WHITBY, ENGLAND – It was midday by the time we arrived in this pretty Yorkshire fishing town nestled by the North Sea. We had worked up a considerable appetite on our drive from historic York, so, we asked a local man where we might find the best fish and chips?
“I don’t know about North America, but I’d look for the restaurant with the queue (lineup) outside,” said the man sarcastically as he pointed to the line forming outside a local eatery called Trenchers.
A far kinder lady in line said Trenchers “serves up the best fish and chips in all of middle England.”
As we inched closer to the entrance, we could see an assembly line of cooks handing over the freshly caught fish, now wrapped in a golden batter, to an army of hurried servers.
Finally, we were seated and quickly understood what all the fuss was about. The massive order of fish delivered to out table was crunchy good - the best we ever tasted. The crab salad another member of our group ordered was right-from-the-sea fresh and came swimming in a delicious tarter sauce.
Our introduction to Whitby was good – and things would only get better.
Later, while walking off our lunch, we toured the sheltered harbor area where a flotilla of brightly-painted fishing boats bobbed in the icy-cold water. This is the same harbor that famed captain James Cook sailed from on one of his many voyages of discovery.
The town is dominated by the ruins of Whitby Abbey, a massive cathedral that was built by a Saxon king back in 657 AD. The ruins sit overlooking the North Sea on the town’s east cliff and remain its biggest tourist draw.
The Abbey, we discovered from another local, “is a fair drive from here. But, you can get to it on foot by climbing the 199 steps that lead up to the east cliff from town.” We decided to drive!
Above: The idyllic fishing village features many ancient narrow streets where you can explore.
Whitby Abbey, and St. Mary’s church that stands beside it, will keep you spellbound for hours. The graveyard filled with weathered stones traces the city’s history and is a wonderful place to roam. The sea views from the east cliff are breathtaking but remember to bring a sweater, even on a warm summer’s day, the winds that whip off the sea here can be quite cool. Whitby’s harbor now serves as a major port of call for vessels from nearby Scandinavian countries, but they are not the first Nordic sailors to arrive here. The Vikings landed in Whitby in 867 and destroyed the monastery, which was rebuilt in 1066 after the Norman Conquest.
The town later became a shipbuilding centre and a whaling port and the alum, jet, coal and other minerals found locked in the cliffs surrounding Whitby helped it become prosperous.
The town is filled with Tudor-style shops and narrow streets and lots and lots of bookstores. In one, an attendant told us Whitby has a Dracula museum – the town served as a backdrop for Bram Stoker’s famous novel. It was here, according to the book, that the blood-thirsty Dracula arrived on a ship washed ashore in Whitby harbor.
The drive getting to Whitby from historic York, along roads like the A64, A169, A170 and A171, is among of the most pleasurable you’ll ever experience. It takes you through an area known as the Yorkshire Dales, which features a rolling, emerald green landscape dotted with sheep. The surreal countryside is a favorite with many movie companies.
Before reaching charming Malton, you’ll be fascinated by the old churches and abbeys that you’ll pass and be tempted by the many pubs along the route. You’ll find more of those churches here and then it’s on to Pickering. This is the town where you’ll see an historic old steam engine and anglers fishing in the small stream flowing through it.
Just outside Pickering, you’ll come across the Hole of Horcum, a massive indentation in the Dales that’s a holdover from the Ice Age. This is an area popular with hikers and walkers.
Scarborough is another place where you can linger and soak in all the history surrounding it. There’s not a place on this drive that you won’t find entertaining.