Photography and Review by October James Photography
During what felt like a prolonged winter season, we were delighted to pack our bags and escape the gloom to the picturesque fishing port of Whitby.
Located on the North Yorkshire coast, this bustling town is full of quaint shops, galleries, cafes, pubs and restaurants with enough variety to keep you entertained for many days.
Our journey started in Cambridgeshire with Ted, our handsome 5 year old Shih Tzu, safely fastened in his hammock, October in the driver’s seat and James entrusted with navigation and music! Many miles and a few wee stops later, we approached the epic Yorkshire moors. Apparently epic that is as our navigator managed to avoid this spectacular landscape by opting instead for a longer route via the unremarkable towns around Scarborough! But we finally approach Whitby and look for Paddock Cottage, our home for the next few days. With music once again taking a priority over navigation, we perform a few laps of the town before finding our way through the narrow Victorian streets to our destination.
The harbour is still very much the heart of the town. A small fishing fleet is complimented by yachts and pleasure craft that fill the River Esk and access the sea by a famous swing-bridge. You can see this interesting bridge in operation during high-tide when the ‘bridge-man’ will ring a handbell to alert those near-by that it’s on the move – all 75 feet of it!
The orientation of the town and harbour makes it one of the few places in the UK where you can witness the sun rise and set over the sea. We were lucky enough to experience a dramatic sunsets on our first night, putting the cameras into overdrive!
The charming cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways meander through the town, both sides of the river. The Old Town to the East is where you will find lots of independent jewellers selling the famous Whitby Jet. When polished, this semi-precious gemstone takes on a waxy lustre of the deepest opaque black and was made popular during the Victorian era.
Past these shops you’ll come to the bottom of The 199 Steps leading up to the Church of Saint Mary and Whitby Abbey perched high on East Cliff. The steps are quite shallow and, with a few benches for rest on the way, the climb wasn’t as tiring as we first thought. The views from the top are simply breathtaking in all directions – so remember to take your camera!
Once at the top, we were awe struck by the abbey ruins. The original structure was built in 657AD by the Saxon King of Northumbria but later destroyed on orders from Henry VIII in 1540. Over the centuries the Abbey has provided literary inspiration, religious devotion and pilgrimage. In 1890 Bram Stoker resided in the West Cliff area overlooking the abbey ruins. It’s said the Gothic architecture of the abbey inspired his world-famous novel Dracula.
On the opposite cliff stands the famous 20 feet whalebones arch. Whaling was a profitable industry but not without great risk to life and limb. Therefore when a ship returned to harbour the crew would tie the Whale’s jawbone to the ship’s mast as a sign of a successful catch. In 1853 the whalebone arch was erected in honour of this tradition and Whitby’s whaling history. The archway frames a view of the town and the abbey ruins.
Right next to the archway stands a monument to Captain James Cook (1728-1779). Famous for charting the coast of New Zealand and the east coast of Australia, he was one of the greatest surveyors, finest sailors and explorers the world has ever seen. Cook learned his craft sailing in trading ships from Whitby and two of the vessels he used on his epic journeys, ‘Resolution’ and ‘Endeavour’, were built in Whitby.
Wandering down to the west quayside, you’ll find plenty of dog friendly pubs, cafes and restaurants. We were very surprised at how dog-friendly Whitby is, it’s easier to list the places that didn’t allow dogs! Wherever we went, Ted was the star of the show and was truly spoiled with lots of fuss and treats.
In fact from the moment we arrived all three of us were made to feel very welcome. When we entered Paddock Cottage, owner Jeana had left a bottle of red for us along with a card for James’s imminent birthday. She also popped by later to recommend the best places to visit locally. The cottage boasts a fantastic location in the heart of Whitby, a short stroll from the quayside. As well as the wine for the humans, treats were left for Ted which he greatly appreciated. This lovely property offers a modern, well-equipped kitchen and bathroom to perfectly contrast the period features throughout the living room and bedrooms. Ted felt immediately at home and very much enjoyed the pooch-safe garden.
After a walk around the town, in bracing temperatures, our first evening was spent in the cottage enjoying the famous Whitby fish and chips.
Up bright and early the next morning, we were greeted by sun and blue skies so decided to take Ted to the beach. Ted was a rescue dog re-homed little more than a year ago so we don’t know if he’d been to the seaside before, but safe to say be absolutely loved it. We’d never seen him run and jump so much. Being out of season, the main beaches were relatively quiet but a long stretch of sand following the coat to the east of Whitby is likely to remain quiet throughout the year.
We stopped off at The Pier pub and restaurant that displays a huge “Dogs Welcome” sign outside. This large watering-hole has doggy bowls inside and staff who are happy to give Ted lots of attention. A few doors down we found ‘The Magpie’. This restaurant had been strongly recommended so, despite its modest frontage, we booked a table for the evening of James’s birthday. The food was wonderful. James had a starter of muscles which was delicious followed by a succulent pie crammed with the finest, freshly caught, fish. Desserts were followed by a cupcake and a staff rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ which was a very kind gesture.
Our final day arrived too soon but we were determined to fit in as much as possible before the journey back south. After a last sprint around the beach, we took Ted to Rusty Shears where we enjoyed quite possibly the best scrambled eggs on toast ever created and he was given a seemingly delicious Doggychino. This pretty café, with its eclectic feel, is definitely worth a visit. It’s also essential to pop into The Fuzzy Dog Bakery where owner Louise displays a wonderful range of homemade treats for your furry friend. Ted was delighted with his pigs in blankets!
Fuelled by coffee and cake from Sherlock’s, where the quirky décor transports you back to the Victorian era, we hit the road home – this time successfully finding our way through the spectacular Yorkshire Moors.