Head to this ancient fishing town on the North York Moors coast and binge on Insta-friendly gothic haunts, offbeat eateries and sea views that have no need of a filter.
Scoff: Cranberry Swamp
Start your day right with brunch in this gluten-free cafe in Whitby’s bustling West Cliff. The house kedgeree pulls in the foodies and feels particularly apt in this fishing town. The décor is heart-warmingly retro – think your stylish gran’s front room in the ‘70s. Plus, the loos are glittery!
Swot: Whitby Museum
You’ll know exactly what to do in Whitby once you’ve swotted up on local history in this independent museum. Jet, Captain Cook, whaling, fossils: everything that Whitby is famous for is covered here. If you’re remotely squeamish skip the Hand of Glory, a mummified human hand found in the wall of a local cottage.
Scare: Dracula Experience
Bram Stoker wrote Dracula in Whitby and the eponymous anti-hero leapt ashore here as a big black dog. These scenes form two of eight depicting Whitby’s Dracula connection, brought to life by animatronics and human actors in this chilling experience. FYI, Sir Isaac Newton used to own the building which is said to be haunted.
Refuel: The Moon & Sixpence
The Moon & Sixpence has some of the best views of all the restaurants in Whitby. Bag one of the seats that line the windows and slurp oysters as you gaze across the harbour. They also do a fine line in po’boys, gourmet burgers and epic seafood platters.
Ramble: See the sights
One of the most rewarding things to do in Whitby is simply mooch the streets. Start at the whalebone arch high up on West Cliff, amble down to the harbour, cross the bridge and climb the famous 199 Steps to St Mary’s Churchyard. The views back across Whitby are well worth getting your sweat on.
This cosy little cafe is charming both inside and out. Pop in for tea and cake in quirky Victoriana surrounds that, as you can probably guess, pay homage to Arthur Conan Doyles' Sherlock Holmes.
Buy: W Hamond jewellers
Whitby’s original jet jeweller is the place for souvenirs. It has been making and selling jewellery from its spot at the foot of the 199 Steps since 1860, and they still source their jet – which is fossilised wood – from England’s north-east coast. Watch their jewellers in action, then pick a piece as a keepsake.
As well as jet, this stretch of coastline knocks out an impressive array of fossils. It’s easy to while away an hour in Natural Wonders, a wonderland of ammonites and dinosaur teeth on cute Grape Lane; but if you’d rather excavate your own, join a fossil-hunting trip to nearby Saltwick Bay.
According to locals, this is one of the best restaurants in Whitby. It’s an intimate bistro-style place that prides itself on being different. Expect dishes such as beef and beetroot cannelloni, and a potage of vegetables topped with a crispy egg. Book ahead – there’s only space for 20 covers per night.
Spook: Ghost walk
You can’t escape the supernatural vein running through Whitby so enter into the spirit of things (sorry) on a ghost walk. Dr Crank of Whitby Walks whips up tales of the paranormal so rooted in the town’s alleyways, crannies and pubs that you’ll never see Whitby in the same light again.
Snooze: La Rosa
There’s more than a touch of the boudoir about this hotel. It’s furnished with antiques and thrift-shop gems, and the views and breakfast hampers are to die for. Each of the bedrooms is themed after an aspect of Whitby’s quirky heritage – the Bram Stoker room is for fearless souls only.
Train: 4hrs30 from London Kings Cross Station
Coach: 8hrs40 from London Victoria Coach Station or 4hrs from Leeds
Car: 5hrs10 from central London
Good to know:
The tiny fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay is an easy 5-mile bus ride, or 3-hour walk if you’re feeling active. Explore the twisting alleyways once favoured by smugglers or hunt fossils on the craggy, elemental beach.