THINGS TO DO IN WHITBY
We’re very lucky with our location, set between the pretty seaside town of Whitby and the dramatic North York Moors National Park. Whitby, located on Yorkshire’s atmospheric coast, is a picturesque working fishing town and popular seaside resort, fringed by beautiful beaches and rugged cliffs. The town itself is one of winding, cobbled lanes, historic attractions, cosy pubs and famous fish ‘n’ chips.
Whether you’re dropping by for a quick weekend break or staying for a week’s holiday, here are our favourite things to do in Whitby:
The famous stone steps leading up to St Mary’s church and the atmospheric ruins of Whitby Abbey were first recorded in local history in 1340 but are thought to be even older. Made famous by Bram Stoker’s Dracula, climbing up to the top is a rite of passage in Whitby. Once you’re at the top, explore the fascinating churchyard of St Mary’s before heading over to explore the ruins of the Abbey, making sure you pause to take in the extraordinary views across Whitby and along the North Yorkshire coastline.
Whitby beach is overlooked by Whitby’s west cliff featuring the famous whalebone arch and the haunting ruins of Whitby Abbey. The sandy beach is lined with colourful beach huts, a perfect spot for a picnic, a stroll, some sandcastle-building or even a spot of paddling in the bracing North Sea.
The impressive whale jaw bones measure 20 feet high and recognise Whitby’s whaling history. A thriving industry in the 18th and 19th centuries, whaling proved lucrative for the rare instances of success but also highly dangerous for those braving the Arctic seas off Greenland’s coast. Whale oil was in high demand and ships would tie a whale jaw bone to its mast as before sailing back into the harbour. The whalebone arch was erected on Whitby’s West Cliff in 1853 and overlooks the beach and Abbey ruins – a very popular spot for photo opportunities!
The North Yorkshire coast is also known as the ‘Dinosaur Coast’, thanks to its rich fossil heritage. Fossil hunting is a popular activity – just wander below the cliffs and see what you can find and look out for the stegosaurus footprints visible on East Cliff Beach and West Cliff Beach. From fossilised shells to ammonites and even Whitby jet, Whitby’s surrounding beaches and cliffs can unearth these incredible finds.
From the peaceful gardens and wooded areas of Pannett Park just a short stroll from the centre of Whitby, to the rugged coastline or sandy walks on the beach, there are plenty of walking options for the whole family.
One of the most popular Whitby walks runs from Whitby to the beach of Sandsend. It takes you three miles along the coast, offering spectacular views of the sea and along the rugged coastline throughout. Take a picnic, breathe in the fresh sea air and take in all that the North Yorkshire coast has to offer on one of the many walks along the beach, cliffs or Whitby harbour.
There are several lighthouses in Whitby, with the most well-known being the two harbour lighthouses; the west pier lighthouse and the east pier lighthouse. Erected in the mid-1800s, they stand on the grade II listed east and west piers which make for a bracing stroll as you look out over the sea.
NORTH YORK MOORS RAILWAY
The North York Moors Railway offers scenic trips on a heritage steam train from Whitby station. The route heads through the beautiful landscapes to the market town of Pickering, where you’ll find bustling shops, cafes and lots of local history. The North York Moors Railway also offers trips to the town of Grosmont, its beautifully-preserved Victorian station famously featuring as Hogsmeade in the first Harry Potter film.
SAMPLE DELICIOUS LOCAL FOOD
You can’t come to Whitby without trying its famous fish ‘n’ chips. The Magpie Cafe is perhaps the best-known fish ‘n’ chips shop in Whitby, but many restaurants offer just-caught fish from Whitby harbour, served in a traditional crispy batter, with thick-cut chips and mushy peas. Don’t miss our own Crab Shack while staying at Raithwaite Sandsend, for our own take on the Whitby classic. Whitby is also known for its lovely tea rooms, the perfect places to rest up with a warming drink and indulgent slice of cake.
…AND EXPERIENCE LOCAL CRAFT BREWING
Perched on Whitby’s East Cliff in the shadows of Whitby Abbey, and with beautiful views over the sea, Whitby Brewery serves delicious Yorkshire ales and has brought local craft brewing back to Whitby. A quick stroll through the town reveals a number of cosy pubs with warm fires, quaint cafes and quirky bars – you’re sure to find the perfect spot for the afternoon.
There’s a lovely selection of independent shops and cafes in Whitby town centre, including bookshops, Whitby jet jewellery, traditional sweetshops and quirky glassware. Don’t forget to pop by Fortune’s Kippers, a traditional family-owned smokehouse and shop that has been trading since 1827!
One of the top things to do in Whitby is to visit the Abbey, an atmospheric network of gothic ruins looking out over the sea. Dating back over 1,500 years, the Abbey withstood Viking raids and was made famous in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula; in the novel, Dracula appears as a large black dog and bounds up the famous 199 steps to the Abbey after his boat is shipwrecked. Explore the ruins and visit the museum to learn more about its fascinating history.
MUSEUMS AND ATTRACTIONS
There are a number of museums in Whitby that celebrate the rich heritage of this idyllic former fishing town. Here are our top picks:
If you’re not sure where to start, Whitby museum is a fantastic choice, giving you an overview of Whitby’s rich local history. Its varied range of collections span everything from maritime heritage to social history, geology, costumes and textiles. There’s even a museum tearoom to enjoy a hot drink and sweet treat before heading back out to the beautiful seaside town.
The Whitby Jet Museum showcases its rich local history and features local fossils and examples of the beautiful black semi-precious stone. The jet is formed over millions of years from the fossilised remains of monkey puzzle trees, making it incredibly precious. Whitby is known for having some of the finest jet in the world, and can sometimes still be found by near cliffs and across the moors.
CAPTAIN COOK MEMORIAL MUSEUM
The Captain Cook Memorial Museum is based in the 1688 harbourside house where a young James Cook lived as a seaman’s apprentice, a faithful restoration with many original features. Set sail on an authentic replica of the HMS Endeavour with regular sailings around Whitby harbour throughout the year. The replica of the ship sailed by Captain James Cook on his famous 1768 expedition was built by traditional Whitby craftsmen and trips even feature sea shanties to take you back in seafaring time.
WHITBY WHALE WATCHING
There are several other boat trip from the harbour for the chance of seeing porpoises, dolphins, seals and puffins. Whitby whale-watching is a highlight, with trips scheduled throughout the day between June and September, depending on the weather.
WHITBY GOTH WEEKEND
The striking ruins of Whitby Abbey are the focal point for the world-famous Whitby Goth Weekend that draws thousands of visitors from across the UK and beyond. If you’re lucky enough to be in Whitby on one of its famous Goth weekends, be sure to stick around and take in the unique costumes, live music and quirky stalls and exciting atmosphere.
Fancy a day trip to explore the surrounding coast?
ROBIN HOOD’S BAY
If you’re spending more than a day or two in Whitby, do make the journey to famous Robin Hood’s Bay, a beautiful sweep of coastline and historic fishing village known for its fossils, winding streets and picturesque fishermen’s cottages.
This charming little seaside town was once one of the busiest fishing ports in the North East. It is now known for its narrow cobbled streets, fossil hunting, stunning scenery and clifftop walks. It is a little quieter than Whitby, and many of its visitors enjoy this peaceful gem set into the rugged hillside.
WHERE TO STAY
Raithwaite Sandsend offers a wide variety of stylish, contemporary ensuite rooms and suites perfect for couples and families, including pet-friendly accommodation.