Whitby is a place for all seasons complete with dramatic, changing landscapes. It nestles in the iconic Yorkshire heritage coastline surrounded by vast beaches and great swathes of the vibrant North York Moors National Park.
The curved arms of the twin piers draw the gaze out to sea, their shape mirrored by the whale’s jawbone arch that crowns the cliff to the west.
Whitby is divided in two by the bustling River Esk estuary.
Whitby East Side
The historic East Side is where you can meander the maze of narrow, cobbled lanes and winding alleyways with red roofed higgledy-piggledy cottages.
There are gourmet food stores and old-fashioned signs for independent shops selling Whitby Jet jewellery and crafts.
Or you can climb the famous 199 Steps to the gothic ruins of Whitby Abbey – the inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Whitby West Side
The thriving harbour is where fishing boats pepper the quayside and land their catch for the open-air market, restaurants and award-winning fish and chip cafes.
A whole weekend was needed to savour what is famous at this seaside town rapidly becoming quite a dining destination. Here are just a few of my recommendations for you.
Where to Stay
Situated in the heart of the old East town, The Shepherd’s Purse provides a perfect base from which to explore this ancient seaport. Down a cobbled path behind the hustle and bustle of Church Street lies a secret garden with clematis, rambling roses and pots of scented flowers.
The spotlessly clean ensuite bedrooms all overlook the courtyard gardens. The country whimsical styling of this guest house provides an enchanting place to relax.
Where to Visit
Monks Haven Café
Monks Haven is the best place on Church Street to have breakfast before or after climbing the steps up to the Abbey. You are served by warm and friendly staff, in a bright and welcoming atmosphere. I loved the pot of Yorkshire tea, toast and kippers with scrambled eggs for brunch.
Keep your eyes peeled for this little microbrewery and tap room. It sits right beneath the towering arches of Whitby Abbey. Whitby Brewery is set in a converted barn, where there’s a small bar serving five cask beers and a selection of bottles all produced onsite, with knowledgeable and friendly staff pulling the pints. It’s the perfect spot to refuel after trekking up the 199 steps. Sit on one of the beer barrel stools and sink a pint of Whitby Whaler right next to one of the tanks it was made in.
If you don’t think you’re a fan of kippers, you will be by the time you’ve left Fortune’s. This tiny, ramshackle shop is largely unchanged since it was established in 1872 and you’ll see old photos on the wall of the six generations of family that have worked here.
You’ll smell its smokehouse long-before you reach it and its charred black walls filled with lines of hanging fish are a sight to behold. They also smoke bacon, if you really can’t be swayed to kippers.
This large fish and chip restaurant are opposite the station and harbour, and sometimes you just have to queue to get a table in this Italian style venue complete with booths and colourful Tiffany lamps.
This is to be expected, as earlier this year Trenchers netted a prestigious award – UK’s Best Fish and Chip Restaurant 2019.
Blackboards on the walls tell you which boat landed the freshly caught cod, and also that your chips are prepared on the premises using potatoes from Ripon. A perfect place for a family Yorkshire teatime treat.
The Star Inn The Harbour
Michelin-Starred chef Andrew Pern's latest venture showcases the best locally sourced produce from land and sea.
His restaurant, The Star Inn The Harbour, in the former tourist information building on the harbour, has a nautical look – ropes, creels, framed postcards – but it’s tastefully done, not the full Captain Haddock.
Features include catch-of-the-day fish and meat specials, as well as world famous North Yorkshire Moors produce. Desserts will come predominantly from the restaurant’s Ice Cream Parlour, including some childhood classics, brought up to date.
The White Horse and Griffin
Both a pub and restaurant, The White Horse and Griffin is on the east side of town, the side with those cobbled streets and the 199 steps up to the abbey. The building has been there since 1681 and was the first coaching inn between Whitby, York and London. It remained an inn until 1939.
It's said that some chap called James Cook stayed there a few times, I've heard he was pretty big in his day and captained many voyages.
The front entrance from Church Street leads you into a high ceiling-ed room, made so by removing one of the floors, along one side are a number of original fireplaces leading to a gin bar at the back. Go further back and down a small flight of stairs and you'll find yourself in the restaurant. It's low level but not in the basement, there is an old stove with the wine balanced above on the mantel.
Whether you visit Whitby in the summer for a sunny stroll along the beautiful Blue Flag beach, or in winter to shelter in a quirky pub with some steaming fish and chips, there’s plenty to sink your teeth into this Yorkshire town.