Welcome back to my blog. Surprisingly, this post is the 25th that I have posted on my blog! Thank you to anyone who has popped by to read my scribblings – I love being able to share my thoughts and new recipes with you. In today’s post, I want to share a celebratory piece of cake with you (metaphorically speaking…) as I visit the idyllic town of Whitby on the North Yorkshire coast. This post is one of my ESB visits… series so if you want to read more travel posts like this, you can click on these previous posts – ESB visits…Monpazier and ESB visits…Biscuiteers Icing Café in Notting Hill.
Known for its production of a black semi-precious stone called jet, Whitby is a holiday destination for those in search of the good old fashioned British seaside experience. During the summer, it is a hot spot with golden beaches lined with vibrant beach huts. From fish and chips to an arcade hall, it has all that a British holiday by the sea should have. However, as I discovered on a recent trip, there is a lot more to it than just seafood and sandcastles.
I think the best way to describe Whitby is a colourful jigsaw, not unlike the multi-coloured sticks of rock they sell in their sweet shops. There are so many hidden nooks and crannies to explore, that you come away with the feeling you have seen more than one town.
From the charming narrow streets of the Old Town to the shimmering sands of the beach, there really is something for everyone to enjoy. This post is my compilation of the places I visited, to give you a flavour of what Whitby has to offer so you might be inspired to visit yourself.
And having worked up a hearty appetite exploring the town in the fresh sea air, I will also suggest a couple of tearooms where you can enjoy a warming cup of tea and delicious bake to refuel.
To accompany this post, here is my cover of the traditional music hall song, ‘Oh I do like to be beside the seaside’ to get you in the seaside mood.
Without further ado, here’s what I got up to in Whitby…
The Old Town
Whitby Old Town is perched on either side of the harbour leading out to sea. Sheltered from the elements, you can explore the narrow cobbled streets whatever the weather. From sweet shops selling seaside rock to boutiques selling vintage clothes, there are lots of shops to have a peek in. To find the most famous export, jet, head to the streets below the church and abbey, to find exquisite jewellery. Twice a year, Whitby hosts a Goth Weekend where Goth’s visit from all over the country and dress in elaborate costumes. Completely by chance, I visited while a Goth Weekend was in full swing and it was fascinating to see the effort that goes into creating the perfect costume.
199 steps up to St Mary’s, the cliff-top churchyard and Whitby Abbey
Another reason why Whitby is a popular tourist destination, aside from the sea and sand, is that iconic scenes from the classic novel, Dracula, by Bram Stoker, are set in the town. Specifically, the church and churchyard of St Mary’s church and the Abbey which are reached by 199 steps. Local legend has it that when you climb the 199 steps, you have to count every single one as you climb, otherwise you have to go down to the bottom and start all over again (which is no mean feat, as it is a steep set of stairs!) However, the panoramic view from the top is definitely worth the hike as you can see the red roofs of the town alongside the endless expanse of the sea.
St Mary’s is an ancient church that has been in use for centuries and was unique to me, as the pews were more like individual boxes, allocated to notable families and organisations in the area so they had their own private place to sit every Sunday. The churchyard leads onto the Abbey, but without paying the English Heritage admission fee, you can walk around the perimeter and get a good peek at the magnificent ruins. Everywhere you look there is something beautiful to see!
Whitby’s pier is one of the longest in the UK and one of the things you mustn’t miss when you visit. The pier is split into 2 parts – the east and west side – both of which have lighthouses. The west side leads out from the fish market and amusement arcade to the pier beyond which is populated mainly by rather vicious seagulls, so don’t take any food with you! The second section leads out to the open sea, which I found disconcerting at first but the view from the very end is extraordinary, as long as the sea isn’t too rough. From the farthest tip, you can climb down a ladder to the concrete below, which isn’t for the faint hearted, but offers a fascinating look at the construction of the pier itself and gives you a very different view of the town from sea level.
Whitby’s beach is one of the most beautiful sandy beaches I have ever seen. Approaching from the Pier, you can see to the cliffs beyond with beach huts dotted up and down the promenade. As the sea recedes further and further into the horizon, it leaves a trail of tiny blue rivers leading back to the sand. Popular with locals and tourists alike, it is a stunningly peaceful spot with plenty of space to soak up some fresh air. Don’t forget to check the times of the tide – at high tide, the sea covers the sand completely – so you don’t get caught out!
ESB recommended Tearooms
Having explored the town to the full, here are two tearooms I would recommend as a pit stop to refuel.
Rusty Shears is a vintage inspired tearoom, hidden in the narrow streets of West Cliff. Walking inside is like visiting a gentler time, hidden from the hustle and bustle of the town. It is a teashop that serves over 30 different types of specialty gins in the daytime, alongside the more traditional tea but I was more interested in seeing the cakes on display. In the northern air, it is very easy to work up an appetite and there were a variety of cakes to try from the traditional to more modern. Having ordered, my tea arrives in a vintage teapot and I love the charmingly mismatched nature of the crockery from all through the ages. The teashop is beautifully decorated with period wallpaper and furniture which makes it very friendly, as are the staff.
Among the bakes on offer, my favourite is the warm treacle tart with clotted cream which I think I can safely say is the best I have ever eaten! But everything they make is freshly baked and beautifully presented so I would definitely recommend a visit if you have the chance. You can find out more about Rusty Shears here!
Becketts Tearoom is a home from home for locals and tourists alike with its heart deeply rooted in the Yorkshire tradition, serving huge slices of cake. At the door, I am greeted by a cosy sight of bustling staff and walls lined with second hand books, which are available to browse through and buy. Their cakes are famous for their size (one slice definitely does for two people) but instead I opt for a northern classic – a toasted teacake. Lathered in butter, it is the perfect antidote to the wind blowing up a gale outside the door. There is a great rapport with returning customers that gives the tearoom a very relaxed feeling, but bag a seat early to get a chance to sit and enjoy their cakes as it fills up very fast. You can find out more about Becketts Tearoom here!
Thank you for popping by my blog to read my thoughts about Whitby. It really is a charming town with lots to offer. Where have you visited recently and been surprised by? I’m always looking for more places to explore!
See you next time for another post but in the meantime,
English Singing Baker x