A Day…in Whitby (with a dog!)
Dating back to 656AD (then called “Streonshal”) the sea-side town of Whitby has so much more to offer than sea, sand, sun and arcades – in fact I was surprised to find that the “tacky” seaside area was limited only to a few metres near the pier!
Whitby means different things to different people: To me, I have always associated it with geology – in particular to the fossil ammonites (featured on the Whitby Coat of Arms). To Queen Victoria, I am sure Whitby was associated with Jet (the fossilized remains of a tree from the Jurassic period which is only found along a seven and a half mile stretch of the North Yorkshire coastline centred around Whitby!) In my childhood, my fellow school friends went there on holiday (we favoured Anglesey) and came back with stories of rock pools, crabs and fish and chips on the Pier.
Whitby was hot, sunny and beautiful in front of the wide blue skies when we arrived, so we made our way down to the beach. Along the harbour and pier, families and children were fishing for crabs, and people were walking barefoot around the town with dogs and kids in tow! (In fact, it was immaculately clean, considering it was packed with visitors and their dogs!). A number of street entertainers offered entertainment along the pathways nearby the tourist information centre. The centre itself was a great source of information – one of the largest I have been to. It supplied information on anything you could possibly imagine!
In terms of facilities, Whitby has very clean public toilets, charged at 30p (free for disabled visitors and children), a first aid post near the beach (and a local hospital in case of emergency), a lost child centre, beach huts and cafes and restaurants nearby.
One café of note, which my mother, Poppy and I visited once for home-made Ice cream, then the following day for a seriously good breakfast, is the recently opened Teare Wood’s Luxury Ice-Cream Parlour (Responsible people and their best friends welcomed!). The owners had an interesting story too:
Jamie who, is from Northumberland where he managed a Jersey herd on a large farm, had won many awards for his herd culminating in Supreme Champion Breeder in 2009. He made the decision to leave in 2010 and he and his partner began to formulate the idea of Teare Wood’s, based on the principle of producing a high quality ice cream from Jersey milk in unusual flavours and in any size people wanted. Some examples of flavours are: Cinnamon and fudge, wild cherry, Turkish delight, liquorice and blackcurrant, lime and ginger cheesecake – I indulged in Banoffee and Chocolate-marshmallow! “Sounds expensive!” but no. It was one of the cheapest I’ve found – in fact they even allow you to taste the ice-cream flavours before you decide! It was the best Ice-cream I have had in years
Whitby Beach has achieved the Blue Flag award: a prestigious, international award scheme which acts as a guarantee to tourists that the beach is one of the best in the world. Not only is Whitby each a haven for dogs, but it is also a source of “wholesome” fun for the kids – no portable games consoles here! I talked to Matthew, aged 9, (one of hundreds of kids on the beach) about what he liked best about Whitby: “Everything!” he replied, grinning up at me excitedly from his masterpiece of a sand castle. His parents explained that they had come to the area quite often for a week or two, and that Matthew, an aspiring geologist and marine biologist, would spend hours with them exploring the rock pools, fishing for crabs and lobsters, and watching anemones as they open – a real scientist in the making!
There were even people swimming in the cold sea (I know how cold it was. I paddled. Poppy was impervious. She swam!) Other people I chatted to on the beach were local, travelling from other parts of Yorkshire for the day, but many had come from further afield – one lady was from Canada and another couple from USA. We picked up some magnificent dog-friendly tips, including the best place for an evening meal (Humble Pie and Mash), the best things to do in Whitby (fishing) and, if staying for a while, the best place to go outside Whitby (Robin Hood Bay). It was a really people-friendly and dog-friendly visit – everyone had time for a friendly chat, and everyone was happy and willing to share tips and answer questions!
But apart from the beach and related activities, Whitby offers a lot of cultural experiences for all ages. You could tell that by the wide range of age groups we saw about town.
The Whitby Museum is situated on top of a hill and contains a range of exhibits relating to Whitby’s history: geological (Jet and Ammonites) and more recent. (Captain James Cook and his ship, Endeavour. Unfortunately, dogs are not even permitted on the beautiful grounds surrounding the museum, but don’t let that put you off. It is well worth a visit
Because Captain Cook’s training as a seaman began in Whitby, his legacy in the seaside town is visible everywhere – In West Cliff there is a statue. The Captain Cook Memorial Museum, situated next to the harbour, is in the 17th century Walker’s House, where James Cook lived during his apprenticeship with Captain John Walker in 1746. The museum has 4 floors of rooms, where a variety of maps (both after and prior to Cooks voyages), prints from ship artists, original notes and documents from James Cook and other explorers and scientists are to be found in addition to a temporary exhibition which changes each year. This year it is “Fish and Ships!” A journey round the world at Captain Cook’s table. Look out for the recipe book for sailors and explorers – rats! Yummy!
Poppy enjoyed her first boat trip when we took a boat trip on the “Bark Endeavour”, an authentic (but smaller) replica of the HMS Endeavour, for the complete Captain Cook Experience. We will make a sailor out of her yet!
One of Whitby’s free attractions is the RNLI Museum. Built in 1895, the double boathouse was used by the RNLI until 1957 before it opened to the public as a museum. It exhibits an abundance of lifeboat material including photographs, models, paintings, medals, lifeboat kit and items from famous rescues. One of the main exhibits is the historic Robert and Ellen Robson – a pulling and sailing, self-righting lifeboat which was built in 1919.
The Magpie Café is situated near the pier. We had walked past it umpteen times during the day wondering at its appeal since there was always a queue of people waiting to get in. Finally, curiosity decided it was worth the wait and we joined the queue. And let’s face it, there is nothing better than take- away fish and chips when you are at the seaside. We later found out that the establishment is in fact quite famous; one of the most highly regarded fish and chip shops in the country!
The Whitby sky-line is dominated by the Abbey. Whitby Abbey is an English Heritage site, and can be accessed either by foot from the town centre (quite a few steps up though!) or via the more civilised car park at the top of the hill. The Abbey allows the visitor to soak up the long history of the Abbey and the daily life of the monks who once lived here. It regularly hosts special reconstruction / experience events (which you can find on our events list) aimed at families and if the faces of the children were anything to go by, these are obviously a hit!
But there is also a darker side to Whitby and the Abbey; its gothic splendour provided the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula! There is a Dracula Museum which was recommended to me by a visiting American, but unfortunately I did not have time to visit on this occasion. Twice a year, Whitby attracts hordes of pale skinned, darkly clad individuals who are there for the “Whitby Gothic Weekend”, a festival for goths!
Conclusion: We are DEFINITELY returning for a week! We love Whitby – if you have not been – GO!!!
For more information on Whitby click here.