Whilst having a fabulous week in Pickering, we decided on a day trip to Whitby, first taking in Staithes. Approximately one hours drive along the A174, driving over the glorious Moors, brings you into the seaside village of Staithes, once one of the largest fishing ports in the North East.
Now a seaside gem, used for exploring the Yorkshire cliff top paths and best known for its links with Captain Cook, who first came to Staithes in 1745 for work, aged just 16, and fell in love with the sea. The rest is history.
This beautiful port, with its dog friendly beach, offers a nice pub, cafes, coffee shops and galleries, (not forgetting the fudge shop) and is busy all year round. But be prepared for the steep cobbled downhill road, it’s OK going down but the uphill struggle isn’t easy! Be sure to search out the hidden alleys and ginnels, with the narrowest being just 18 inches wide. Widely known as the ‘dinosaur coast’ and popular with artists, relic hunters and geologists, organised fossil hunting trips are available.
Be sure to park in the main car park (at the top of the hill), although at the time of our visit there was no signal to pay via the Ringo app, luckily, we had some cash, free toilets are available. For those unable to negotiate the steep hill to the beach, you can meander down and drive back, to drop off and pick up – a nightmare for deliveries me thinks. In this pleasant village you will find a co-op and local bus routes.
Leaving Staithes, enroute to Whitby, takes you through the gorgeous village of Sandsend, and its wonderful coastline, past fields of yellow rapeseed onto St Oswald’s church, in the parish of Lythe (meaning on a hill). This stunning ancient building is definitely worth a quick pit stop, with parking on the side lane or in the adjacent field. St Oswald was the King of Northumbria, and whose remains are interred at Durham Cathedral. Inside, you will find a collection of Anglo-Scandinavian carved stones, a splendid vaulted roof and fine craftmanship along with spectacular stained glass. Wandering around the outside affords a magnificent view of Whitby.
Back on the road, towards Whitby, a seaside town split by the river Esk. The East Cliff overlooks the North Sea and the ruined gothic Abbey, Bram Stokers inspiration for Dracula, with his novel first published in 1897. It seems the townscape has changed little in more than a century. The houses of the old town are all red-roofed and a swing bridge links the two halves of the town.
With its quirky narrow streets and bustling harbour, the ancient port has a fascinating history. The cobbled Church Street leads you to the foot of the famous 199 steps, leading from the town to St Marys Church. Explore the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, the house where the prominent explorer once lived, see his bronze statue which stands proud on the West Cliff. The Whitby Museum covers the towns whaling, shipping and geological history, including giant marine fossils brought back by roving sea captains. Whitby coast is the source of jet, the famous Yorkshire gemstone, formed from fossilized remains of the ancient monkey puzzle tree (which I didn’t know). Jet has been used as jewellery for thousands of years, learn more by visiting the Whitby Jet Heritage Centre.
With so much going on throughout the year, there is something for everyone. Harbour trips, music festivals during October and in August for four days, the Whitby Regatta, showcasing yacht racing, rowing and entertainment, finishing with a spectacular firework display. Travel along the heritage railway. During April and Halloween, the town is alive with the annual Goth festivities, celebrating the fabled Dracula.
We easily parked alongside the beachfront; parking fees payable by machine. We soon realised, this part of the town was a typical seaside resort, with the usual beach huts, ice cream kiosks, amusement arcades, sandy beaches, the obligatory donkey rides along with throngs of visitors. Just a little too touristy for us, but we did stay and have a lovely lunch of fish and chips at The Fisherman’s Wife and Seafood Restaurant. A friendly, clean and inviting eatery overlooking the sea, and fully licensed, with takeaway and outside seating. The crab and lobsters are caught daily from the local Whitby waters. Seated at our table by the window, watching the pirate boat with its catch load of tourists pass by, this is one we would definitely recommend. A good day out, don’t miss looking through the magnificent Whalebone Arch, to get a great photo of the Abbey in the distance, a true ‘Kodak’ moment.