Whitby is so full of history, tradition and culture that it is impossible to give it the justice it deserves. The old town was built along the banks of the Esk estuary, the east side being of arguably greater historic value, not least because of the imposing and spectacular Abbey headland, reached by the famous 199 steps (best taken two at a time). The Abbey was founded in 657 AD and, shortly after, was the setting for the Synod of Whitby, a meeting between the Celtic Church and those of the Roman rule which culminated in the setting of the date of Easter.
Captain James Cook was born close by and learned his seamanship in Whitby. Both the Resolution and the Endeavour, in which he charted the coasts of eastern Australia and New Zealand, were built in Whitby. In the late 18th century, William Scoresby and his son of the same name were instrumental in furthering our knowledge of the Arctic and inventing still-used nautical instruments.
In its time, Whitby has seen the growth and subsequent decline of such industries as shipbuilding, whaling, sail-making, rope-making, fishing, jet working and, further afield, potash and alum mining. Many of the remnants of its industrial past are still evident today.
Today, Whitby is a beautiful seaside town with a working harbour and a thriving tourist industry. The old fishermen’s cottages perch on the banks of the Esk and hide a number of quaint yards which are well worth exploring. Cobbled Church Street on the east side is often compared to The Shambles in York and has an excellent variety of gift shops, galleries and restaurants. In addition, the town hosts an enormous variety of festivals including the popular Gothic weekends, the week-long Folk Festival, 50s weekend and many more.