If there’s one essential stop on the North Yorkshire coast it’s WHITBY, with its historical associations, atmospheric ruins, fishing harbour, lively music scene and intrinsic charm. The seventh-century cliff-top abbey here made Whitby one of the key foundations of the early Christian period, and a centre of great learning. Below, on the harbour banks of the River Esk, for a thousand years the local herring boats landed their catch until the great whaling boom of the eighteenth century transformed the fortunes of the town. Melville’s Moby Dick makes much of Whitby whalers such as William Scoresby, and James Cook took his first seafaring steps from the town in 1746, on his way to becoming a national hero. All four of Captain Cook’s ships of discovery – the Endeavour, Resolution, Adventure and Discovery – were built in this town.
Walking around Whitby is one of its great pleasures. Divided by the River Esk, the town splits into two halves joined by a swing bridge: the cobbled old town to the east, and the newer (mostly eighteenth- and nineteenth-century) town across the bridge, generally known as West Cliff. Church Street is the old town’s main thoroughfare, barely changed in aspect since the eighteenth century, though now lined with tearooms and gift shops. Parallel Sandgate has more of the same, the two streets meeting at the small marketplace where souvenirs and trinkets are sold, and which hosts a farmer’s market every Thursday.