Dracula’s favourite abbey, Britain’s favourite fish and chips and a unique sunset. We’ve only been 24 hours in Whitby but, since we nailed it, we thought it’d be nice to share our itinerary here.
Robin Hood Bay
Whitby can be reached by train or bus, but we were coming from Sheffield so it was more convenient to hire a car. Driving there you should definitely stop at Robin Hood Bay, as we did. Nothing to do with the green-tight-clad archer, this is nonetheless one of the most beautiful little places we visited, a precious gem nested on the north-east coast of England.
Following the road weaving through the North York Moors National Park you dive down towards the sea, follow the “park+bus” signs and leave the car in the small parking lot. It’s a 5 minutes walk to the end of the drivable road, so I don’t really know why the shuttle bus from the car park is even running. From the Victoria Hotel, offering a nice pub with local beers and good food, and a lovely tea room overlooking the bay, leaves a steep street – and when I mean steep I really mean it – leading down to the bottom of the cliffs.
This road cuts through the village, simply called “the Bay“, which is a timeless treasure. The best thing to do here is to get lost in the little alleys sneaking between the houses and fantasize about how life could be in such a postcard-perfect town. You are quite unlikely to get lost however as all those alleys lead back to the main artery. Once you reach the end you will be rewarded with a wide beach from where to look up at the village, once famous for smuggling, where it is said that you could take a barrel of whisky from the shore to the top of the cliff through secret passageways, without being seen. If the climb back is too tough don’t worry, there are a couple of nice pubs where to stop and recover some energies.
Fish, Chips and Dracula
Leaving the Robin Hood Bay it’s a lovely drive to Whitby, across moors and fields, purple heather in spring and burnt-rust in late autumn, when we were there.
I wouldn’t recommend driving there in the dark, as you will not only miss the landscape but it’s also pitch black and it’s not quite as relaxing.
We arrived at Whitby at dusk, which happened to be at 4.30pm, and checked in at the YHA, conveniently located beside the creepy ruins of the Gothic Abbey made famous by Bram Stoker.
Following the perfect tourist manual we headed straight to the Magpie for their famous fish and chips, said to be the best in town, or in the UK, or in the world, according to your interlocutor. You can see those guys made bucket loads of money, renovating the interiors and opening other small outlet, but the service is still operated by a bunch of kind and authentic ladies, of those still addressing you with “you alight love?”. The fish here is truly amazing, and the fame is well deserved. However fame comes with a long queue almost constantly unfolding outside, which we avoided only by dining at 5.30pm.
The following day we descended the 199 slippery steps from the cemetery to town, and stopped for breakfast in one of the many cafes in Church Street, offering cakes, scones and a cosy room. Whitby is small enough for a morning visit walking along the docks and climbing the paved streets lined with lovely little shops. Being there in the lowest season, without tourists, gave the place a magic atmosphere.
We made our way back to the Magpie for lunch, aiming to go through the whole menu but this time the queue stopped us. Following some recommendations on Foursquare we opted for the understated “Mr Chips“, not quite as charming as the Magpie but with amazing food and no waiting at all. The mixed fried seafood platter I had was pretty memorable and the fish and chips was, in my opinion, even better than its most famous counterpart.
After lunch we rushed back to the Abbey, just one hour before sunset. The entrance was luckily complementary with the accommodation but it would be a shame to miss it to save £6.40 (see the updated prices and opening times here). It was a sunny late autumn evening and I can’t imagine a better time of the year for the show we witnessed, watching the Abbey washed with the gradually changing, warm pastel colours of the dying sun. We left minutes before dark as you never know what goes on there.