A Yorkshire mini break : a weekend exploring Whitby, Robin Hood’s Bay and Bempton Cliffs
First Stop on your road trip is RSPB Bempton Cliffs, a bird reserve with spectacular views. Between March and October, around half a million (!) sea birds call this place home.
A path leads out to and along the cliffs in both directions and is punctuated with viewing platforms overlooking the sea bird colonies. We enjoyed some of the best views of sea birds that we’ve ever had – gannets, razorbills and kittiwakes on cliffs just feet away, and if you visit in July, you’ll be able to see countless fluffy baby chicks!
Gannets soar past at face height – so close that binoculars weren’t needed– and we also saw a barn owl floating across the fields behind us. Volunteers are on hand to help you identify what you’re looking at, and a recent sightings board in the car park gives you a heads up of what you might see.
Entry is £6 for adults, £3 for children, free for RSPB members. The car park is free and they have a little café/shop.
Just an hour further up the coast is the picturesque village of Robin Hood’s Bay. Park in one of the two pay and display carparks (or you might luck out with some street parking down the residential side roads), and walk down the steep hill to the beach. At low tide you can search for fossils in the rocks below the cliffs, and the narrow streets and closely packed old houses transport you back in time to the 18th century when the village was famous for smugglers. And the name? There is no historic evidence that Nottingham’s famous outlaw ever visited. A tenuous local legend claims he came to help save a boat from pirates, but it seems unlikely that Robin would have travelled so far north of Sherwood forest.
Dinner tonight has to be takeaway from the best fish and chips in Yorkshire, the Magpie Café in Whitby.
Start the day early, wandering the narrow streets of Whitby. Stroll out along the pier, and head up to the famous whale bone arch above the town, to look across at the famous view of ruined Whitby Abbey looming over the harbour. Head to the furthest green bench from the arch, over to the right, where a plaque reads Bram Stoker. The famous author sat and admired this same view and it massively inspired him while he wrote Dracula. The guest house where he stayed is a 5 minute walk away, at number 6, Royal Crescent, and is now converted into holiday apartments.
Crossing the Edwardian swing bridge, you’ll enter into the old part of Whitby. Tiny alleys and old coaching inns wind their way uphill lined with small shops. Look out for the various jewellers specialising in jet- this beautiful black precious stone local to the area really helped put Whitby on the map in Victorian times, especially after Queen Victoria took to wearing it after her husband Prince Albert died.
Climb the famous 199 steps up to Whitby Abbey, and make sure to look at the rather odd looking benches on the way up – these were intended to be used by pall bearers to place the coffin on while they took a rest, climbing the town to the cliff top church for funerals! The steps make an appearance in Dracula, when the vampire bounds up them in the guise of a great black dog.
Whitby Abbey is run by English Heritage, and your £10 entry fee includes an audio guide. Once one of the richest Abbeys in England, rivalling the one in York, these gorgeous gothic ruins have a fascinating history and are still very intact, despite Henry VIII’s best efforts during the dissolution. Make sure you also pop into the neighbouring church, St Mary's, to see its curious 18th century box pews. The graveyard also features in Dracula! This town clearly made a huge impression on Stoker.
After the Abbey, head back down to the harbour where you can take a short boat ride along the coast. We’d recommend the Bark Endeavour, a 40% scale replica of Captain Cook’s ship, masts and all!
Finish your mini break with a treat – book in for a scrummy afternoon tea at Raithwaite hotel, Sandsend, a short drive from Whitby.