Another half-term, another trip to…England. Though I’m becoming increasingly concerned about the fact that I’m not visiting many new and exotic countries at the moment, this feeling is tempered by our decision to visit a great friend in a new location.
Our flatmate in Kazakhstan, Cheryl, has returned to her hometown of Whitby, a coastal town in the northeast of England. We’d heard much about Whitby during our two years in central Asia. How amazingly beautiful it is. How it is steeped in history, ranging from Dracula to Captain Cook. How it is the home of the best fish and chips in the world. It was time to see if Whitby could possibly live up to the hype.
A combination of three trains and a tube across London took us from my parents’ new abode in Sussex upcountry to Whitby, where we were greeted by our excited tour guide.
Arriving in Whitby’s quaint train station in the evening meant that we were unable to judge how beautiful the place was until the following day, when we strolled around the town. We wandered down the rolling green hills of the North Yorkshire moors towards the pretty seaside town, which itself is bisected by the Esk river.
Both sides meet the sea with their own rickety wooden pier, creating what seems like a large mouth in the sea, ready to suck in unsuspecting ships. Some quite famous ship captains have set sail from here…
History aside #1: Captain Cook moved to Whitby when he was 17 and learnt many of his fabled seaman skills in the town. There’s a museum here…which we didn’t make it to.
Looming large over the small galley of ships is the imperious Whitby Abbey. If you think it looks like a dilapidated, ruined building…you’d be correct. This is for a variety of reasons, ranging from Henry VIII’s destruction of the abbey in 1540 to a more recent bombing during the First World War.
History aside #2: Bram Stoker used Whitby and its haunting abbey as inspiration when writing Dracula. Part of the story is set here, and the town now has a famously scary Dracula Experience…which we didn’t make it to.
The abbey dominates Whitby’s skyline and, on a cloudless blue day such as the ones we had, is a breath-taking sight. To reach the top is breath-taking in its own right, as you have to ascend 199 steps to reach it. There are 199, even though I miscounted on the way up.
It’s not just the main monuments that give Whitby its picturesque, postcard look. Narrow streets that snake through and link the historic alleys are the heartbeat of the town, where throngs of people can be found hunting for their lucky duck or scouring for a piece of cheap jet-stone extracted from the nearby cliffs.
The whole region possesses stunning natural beauty. One particular spot, Robin Hood’s Bay, is just a few miles down the road.
History aside #3: Robin Hood has never been here. Nothing for us to miss here!
It was here that I (partially) fulfilled one of my goals for the trip: go in the notoriously cold North Sea. Not having a towel or change of clothes prevented me from fully submerging myself. Honestly, it was nothing to do with it being bone-shudderingly cold…
Much drier, though just as windy, was our walk along the western beach to the nearby village of Sand’s End.
As for those world-renowned, much-hyped Whitby fish and chips? We certainly sampled enough: three lots in as many days, all from different places. There are a plethora of other locations to try in the future, though the queue below will suggest to you the popularity of some specific chippies. The Magpie Café, shown below, is where celebrity chef Rick Stein (not James Martin, as I may have suggested in the earlier edition of this blog!) tucks into fish and chips.
Verdict? Amazing, particularly from Hadlee’s chippy. Even the takeaway shop which accidentally included a loose screw from their chip fryer were kind enough to offer us fresher, non-metallic chips. All very tasty, though I could feel my arteries clogging and waistline bulging with each bite.
As you may have gathered, we loved Whitby. It was wonderful to properly catch up with one of our best friends from Kazakhstan and experience so many of the things that she had told us all about. Missing some of the main attractions actually gives us many reasons to return! Once we’ve gone on a serious diet to recover from the mountains of fish and chips, of course…
Love you all