Monday, 15 November 2010

"Oh I do like to be beside the seaside......."

After getting through a fairly grotty summer plus a very wet holiday in August I decided that Himself and I deserved a break, so I booked us in at The Marine - a 'Restaurant with Rooms' in Whitby, North Yorkshire, as a 3 day surprise for Himself.

On our way there we drove over the North Yorkshire Moors, which are a similar distance from the coast as Dartmoor - where we were in August, but about 350 miles further north.
Which would you prefer?

The North Yorkshire Moors in November - clear blue skies, endless visibility ?

or Dartmoor in August - grey clag, cold, wet, dank, sod all visibility?

Tough call eh?!

Anyway, the weather was fantastic all weekend and we had a great time. So put your stout boots on and pack your flask because I'm going to take you on a walking tour of Whitby......... a town that is perhaps best known for its role in Bram Stoker's 1897 book 'Dracula' - even though only 3 chapters are set there.
The town is divided between the East and West banks of the River Esk and I think it's fair to say that there's not much flat land on either side of town!

I took photo below on the West bank of the Esk, roughly where the 17th and 18th century shipyards once stood. Captain James Cook was an apprentice in the town and his ship, 'The Endeavour' was later built here. The full size Australian replica of 'The Endeavour' has moored here several times, but her berth is now occupied by 'The Grand Turk' from the TV series 'Hornblower'.

Looking up one of the many steep hills from the river to the ruins of the Abbey.

Whitby was the sixth largest port in Britain in the 18th century and still has lots of impressively large houses lie these which were built for the rich traders, whalers and shipyard owners. The top floors of the houses were the servants quarters, which is why the windows were smaller , crowded together and very close to the roof line - servants didn't need nice large, high ceilinged airy rooms!

The stonebuilt West Pier dates from before 1642 but apparently a wooden pier stood there at least a hundered years earlier. It was widened in 1814 and extended in 1914. The 70 foot high lighthouse was erected in 1831.........

and is still regularly open to the public!

It was a bit nippy up there, but it had great views! This is one of the local prawn boats bringing in their catch.

A seagull on the lookout for a quick snack.
Looking west along the beach to Sandsend village - the white blobs in the distance, about two and a half miles away.


You can still get donkey rides on British beaches - even in winter.
The tide was going out as we walked to Sandsend - but we were a bit impatient, so did a bit of rock hopping to beat the waves. We only got slightly damp!

Unlike these mad surfers! This is the North Sea for heaven's sake!!!

The groynes don't offer any protection from the sea any more as they've been eroded by years of pounding waves.

But they do make beautiful sculptures nowadays.

After a cup of coffee and a scone whilst sat outside the Wit's End cafe (Yep! OUTSIDE! On the East coast! In November!), we stopped to help a family dam a stream , as you do, before heading back along the beach to Whitby under a setting sun

to marvel at a seagull trying to eat the moon!

Sunday saw us wandering the streets of East Whitby. It has a typical mediaeval village layout of narrow cobbled streets, but the steepness of the town means it also has narrow yards leading up the cliff face on one side and narrow 'ghauts' (pronounced 'goats') leading down to the river on the other side. I don't know why they call them 'ghauts' - should've just called them jennels like we do!
Here Himself is taking care not to bash his head on the 1870's 'jettied' (overhanging) market hall known as the Shambles - old English for 'slaughter-house', which is what the site was previously used for.

In Georgian times many of the yards behind the buildings were infilled with cottages.This is the yard of the White Horse and Griffin Inn. The first stage coach ran from here to York in 1788 and Charles Dickens stayed here. It's still a flourishing pub.

Most of the yards are private but some are through yards. This is Blackburns Yard and leads eventually (via VERY steep steps) to the cliff top. This cottage owner had made very good use of extremely limited garden space. I think they must cut the lawn with nail scissors though!

This is Burgess Pier, brought to fame in Dracula when the Russian schooner 'Demeter' crashes into the pier and an immense dog leaps off and bounds away into the darkness.
The beach is Collier Hope, named from the practice of coal ships beaching there either to unload cargo or for safety after being driven into harbour by rough weather.

A huge anchor on the pier.

A few of the 199 steps of Church Stair (yes, I did count them - again. It has to be done!) leading up to the Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin. These were re-renovated in 2005/6, but were originally made of wood with the first known reference to the steps being in 1270!

There are broad landings and seats as you go up - useful for us now, but originally for 'the easement of bearers of coffins where they rested their burden on the long climb to the cliff top grave yard'. I wouldn't have liked to try and lug a coffin up these steps I can tell you!

Himself going up the steps but overlooking Donkey Road -or Church Lane as it's properly known. Walking up there is even harder than walking up the steps!

Legend has it that Lord Mulgrave supposedly drove a coach and four up and down the lane in the 1870's to prove his love for a lady!


It's worth the slog for the view at the top.

Across the river on the grassed area at the top of that cliff lies the bench where, in Dracula, Mina pauses one night whilst looking for Lucy. According to the book, 'she gazed across to the the churchyard on East Cliff (here) and, in a shaft of moonlight she glimpses a familiar white figure with what looked like something dark bending over it'. All I can say is she must have had flipping good eyesight - I looked in the reverse direction in broad daylight and could only JUST make out a few figures in bright clothing!
Not only that but she then legged it down the zigzag path and along the riverside road up to the bridge, then ran across the bridge, along the full length of Church Street and up the 199 steps to the churchyard - all without having to stop to get her breath back she was an olympic athlete too!

The harbour walls with the elbowed extensions.

The Norman church was founded between 1098 and 1129, but stands on the site of an earlier Saxon church.

It's also famous for the three pirate gravestones in the graveyard - marked with carved skull and crossbones. I used to know where they were but, sadly, despite looking for ages until Himself was bored and starting to get mildly irritated with me, I couldn't find them this time :(

Many years ago when we were in our early 20's, Himself and I used to come and rough camp in the Abbey grounds. This time we couldn't work out how to get in! The Abbey is now in the care of English Heritage and they've build a wacking great wall round it! We had to walk right round to the back and through the world's ugliest ticket office/toilet block to access the grounds!
The Abbey stands on the site of an Anglo-Saxon settlement. The original Abbey housed both men and women and in 644 held the Synod of Whitby, which set the date for Easter - so the moveability of that feast is all their fault then!
The first Abbey was destroyed in the 9th century but was re-established in the 11th century and became one of the richest monastries in Yorkshire. These 12th and 13th century buildings fell into ruin after the dissolution of the monastries in 1539, but at its peak it was a lavishly decorated vision of immense wealth and power.

The Abbey ruins can be seen from over 5 miles away inland and strike an amazing view on the headland. Just imagine how much more impressive such a huge stone edifice would have seemed to peasants living nearby in mud and thatch huts!

After wandering slowly back down to the harbour for a last look at the fishing boats and a last sniff of sea air, we headed to Fortunes to buy the world's best smoked kippers before homeward - relaxed and at peace with the world!

I hope you enjoyed your time in Whitby as much as we did?!


Liz said...

Hi Liz,

Lovely photos, I don't think I've ever been to Whitby, but it does look like a lovely place.

I'm glad to see you had wonderful weather whilst there, even if it does look a little chilly!

Phoenix C. said...

This brings back memories of visits to Whitby! Lovely place, and bordered by beautiful scenery too. Used to visit a wonderful plant nursery at Sleights - I wonder if it is still there?

gypsyrose said...

I enjoyed reading about your trip to Whitby and looking at your photos,
never been there but looks an interesting place to visit, thanks for the tour

gypsyrose said...

Thank you for the review that was really kind of you

Rob (ourfrenchgarden) said...

Liz this is a great post about Whitby.

I loved all the history and wonderful photos but, for fear of lowering the tone really fancy a pint or four in the White Horse and Griffin Inn. Did you go in? Looks great.

Pondside said...

That was just a perfect weekend. I like my time at the shore to be in the off season - I like the solitude, the wind, the waves...and the cup of hot chocolate or tea is such a treat after a brisk walk.

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Liz - WHAAAT?! You live in Sheffield and you've NEVER been to Whitby? Shame on you!!! Get yersen gone lass!

It's about a 2 & 1/2 hour drive but well worth it.

Hi Phoenix C - I spent a lot of time in and around Whitby as a child, so I love going back. We did pass a sign for a nursery as we drove through Sleights, but Himself vetoed a visit - knowing what I'm like in nurseries!

Hi Gypsyrose and welcome to my blog. I'm glad you liked it. If ever you venture north, Whitby is well worth a visit :)

Hi Rob - I tried to book us into the White Horse and Griffin but they were full up with a private party for the weekend! We'd looked in just before I took the photo, but it was heaving, so I had to settle for a pint in The Duke of York instead!

Hi Pondside - it was a lovely weekend and I came back feeling like we'd been away a week! I'm like you in that I like the coast most off-season too. Whitby is heaving in summer!
The beach walk was heavenly and I could positively feel my body responding to all that sea air - wonderful! :)

VP said...

I love Whitby - thanks for the reminder of just how lovely it is :)

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi VP- it's very easy to forget lovely parts of our own country....I'd also forgotten quite how nice Whitby is!

joey said...

Indeed I did enjoy my time beside the seaside in Whitby with you and Himself, Liz. You are a fine guide and your photos, stellar, especially taken by the romantic long shadow image. The trip looked A+ awesome!

noel said...

aloha liz,

what a delightful tour, i love the history and colorful story you tell us of this beautiful place oozing with so much history...i enjoyed every minute of the tour, although i would have enjoyed it more with a hot cocoa and a hot scone :)
thanks for sharing this fun trip.

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Joey - it was such a lovely trip...nearly up there with Hubbard Lake! Himself moaned about me taking the romantic photo once I'd noticed our shadows, but I think he was secretly quite pleased! Men eh?!
If you ever do your trip to England I'll feed you up and take to you Whitby! :)

Aloha Noel. There's lots more history to Whitby, but as I'd done such a long post I didn't dare put any more in in case of reader overload! It is a beautiful and fascinating place though.

Next time we go I'll have a hot cocoa and scone on your behalf! :)

Woody Wilbury said...

Ah, Whitby, can't beat it. Glad you got there and of course you can't leave Whitby without a kipper!

Funnily enough I had a kipper for my tea the other night but I'm not allowed to cook them in the house. They get done on a camping stove outside in the deep dark frost. But we've now had a fence across the bottom of the garden so the trolls, and sheep, can't get at them.

Captain Shagrat said...

Ah Whitby my second home;-)Just have to go back every year even if its just for a short break. The header on my blog is of Sandsend