Top Ten Things to do in Whitby!
When a place boasts such a rich history, you can be sure to find many fascinating sights and revel in stories of old.
Whitby is a town with a rich history and the inspiration for a wondrous tale or two…
- Bram Stoker’s Dracula who came ashore at Whitby wreaking mayhem and fear on the town
- Explorer Captain James Cook who started his seafaring adventures from Whitby
- Daring whalers who turned Whitby into the British capital of the whaling trade in the 18th century
- Lewis Carol story-telling on Whitby beach is said to have found inspiration for The Walrus and The Carpenter poem
- And, of course, the King of Northumbria, Oswy, who founded Whitby Abbey in 657AD.This iconic clifftop landmark has been inspiring visitors for around 1,500 years.
Knowing what to do in Whitby isn’t a problem. It’s knowing what to do first! That’s why we’ve put together our guide of the top 10 things to do in Whitby and beyond.
Whitby Abbey and the Famous 199 Steps
This great Gothic icon towers above Whitby from its lofty headland position. The original monastery was founded here in 657AD and the site was completely rebuilt in the exquisite Gothic style in the 13th century.
Follow in the footsteps of religious leaders, writers and artists who found inspiration in these imposing Gothic ruins. Whitby Abbey inspired Caedmon, known as the first named English poet, as well as Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula. Like Dracula in the novel, you can take the 199 steps up to the Abbey, stopping on the way to marvel at the far-reaching sea views. A more gentle way to reach the Abbey is by following the route from the car park.
The visitor centre, in a 17th century mansion, tells the story of the Abbey and even has a rare signed copy of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
You can enjoy a relaxing picnic on the headland – remember to include some delectable Whitby cheese in your picnic basket.
While at the Abbey, head over to the Whitby Brewery on the other side of Abbey Lane.
Sit in a converted barn sipping fine craft ales such as Abbey Blonde, Whitby Whaler and Jet Black from this microbrewery sitting in the shadows of the majestic Whitby Abbey. The brewery also makes amazing pizzas. You can take a 45-minute tour of Whitby Brewery to find out how the beers are brewed, the ingredients that go in them and sample three ales.
Whitby Museum and Jurassic Garden in Pannett Park
Whitby Museum, in beautiful Pannett Park, is a treasure trove of 80,000 relics such as local fossils, model ships, carved jet, costumes and jewellery. It’s a great place to find out more about Whitby’s rich history and maritime past. Don’t miss the gruesome Hand of Glory – a mummified severed hand used by burglars to send house dwellers into a coma. In Pannett Park, you can enjoy far-reaching views across town to Whitby Abbey. The Jurassic Garden links with the fossil collection inside Whitby Museum. It has plants reflecting those of the Jurassic era and there’s also a life-size replica of a Gharial crocodile which had been found at Saltwick, near Whitby, in 1824.
A Whitby Boat Trip
See Whitby as Dracula would have first viewed her – from out to sea. You’ve a choice of boat trips along Whitby Bay or further afield to enjoy the stunning Yorkshire coastline. One trip takes you to Ravenscar’s seal colony where you may also spot a few whales and seabirds. A favourite trip is a sunset cruise as you enjoy the soothing sounds of waves lapping the boat while watching the sun going down over Whitby. Spectacular!
Captain Cook Experience
You can also sail back through time onboard a replica of HMS Endeavour, which Captain James Cook sailed during his scientific expedition in 1768. The ship’s captain and crew include ex-fishermen and lifeboatmen who have extensive knowledge of the local coastline. Ask them anything!
Find out more about Captain Cook and Whitby’s history while listening to traditional Whitby sea shanties. Be sure to keep a look out for seals, porpoise, dolphins and whales.
Whitby Ghost Walk
Few beach resorts have the depth of history and heritage as Whitby. An enjoyable way to find out more about this town is during a guided walk along the cobbled streets and alleyways of the town.
Dr Crank conducts Whitby Ghost Walks and In Search Of Dracula trails starting from the remarkable Whalebone Arch – two minute walk from The Riviera guesthouse. The evening ghost walk lasts 75 minutes and you’ll hear strange, nay supernatural, tales of Whitby such as The Screaming Tunnel, Dracula’s Bench and The Whitby Witches. Dr Crank’s In Search Of Dracula evening walk is a superb insight into the bloodthirsty aristocrat. Take this walk if you need to know why Whitby is famous for Dracula and how Whitby inspired Bram Stoker to dream up the legendary Count.
Coastal walk from Whitby to Sandsend and Mulgrave Woods
There’s nothing quite like the feel of warm sand between your toes. That’s why we’re happy to recommend a bracing walk along Whitby beaches to Sandsend. It’s about six miles there and back – ask us about tide times before setting out. It’s an easy walk and will take a couple of hours, although stopping for a picnic on the beach and a paddle or swim is highly recommended.
In the little fishing village of Sandsend, you could stop for a meal at the elegant Estbek House restaurant renowned for its fresh local produce from the sea and moors. It’s a stylish restaurant so you may need to take some spare, smarter clothes with you – or just pop in and make a booking for another day.
We recommend walking on to Mulgrave Woods – three miles from Sandsend. You’ll find lovely hidden gems during your woodland walk including the ruins of Mulgrave Castle, dating back to Norman times. There are also plenty of ghost stories including the part-goat, part-panther, part-human PadPad which is said to live under the castle ruins. You might want to give Jeanie, the bad-tempered fairy, a wide berth, but luckily for you, she prefers to be alone and won’t actively seek out your company. Check out the trail routes for Whitby to Sandsend and Mulgrave Woods.
Whitby to Ravenscar on the Cinder Track Cycle Path
Definitely make sure your phone is charged up or you’ve got your camera with you. You’ll want to take plenty of photos of this breathtakingly beautiful ride along the Cinder Track through the North York Moors national park.
The Cinder Track has been created along the old railway line from Scarborough to Whitby. So you can enjoy a bike ride without cars – just the peaceful sounds of walkers, cyclists and horse riders amid the chatter of birds.
This is an 11-mile trail with incredible coastal and moor views until you reach the sweeping Ravenscar headland. At the start of the route you stand above the River Esk on the magnificent 120-feet-high Larpool Viaduct. Give yourself time to stop off half way at Robin Hood’s Bay, another scenic old fishing village with twisty cobbled streets. You might want to sample beers from the village’s Baytown Brewery.
Then it’s on to Ravenscar – The Town That Never Was. The Victorians intended to develop it as a new resort for its sweeping views and bracing sea air but it wasn’t to be.
If you don’t have your own bikes, then ask us about hiring bikes in Whitby.
Visit Harry Potter film locations at Goathland
You can also cycle to the lovely little moorland village of Goathland. But by far the best way to arrive is by North Yorkshire Moors Railway heritage train between Pickering and Whitby which stops at Goathland.
Goathland may look rather familiar as it starred for many years in the ITV series Heartbeat as the village of Aidensfield, and Goathland Station became Hogsmeade Station in the Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone film. You can visit the garage, Post Office and bar used in the Heartbeat series.
There’s a delightful three-mile walk from Goathland car park through woodland to the Mallyan Spout waterfall and West Beck waters before returning along the old Pickering to Whitby railway line. If it’s been raining – and it has been known to rain in Yorkshire – the paths can be slippery and muddy, so wear walking boots and take care.
Visit Whitby Festivals
It’s exciting to visit Whitby at any time of year but it’s extra special during one of the festivals. Top Whitby festivals are:
- Fish and Ships: Held in May to celebrate Whitby’s maritime heritage including a tour of Parkol Shipyard and seafood cooking.
- Whitby Goth Weekends: Music festival held in April and October/November to celebrate all things Goth
- Whitby Steampunk Weekend: Comedy and live music at the Whitby Pavilion, opposite our guesthouse
- Whitby Regatta: Fabulous regatta in August with fun for all the family including rowing races, fun run, greasy pole competition, classic car rally, craft fair, grand parade, and fantastic fireworks
- North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales Dark Skies Festival: Held in February with a fringe festival in October to celebrate star-studded skies above the national park
Please ask us if you want to know more about what to do in Whitby – and the best places to eat fish and chips, naturally.