by Leo Owen
Ideally located in close proximity to the Yorkshire Moors National Park, Whitby is dominated by the magnificent ruins of its Norman Abbey. The spectacular gothic remains of the abbey date back to their Saxon founding in 657AD and offer breathtaking panoramic views of the coastline and town below.
To make the most of the view from the East Cliff, you must first climb its exhausting 199 steps. You won't regret the work-out once you reach Caedmon's memorial cross and the weathered tombstones of St Mary's.
From here, it's possible to see across the harbour and along the coast towards Sandsend or get your breath back inside the church. Containing one of the most complete sets of pre-Victorian furnishings in England, the church's nave is filled with original box pews.
Back at the bottom of the Abbey steps, an old cobbled street stretches back towards the West Cliff and the town's centre. A six foot bronze statue of Captain James Cook stands next to a whale bone arch commemorating the town's whaling history. An inscribed bench also marks the spot where Bram Stoker surely got his inspiration for Dracula from during his stay on the Royal Crescent in the late 1890s.
Further in the town's centre, the market place dates back to 1640 and is a lively place to visit with markets held once a week and at weekends. The nearby town hall was built by Nathaniel Cholmley in 1788 and the 17th century Captain Cook Memorial Museum is where the young James Cook (1768-1779) lodged as an apprentice. The museum contains many artefacts illustrating Cook's link with Whitby and his voyages.
Aside from Cook, as a harbour town Whitby is predictably synonymous with fishing. Fishing trips of varying length are easily bookable, accommodating all types of sea fishing. At certain times in the year, it's also possible to book whale watching boat trips.
The shores of Whitby's coast are rich with raw jet, once made fashionable by Queen Victoria and now displayed in The Whitby Jet Heritage Centre at the end of Church Street. If jet is what you're after, it can also to be found in Pannett Park, a historic ornamental garden housing The Archaeology Collection that displays Bronze Age weaponry and Robert Pannett's art collection.
As day turns to night, the Victorian Spa Pavilion wakes up, alive with dances, pantomimes, amateur dramatics and seaside variety shows. In the Crystal Lounge café, floor to ceiling glass windows provide the perfect opportunity to soak in Whitby's charms, framing spectacular sea and cliff views.
The Yorkshire Coastliner bus runs from Whitby to Leeds via Malton and York while the Moorsbus NetWork makes it possible to explore the Yorkshire Moors National Park.