A dozen places you can go to be alone. WHICH WOULD YOU CHOOSE?
Whitby is a scenic harbour town on the east coast of Yorkshire; the harbour piers face north so it has an east and west cliff, both of which are worth clambering up. You don’t have to climb the cliff face, you can arrive at the west cliff hotels or the east cliff abbey ruins by coach, bus or car, but it is more interesting to tread the many paths and steps that wind upwards. Count Dracula took such a route up the east cliff after his ship was blown off course in the north sea. Disguised as a black dog he ran up the 199 steps to the church of St. Mary and the ruins of St. Hilda’s Abbey, thus creating a tourist attraction for the fitter holiday maker.
Author Bram Stoker is not the only famous person to have lived here, son of Yorkshire, Captain James Cook attended school in Whitby and was born in a nearby village.
This was not our first visit to Whitby, but it was our first attempt at airbnb. We chose a cottage in town according to good reviews; as first timers we had to register with some personal info and after being accepted received reams of instructions on where to park the car and how to get in the door. I know from people who use airbnb, when working away from home, that some places are literally a room in someone’s house, someone often glad of the company. We were not to be greeted by a real human. However, we managed the key box without any trouble and were delighted to find ourselves in a cosy three storey home. The bathroom was on the middle floor and the bedroom at the top, the two flights of winding narrow stairs were more like mountain climbing and getting our luggage up was more of a struggle than reaching Everest base camp.
Exploring on foot is the best way to enjoy Whitby, the swing bridge is a quick way to get from one side of town to the other and if you like fish there is no shortage of fish restaurants to choose for your dinner; many have claims such as best fish and chips in town, best east side fish restaurant, best harbour view fish and chips… Though we were self catering we didn’t actually cook any dinners on our four nights there – a fact that made it easy to keep the pristine kitchen clean.
On the first evening, after a meal, we popped into a quaint harbourside pub that looked full of character and was full of characters. Anyone popping in later on would have thought they were in a scene from Fisherman’s Friends, happening upon some local folk singing, but none of the people we met were locals. Two Australians were delighted to meet someone who had lived in Perth (me) and the lady from Edinburgh to discover Cyberspouse was Scottish. It turned out the Aussies were originally ten pound Pommies who went out on the very first jumbo jet to Australia in the early seventies. Their friend, who looked like a local fisherman, spent half a year in Perth and the other half in Whitby. The highlight for me was when the two chaps started singing and had great voices.
The next day we easily walked up the 199 steps, but were soon soaked in the rain, photos of the abbey would have to wait. The abbey was ruined by Henry V111, but St. Mary’s church is fascinating with all the pews in boxes; respectable families had their own boxes, strangers were kept separate and the rabble squashed into the more uncomfortable boxes. There is also a lovely building which now houses a youth hostel with its restaurant open to the public; in the rain this was too busy, but we visited on the next two days.
Other highlights of our stay were climbing up the 81 steps of the harbour lighthouse and the long walk to Sandsend along the coast before the tide came in. Showers were followed by sunshine as we reached the lovely village with cottages either side of the little river.
On the last evening, a stroll down the pier found us gathered with a few others round a man who was taking his five Saint Bernard dogs for a stroll, he said he had seventeen rescue collies at home which his wife exercised. Apparently the key to his happy dog household was that he was the leader of the pack. I would have loved to have seen his house!
The next morning we packed up, tidied up and followed the unlocking procedure in reverse. Later on we received a thanks e-mail from the owner; but to see his review of us, we had to review his cottage first. We gave it 5 stars and he gave us 5 stars; we’re officially airbnbers – though I’m never sure how to write it. And the host we never met? Well it’s obvious he must have been a vampire.
Read more about last week’s trip and my other travels this year at my website.
You can find out more about Whitby and the Yorkshire coast here.