earrings and necklaces from jewellers including Whitby Jet Store and The Black Pearl. You’ll find unique hand-crafted pieces throughout the town that make perfect gifts or keepsakes. 

Whitby Lucky Ducks

Pay a visit to Whitby Glass which is home to the famous Whitby Lucky Ducks. These bright coloured glass ducks have been hand-crafted in the shop for more than 60 years and are said to bring good fortune to their owners.

Yorkshire sweets

For some old-fashioned sweets, head to Sandgate Sweet Shop which has over 100 jars filled with everything from mint humbugs to dolly mixtures. Justin’s Chocolatier is also a popular calling point for anyone with a sweet tooth as their chocolate and fudge is handmade in store and absolutely delicious.

More Whitby gift shops to visit: 

  • While away some time browsing the beautiful items in stylish emporium Kemps on the Coast.
  • There’s a real Alice in Wonderland feel to The White Rabbit, a gift shop that’s filled with pretty trinkets.
  • Shop locally at Made in Whitby where all the cards and gifts are hand-made in the town.
  • Artemis and the Mermaid is filled with unusual items from quirky hand-crafted jewellery to fabulous knitted sea creatures.
  • Natural Wonders specialises in selling fossils and other minerals found on the Yorkshire Coast.

Whitby fish and chips

No visit to Whitby is complete without getting some tasty fish and chips; the fresh fish comes in daily from local fishermen and is battered and fried to perfection. Favourite Whitby fish and chip shops include:

  • The Magpie Cafe - there’s regularly a queue out of the door at The Magpie Cafe which serves an array of fresh fish and an amazing seafood platter. Fish and chips is also available to take away if you fancy eating them from the paper. 
  • Star Inn the Harbour - this nautical-themed Andrew Pern brasserie is located in a distinctive hexagonal building on Whitby’s harbourside. Alongside classic fish and chips there are also meat dishes from the North York Moors, an oyster bar and a hot or cold seafood platter.
  • Quayside - a classic fish and chip shop with an on-site restaurant that serves cod, haddock, scampi and special homemade fishcakes.
  • Trenchers Restaurant - named the UK’s best fish and chip shop in 2019, Trenchers looks out over the sea and has chip shop classics available to takeaway and a range of options including fresh crab and seafood chowder on offer in its light and bright restaurant.

It’s also worth trying the kippers at Fortune’s Kippers, a Whitby smokehouse that dates back to 1872, and sampling the oysters at Wheelers - Whitby’s oldest oyster bar. 



Whitby pubs

There are plenty of pubs in Whitby where you can enjoy a warm welcome and a cold drink or two. Here are some of our favourites: 

  • Whitby Brewery is a microbrewery in a barn that’s just a stone’s throw from Whitby Abbey. It produces ales ranging from the pale and light Abbey Blonde to the dark and creamy Jet Black. As well as a bar where you can grab a pint or two, there’s also a shop so you can stock up on bottles of your favourite tipple.
  • The Black Horse Inn dates back to the 16th century and is one of Whitby’s oldest pubs. It’s a CAMRA recognised pub that serves a selection of small bites including local cheese boards and seafood cocktails.
  • Enjoy a warm welcome and good food at Middle England Tavern, a Whitby pub with a prime spot on the harbour.
  • The Duke of York is a family-friendly pub that’s located at the bottom of the 199 steps. The establishment is more than 250 years old and there’s a good selection of historic memorabilia displayed on the walls.

Other places to eat in Whitby

A visit to Whitby doesn’t mean you have to eat fish and chips; there are lots of alternative eateries to try too.

Cafes in Whitby 

  • The Humble Pie ‘n’ Mash shop is a bit of a Whitby institution with a huge selection of pies that are cooked fresh each day and served with homemade mashed potato, garden peas and a rich gravy. A perfect choice for an autumn or winter’s day. 
  • Botham’s of Whitby is a top Yorkshire purveyor of cakes - its flagship cafe and store has taken pride of place on Skinner Street since the 1920s. A visit is a real vintage treat with dainty china cups of tea served by staff dressed in authentic 1920s outfits. 
  • Also on Skinner Street is the stylish Cranberry Swamp, a small independent cafe that specialises in gluten-free food. It’s particularly good for breakfast and brunch with dishes such as house kedgeree and Mexican eggs on the menu. 

Whitby restaurants

  • For a romantic dinner, Ditto is a small intimate restaurant that has a range of contemporary European dishes on the menu. There’s only one sitting each night so you can linger over your meal as long as you like and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere.
  • Albert’s Restaurant is housed in the W Hammond Museum of Whitby Jet, part of the grand Wesley Hall. It’s the chance to dine surrounded by some beautiful jewellery including the world’s largest piece of Whitby Jet. A great option for a special treat!
  • The Moon & Sixpence is a brasserie that serves cocktails, champagne, seafood, grills and Cajun-style food in stylish surroundings that look out over the harbour. 
  • For a French-style feast, head to Mademoiselles which is located in a wonderful Georgian building. The bistro offers regularly changing specials, daily afternoon tea and a huge range of gins and spirits. There’s a special gin room if you just want to call in for a drink and a secret courtyard garden that’s gorgeous in the summer months.

Whitby walks

From bracing strolls along the beach to the scenic cliff top Cleveland Way route, these are some of our favourite Whitby walks to try.

Best scenic walk - The Cleveland Way

Whitby walks

The Cleveland Way is a 109-mile National Trail waymarked route that takes in the whole of the North York Moors coastline. Whitby makes an ideal starting point for a walk along the Cleveland Way and we recommend heading south along the cliff tops to the pretty village of Robin Hood's Bay. Wander down through the village to the beach below - there are lots of pubs and cafes to call in on the way! We recommend turning the walk into a circular route and returning back via The Cinder Track, a disused railway line that runs through the moorland between Scarborough and Whitby.

Best romantic walk - The Esk Valley

Best Whitby walks - The Esk Valley

Follow the path of the River Esk as it runs down the Esk Valley from Grosmont to Whitby. We recommend catching the NYMR steam train to Grosmont and then walking the scenic 8-mile route back to Whitby. You’ll pass through fields, woodland and little hamlets before ending up at Whitby Pier where you can reward yourself with fish and chips.  

Best family-friendly walk - Falling Foss 

The 30-foot Falling Foss lies around 6 miles from Whitby and is one of Yorkshire’s prettiest waterfalls. Falling Foss is surrounded by idyllic woodland and you can take a family-friendly trail through the trees. The route is around 2 miles in total so perfect for little legs and there’s a lovely tea garden where you can stop for refreshments before going for a paddle in the shallow waters.   

Best dog-friendly walk - Whitby to Sandsend

Take a walk along the beach from Whitby to the neighbouring village of Sandsend. The beach is dog-friendly so it’s a good choice for four-legged friends to explore. You can take along a frisbee for them to play with as you walk and they can dip their paws in the sea. The walk is around 3 miles and the Wits End Cafe on the beach in Sandsend is a great dog-friendly eatery to call in before the return leg of the walk. 

 

Pretty villages near Whitby

Whitby has a prime spot on the North York Moors coastline, surrounded by picturesque coastal coves and idyllic rural hamlets. Here are some of our favourite pretty villages to visit: 

Robin Hood's Bay

One of the prettiest Yorkshire villages around, the fisherman’s cottages that make up Robin Hood's Bay seemingly cling to the side of a cliff as they tumble down towards the sea. The village’s crisscrossing paths and narrow alleyways made it a haven for smuggling in the 18th century but today, Robin Hood's Bay is filled with gorgeous shops and cafes, many of which are dog friendly.  

Ruswarp

Whitby villages

A picturesque North York Moors village that lies on the banks of the River Esk, around 2 miles from Whitby, Ruswarp highlights include a miniature steam railway, a distinctive viaduct, and wooden rowing boats for hire during the summer months. Ruswarp shops include a butchers and general store and The Bridge Inn is a traditional village pub that offers a range of home-cooked food.

Goathland

Goathland has a wonderful setting in the North York Moors National Park with sheep grazing on its peaceful village green and scenic countryside that includes the 70-foot Mallyan Spout waterfall. The village doubled as Aidensfield in ITV’s Heartbeat and it’s worth calling in the Aidensfield Stores for some souvenirs of your visit. Goathland Station also appeared as Hogsmeade in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and you can catch a steam train here to travel the short journey to Whitby in vintage style.

 

Where is Whitby

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Whitby is located on Yorkshire’s heritage coastline on the edge of the North York Moors National Park. Whitby is part of the Scarborough parish of North Yorkshire and marks the start (or end) of the River Esk which flows through the Esk Valley to high in the hills of the heather-clad North York Moors. 


Parking in Whitby

Finding a parking spot in Whitby, particularly during the peak summer months, can sometimes be tricky but luckily there’s a handy park and ride scheme to the town that operates between April and October. There is also on-street parking and several pay and display car parks including:

  • Endeavour Wharf
  • West Cliff
  • Whitby Abbey

There are also regular trains to Whitby if you don’t fancy taking the car including the Esk Valley line from Middlesbrough and the NYMR from Pickering with buses also running from nearby towns and villages such as Scarborough and Robin Hood’s Bay.  


Where to stay for your Whitby getaway

If this has inspired you to pay a visit to Whitby, you’ll find an array of lovely holiday cottages to rest your head during a short break or holiday. 

Rose & Crown

A stylish two-bedroom apartment that’s located in a Grade II-listed Sea Captain’s house, Spyglass 1708 has a prime spot in town with views over to Whitby Abbey. This property makes a great base for couples, families and friends alike. 



Crag Cottage

This spacious four-bedroom holiday home lies a couple of miles from Whitby in Ruswarp and has large gardens, gorgeous views and a feature double wood burner to keep the dining and living rooms toasty and warm.



The Retreat

A fairy-tale 17th-century cottage that was once the home of a famous Yorkshire fossil hunter and more recently featured in American Vogue and on Channel 4’s Homes by the Sea. The Sandsend property comes with half an acre of beautifully crafted gardens and lots of romantic charm. 



Swallow Cottage

This quirky little barn conversion is nestled high in the moorland above Robin Hood's Bay with the delights of Whitby just a short drive away. Swallow Cottage is a romantic retreat that’s full to the brim of characterful features inside and has a south-facing courtyard garden for dining alfresco.



Whether you are looking for a cosy romantic retreat or a spacious family-friendly holiday home, you can browse the full range of Whitby and Yorkshire coastal cottages on the Gorgeous Cottages website.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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