5 reasons why you should move to Whitby

Whitby Old Town Hall (c) Tony Bartholomew

Whitby Old Town Hall (c) Tony Bartholomew - Credit: Archant

Neighbourhood know-how, places and people.

St Mary's and Abbey, Whitby (c) Tony Bartholomew

St Mary's and Abbey, Whitby (c) Tony Bartholomew - Credit: Archant

Location, location

There’s a reason why Whitby is the location for one of English literature’s greatest horror stories – the Gothic glamour of its location is striking in the extreme. The town sits at the mouth of the River Esk, and climbs its way up steep inclines either side to reach two clifftops with striking sea views, and each with its own personality – on the West Cliff, the town’s main entertainment venue, the Pavilion, along with many graceful Georgian and Victorian hotels and houses; on the East Cliff, a fascinating jumble of old cottages and streets topped by two brooding watchmen – St Mary’s Church and, of course, Whitby Abbey.

Whitby isn’t the easiest town to get to, but it’s worth the effort. There are direct rail services from Middlesbrough via the moors. If you’re travelling from the south, the car or bus journey from Scarborough can be slow, but has the bonus of the unparalleled scenery of the North York Moors National Park – and late August, when the purple heather is in full bloom, shows the moors at their most magnificent. If you are driving, do bear in mind that parking can be at a premium. If you really want to travel in style, check out the North Yorkshire Moors Railway’s timetable to steam trains from Pickering to Whitby.

Henrietta Street, Whitby (c) Tony Bartholomew

Henrietta Street, Whitby (c) Tony Bartholomew - Credit: Archant

Bag a property

Flats average around £145,000, with terraced houses going for an average of £183,000.

At time of writing, interesting properties on offer ranged from a two-bedroom ‘duplex’ overlooking busy Church Street for £140,000 to what’s described as an ‘end terrace’ on St Hilda’s Terrace for £925,000 – there can’t be many end terraces that boast eight bedrooms, a walled garden and a hallway the size of a tennis court!

The Captain Cook Memorial Museum (c) Tony Bartholomew

The Captain Cook Memorial Museum (c) Tony Bartholomew - Credit: Archant

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So long as exploring on foot is your thing, Whitby is absolute heaven. It’s a maze of streets, snickets (known locally as ‘ghauts’) and yards – the communal outdoor areas once shared by fishing families. If the weather isn’t great, I’d highly recommend a visit to the Pannet Park Art Gallery and Whitby Museum. Set amidst beautiful gardens, the gallery has the UK’s most comprehensive collection of work by the Staithes Group, the British Impressionists who depicted life on the North Yorkshire coast in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Gothic splendours include the Hand of Glory (the mummified hand of a hanged murderer, said to aid burglars in their wrongdoing) – a must-visit for connoisseurs of the quirky. The Captain Cook Memorial Museum pays tribute to one of the area’s most famous sons.

Bothams Bakery (c) Tony Bartholomew

Bothams Bakery (c) Tony Bartholomew - Credit: Archant

Café & cocktails

Whitby is crammed with great places to eat. Skinner Street is a good place to start – home to Botham’s Bakery, with its upstairs tea room, which is authentically vintage 1920s; French-style bistro Madamoiselle’s, with a cosy log fire in the winter; Beckett’s coffee shop, where the cake is legendary and there’s a well-stocked bookshelf; and Cranberry Swamp, a haven for those who need a gluten-free option.

Nearby is Rusty Shears, famous for its selection of gins; and The Whitby Deli, which is particularly strong on brunch/lunch. The Star Inn the Harbour is part of the growing empire of Whitby-born chef Andrew Pern. On Church Street, you’ll find the historic White Horse and Griffin, a former coaching inn with an eclectic menu; and in the equally venerable Wesley Hall, Albert’s Restaurant, which specialises in seafood. Talking of which… fish and chips. For many, a trip to Whitby wouldn’t be complete without them. The Magpie, Quayside or Mr Chips? The debate on which is the best rages as hot as a bubbling deep-fat fryer. And don’t stick to the best-known names – there are plenty of others, and it’s safe to say that fish and chips, in Whitby (I’d add ‘in winter’ to that, but that’s a personal preference!) is one of the great culinary bucket list experiences.

(c) Whitby Bookshop Tony Bartholomew

(c) Whitby Bookshop Tony Bartholomew - Credit: Archant

Retail therapy

Whitby is not the place to be if you’re looking for the big chains – with odd exceptions, there just aren’t any, and the town is all the better for it. It’s crammed with tiny independents. Whitby being Goth Central, there is, of course, a preponderance of shops selling all the necessary regalia.Ditto jet jewellery.

The Whitby Bookshop, on Church Street, with its famous creaking wooden staircase is perfect. Fortune’s, at the foot of the famous 199 steps, is a must-visit even if you don’t like kippers. I’m also very fond of RA Willison, a particularly picturesque greengrocer’s, tucked away on Wellington Road. And it’s good to see clothes shop Spanton – recently rebranded as Spanton 1883, in tribute to the year it was founded – still going strong. Its sleek Art Deco exterior is so striking, it was featured in last Christmas’s BBC adaptation of Dracula. There – I’ve said it, after swearing I’d get through a whole feature on Whitby without mentioning his name…

Look out for…

Keep an eye out in the near future for a new outdoor sculpture trail from well-known local sculptor Emma Stothard, due at some point this summer. The seven sculptures include fisherwife, a herring lass, and local photography hero, Frank Meadow Sutcliffe.