Whitby is a coastal town in the North York Moors National Park of Yorkshire. I happened through Whitby on my way from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to a country hotel near Scarborough. A very scenic town of less than 14 thousand residents, I had not known it’s reasons for having become famous, it’s reputation as being a pretty seaside resort had precluded them.
We’ve all heard of Captain Hook. His adventures of exploring the globe during a more adventurous and less predictable time are the stories that fascinate children all over the world I expect. Captain Cook first went to sea from Whitby as an apprentice. The home of the shipowner with whom James Cook started his sea career is now the Captain Cook Memorial Museum.
One would also likely familiar with Dracula. The original story was written by Bram Stoker while holidaying in Whitby in 1897. A large part of the original book was actually set in Whitby, although Hollywood spinoffs have featured Transylvania much more. I did not have time to visit Whitby Abbey, the setting for Dracula’s arrival on land.
Another asset Whitby is famous for is it’s deposits of jet, a coal-like substance mined from it’s seaside cliffs that was made famous by Queen Victoria when she wore jewellery made from jet during mourning. The term “Jet Black” comes from this jet, I had only learned that recently from one of my favourite podcasts in which two very clever linguists answer questions about word use, linguistics, and etymology. It’s a fantastic and entertaining show, the two hosts are playful and light heated. You can look them up on iTunes, I have them to automatically update on my Blackberry through whatever system that is. Podcasts are free.
I came into Whitby around lunchtime on a Sunday with the idea to have some lunch and to wander about for a few hours. However, the best I could find for parking was restricted to 40 minutes. If I could have found another spot to double my time I would have, but the town was completely over-run with daytrippers. In retrospect I should have perhaps ignored the time restriction and paid any possible fine that came my way, it would have been well worth it to explore the town further. As it was, my responsible citizenship won-out so I had a very brief run about the main waterside areas before accepting defeat that I could not find better parking. I’m happy to pay any premium for parking where there is little available but I could find none.
The approach to Whitby on England’s East Coast.
Even if I did only visit for 40 minutes, I am glad that I visited Whitby. It has now entered my list of places to visit for a few days, WEEKDAYS. At “The Greedy Pig” where I stopped to get a sandwich on my way back to the car I asked him if the crowds were so large because of Father’s Day. “No, it’s like this every weekend when the weather’s nice.” So may I also recommend to you, Whitby has enough visitors on the weekends throughout the summer so perhaps aim for weekdays like I will myself in the future.
Robin Hood Bay
Next I had set my GPS to visit Robin Hood Bay. This town has a reputation as another lovely place but the incredibly slow bumper-to-bumper traffic from 2 miles away had me change my mind midway. I had programmed the GPS coordinates of a car park, this town is somewhere that I researched to park at the top and then walk into the town. “Don’t even think about driving to the centre,” I had read in a guidebook. But with this endless stream of cars from 2 miles away, I could not imagine that on my arrival there would be any parking spots left nor anywhere to even pull-over to pause. So I gave Robin Hood Bay a miss.
There is a 6-mile cliff-top trek from Robin Hood Bay to Whitby, and a 20-mile cycling route to Scarborough. I’d like to stay a week in Whitby sometime and to be sure to have my bicycle with me again to enjoy these activities.
From a private driveway near Robin Hood Bay I now programmed the Sat Nav to take me to a car park in the centre of Scarborough. With a population shy of 60 thousand, this is the original seaside holiday town of England. This happened due to it’s inclusion in a 1660s book promoting medical benefits of “taking the waters” in which a spring in Scarborough was included.
I have heard that today Scarborough has become a typical British seaside resort town of slot-machines, donkey rides, fish and chips, and tack souvenir shops. But I don’t know myself because I was unable to stop here. The two car parks I encountered were both full and the streets had many free spaces but the signs indicated “disc parking only”. I didn’t know what this meant, I just knew that I did not have a disc.
I pulled over on a high road above the ocean that was lined with independent hotels. I took some photos of the lovely views I could see from where I was, but I did not want to leave my car illegally parked to go exploring. So in Scarborough I only visited for about 2 minutes.
I may visit Scarborough in the future if spending considerable time nearby, but from what I saw I would not stay here. Certainly I would not venture over on a weekend, at least by car. If I had come specifically to Scarborough and then could not park I would have been very disappointed.
Really, I cannot offer much opinion as to this town as a destination having only driven through it. I know someone from York who really likes Scarborough but I also know a tour guide who pleaded with me not to stay there because there are such better places to spend one’s time.
There was lots of parking available but not for visitors so I pulled-over for just a moment to take a few pics before giving-up and continuing on to my final destination of the day. I think it’s important for the locals to be able to park on their own streets, I don’t mean to suggest otherwise.
I was unable to decide whether this is a place I should return to during my 2 minutes or so while I was illegally parked. There are other lovely towns I would definitely give preference to first though.
From Scarborough my journey continues to “near Scarborough” where I now stay in a country hotel. Ducks look up at me longingly as I sit under an umbrella, keying away at a patio table overlooking the gorgeous countryside. I’m not decided what I think of this hotel yet, it is very picturesque and the public areas are very well appointed visually. I say visually because in the one area of the hotel that has wifi, there are no chairs with tables. There are lovely red leather sofas and armchairs and low coffee tables, but two of us balance our electronics on our laps to awkwardly use the only signal. I had planned to spend a day working on my blog postings here, so I am not delighted with the set-up. I have a SIM card in my iPad so I had expected to be able to use my own internet throughout the grounds, but I have no cellular reception here. I am off the grid.
This travel story will continue in the next posting.
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