Whitby is a town and civil parish in the Scarborough district of North Yorkshire on the north-east coast of England. It was once a bustling fishing and ship building port but is now a favourite tourist destination. It is situated 47 miles (76 km) from York, at the mouth of the River Esk and is the only natural harbour between the Tees and the Humber
Whitby is surrounded by the stunning North York Moors National Park. The ancient port sits on the east side of the harbour nestled beneath the cliffs. Opposite the old town, on the West Cliff, is the later seaside resort developed in Victorian times by the Railway King George Hudson.
Below the West Cliff is 2.5 km of clean sandy beach ending at the picturesque village of Sandsend. The beach is very popular with holidaymaker's in the summer. The East Cliff is a treasure trove of fossilized remains from ancient sea creatures.
On top of the East cliff is the haunting ruin of Whitby Abbey. It was founded here under the towns Anglo-Saxon name of Streonshal in 656, when Oswy, the Christian king of Northumbria, made Hilda the first Abbess. The Synod of Whitby was held here In 867 where the date for Easter was decided. The monastery was destroyed by Viking raiders, and was only refounded in 1078. It was in this period that the town gained its current name, Whitby, (from 'white settlement' in Old Norse). The Abbey was destroyed for the second time by King Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1541.
In the middle ages, Whitby developed as a fishing port, catching mainly herring. It was also an important whaling port for a time - as can be seen at the town museum and from the whale bone arch on West Cliff. The town produced many fine sailors: William Scoresby, who invented the 'crows nest' lookout for sailors and in 1807 sailed into the Arctic to discover a northwest passage around the top of the Americas to Asia, and James Cook among them. All of the four ships Cook sailed in his voyages to the South Seas were built in Whitby. In the 17th and 18th centuries Whitby ships (colliers) were involved in the transportation of iron ore and coal to and from Tyneside.
Apart from its beach, museums, craft shops and tea rooms, many people visit Whitby for its literary and television associations. Bram Stoker based part of his novel 'Dracula' in Whitby and mentions St Mary's church and the 199 steps - both on the east side of Whitby. Lewis Carroll, author of 'Alice in Wonderland', was supposedly inspired to write his poem 'The Walrus and the Carpenter' by his walks along Whitby beach. In the 19th century, local photographer Frank Meadows Sutcliffe took many pictures of the town, its inhabitants and the surrounding area. These can be viewed, and prints purchased, in the Sutcliffe Gallery. More recently the town of Whitby, the surrounding villages and countryside were the setting for the major television series 'Heartbeat'.
Whitby has many pubs, tea shops, cafes and restaurants all with a charm of their own. These include the famous Magpie Cafe where the fish and chips were described 'as the finest in country' by both Rick Stein and the late Egon Ronay. Bothams The Bakers, who have been baking bread and cakes in the town since Victorian times and the legendry Duke of York Inn, situated at the foot of the 199 steps.