Wednesday 21 December 2016


Whitby is a small fishing town on the North Yorkshire coast, which lies at the mouth of the River Esk.

The town is famed for its association with the horror novel Dracula and as the home port of explorer and navigator Captain James Cook, who was born at Marton a few miles further up the Esk Valley.

Speaking of the Esk Valley, the main purpose of my visit to Whitby (rather predictably) was the take a journey along the scenic Esk Valley Railway Line. Think windswept moors, rolling hills, isolated farms and dishevelled livestock and you'll not be too far off the mark. Failing that, just have a look at ITV former drama Heartbeat, which was filmed on the North Yorkshire Moors only a few miles away from Whitby.

Arriving in Whitby shortly before midday I decided to head across the nineteenth century swing bridge linking the west and east sides of the town. Whitby is built on the steep sides of a valley, lined with Balamory-style pastel coloured houses, which was channelled out by the hydraulic action of the River Esk on the shale and sandstone beneath.

Sensing the imminent arrival of rainfall I strode purposefully along Church Street to find the famous 199 steps that lead to the Church of Saint Mary and Abbey. With fresh legs I started to climb, counting each of the steps as tradition dictates. At the bottom of the steps is a sign, "Anyone climbing these steps does so at their own risk", but after the first hundred or so I could barely feel my effort. Just then, about 20 steps to go, it hit me - the feeling of lead lining my boots and weighing down every footstep. At the top I was relieved to pause and take a few photographs of the church and surrounding graveyard. By now the rain was coming down hard, so I had the briefest of strolls around the Abbey before descending to the town.

I happened to be passing The Board Inn and as it looked quiet inside decided to stop for a bite of lunch. I ordered a refreshing pint of Birra Moretti (£4) and the local, freshly caught cod and chips (£8.25). When the waitress brought the plate across there were audible gasps from drinkers in the bar at how large the fillet of cod was. It would be no exaggeration to say it must have been 12 inches long by 4 inches wide. The first thing I did was to double the cod over, so that it fitted better on the plate. There must have been at least 12 ounces of pure white, perfectly filleted, flakey cod. It was coated in crunchy golden batter, which was just the right consistency. The thick cut chips were crunchy on the outside, smooth in the middle and there was also salad and coleslaw to go with it. After 30 minutes of stop-start eating, I had to reluctantly admit defeat and send leftovers back to the kitchen.

Nursing my bulging stomach, I slowly crossed back over the swing bridge and followed the river to the north along Haggersgate and Pier Road. Looking up to my left I could see the whale bone arch, which has adorned many a Whitby postcard over the years. I climbed the Kyber Pass to reach the arch and could see the statue of Captain Cook nearby. Looking back over the river mouth I could see a rainbow through the middle of the whale bones, which made for a nice photo opportunity.

There are only four trains each way between Whitby and Middlesbrough and by this time, with the light rapidly fading on the shortest day, I had to return to the station for the journey home.

Some of my photos of Whitby:

Captain James Cook Statue.

Church of Saint Mary and Abbey.

The 199 Steps.

Henrietta Street.

Whitby RNLI Station.

Whitby Rock Shop.

Whitby Swing Bridge.

Whitby Harbour.

Whitby West Pier.

Whale Bone Arch.

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For more images visit this Flickr album.

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