You may be forgiven for thinking that going from Vienna to Whitby is a bit of a come down. Not a bit of it! Each have their own highlights but Whitby has a charm that only an English seaside town with a fishing harbour and historic abbey ruins can have; oh, and reputedly the best fish and chips in England!
So four days after arriving home from Vienna we found ourselves heading to Whitby as part of a week of walking with our local Ramblers group. We were looking forward to some great walks in a wonderful part of the UK, The North Yorkshire Moors. We had booked a cottage about ten minutes walk from Whitby Abbey and overlooking the harbour.
Clockwise from top left: Whitby from our cottage; West Pier; East Pier; Us above Whitby Harbour entrance; Panorama of the West Pier; Whitby Beach
There is evidence of a settlement in the Whitby area as early as 656, and it was where Oswy, the Christian king of Northumbria founded the first Abbey, but this was destroyed by Viking invaders 200 years later. Another monastery was founded in 1078 and over the following centuries Whitby evolved as a fishing village until, in the 18th century, it developed as a port and centre for shipbuilding and whaling, the trade in locally mined alum, and the manufacture of Whitby jet jewellery.
The arrival of the railway in 1839 saw Whitby develop as a tourist destination because of its harbour, beautiful rugged coastline and proximity to the North Yorkshire Moors. Captain James Cook (he of Australia and New Zealand fame) began his navigation and seamanship training in Whitby, and the town has a long and varied literary tradition featuring in many books, most famously in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula The abbey ruin at the top of the East Cliff is the town’s oldest and most prominent landmark. Other significant features include the swing bridge, which crosses the River Esk and the harbour, which is sheltered by the grade II listed East and West piers.
Top: Whitby Abbey at sunset; Bottom: Views from Whitby Abbey
During the week we took a day off to explore Whitby old and new, down narrow streets, along west and east piers, though they are not recognised as such (so I am told by a pier expert!), and testing coffee shops. Even for an off-season weekday, Whitby was crowded with tourists, but the locals were very friendly and helpful and we decided we would definitely come again!
Clockwise from top left: Steps down to Whitby; Old Whitby from the Abbey; T-shirts for Tourists; Our favourite coffee shop.
Our walking routes would cover areas of the North Yorks National Park but we started with a on breezy Sunday with a short coastal walk to the nearby village of Staithes.
Staithes is some six miles north of Whitby and is a small fishing village nestling under steep cliffs facing out into the North Sea. We arrived in a rain shower, which was soon swept away on the breeze, leaving us to explore a small fishing village with numerous art and craft galleries tucked away up narrow streets. The harbour was fully exposed to the wind whipping in off the North Sea.
Views of Staithes, North Yorkshire
The walk back to our starting point at Runswick Bay was along a meandering cliff path following The Cleveland Way long distance path. This route gave us some stunning views back to Staithes and south along the coastline.
L: Approaching Staithes R: On The Cleveland Way
One planned walk we were particularly looking forward to was on to Roseberry Topping, which I have walked up a number of times when I used to live in North Yorkshire, and then on to Captain Cooks Monument.
Roseberry Topping is a hill with a very distinctive shape, standing proud on the North Yorkshire skyline, close to the villages of Great Ayton and Newton under Roseberry. Its summit has a distinctive half-cone shape with a jagged cliff, which has led to many comparisons with the much higher Matterhorn in Switzerland though I can’t see the similarity myself!
It was a sunny but breezy morning as we walked from the car park over the moor and as Roseberry Topping appeared in view from the top of the moor we dropped down, along the trail and up the side to the top. The views were as I remembered, a wonderful wide vista to the south and west, and to the east and north east, the industrial cities of Middlesborough and Hartlepool stood out against the blue sky and North Sea in the distance. There was a strong wind blowing on top so it was not somewhere to linger long and after the obligatory photographs the walk continued to our next stop, High Cliff Nab.
Views of Roseberry Topping and us on top.
Top: Lyn on top of Roseberry Topping; Centre: The view south from the top; Bottom: Northeast to the coast
High Cliff Nab is an interesting geological feature on the Cleveland Way. The trail runs under a high smooth rock face popular with climbers. There is a path around the side to the summit for those not given to scrambling up sheer rock faces but we stayed a while under the lee of the cliff face admiring the views before moving on towards Captain Cooks Monument.
High Cliff Nab
Captain Cook’s Monument is a giant stone obelisk set atop the hill above Great Ayton. As its name suggests it commemorates the birthplace of Captain James Cook (mentioned above). Like Roseberry Topping it is a highly visible and well known landmark on the North Yorkshire Skyline. This monument has particular fond memories for me as I took part in a fell race up to this monument from Great Ayton here on New Years Day 1999!
L: Captain Cook’s Monument, above Great Ayton R: Me at the Monument
Goathland is a small village about 20 minutes from Whitby, lying in the heartlands of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park. It is noted mainly for two things. As well as being a very pretty stop on the North Yorks Moors Heritage Railway, fans of the TV series Heartbeat will recognise it as the fictional village of Aidensfield. Also fans of the Harry Potter films may recognise the station as Hogsmeade; Goathland Railway Station and parts of the line were used in the films.
Our last walk of the week was based here and featured a riverside trek to a waterfall, Mallyan Spout, returning to Goathland before heading off over the moor in the other direction. The day started cloudy but the sun soon appeared and the walk over the moor was completed in beautiful cloudless sky and warm sunshine. The trees were turning a beautiful golden colour of autumn and the bracken on the ground similarly, which made a pleasant walk even better. Sadly, no pictures of Mallyan Spout though; owing to our hot summer the spout had become more of a trickle, so not very spectacular. The best bit though was the coffee and carrot cake at the Mallyan Spout Cafe after the walk…….yum!
L: En-route to Mallyan Spout; Centre: Autumnal bush; R: Lunch stop by a babbling stream
Moorland scenes in full Autumnal glow
Clockwise from top left:Where is the path? It’a around here somewhere!; Ah found it, the group heads home; Lyn on the moors above Goathland; Moorland scene.
All in all it was a good week of walking in a wonderful part of the country. I have written only of our personal highlights and favourite walks, but the best way to find out about an area is to visit. Please do, it is a delightful place.