Having famously been the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, I was intrigued to discover what lay in store in the east coast seaside town of Whitby. Unlike most of our trips, this one was relatively unplanned – a spur of the moment decision with all the details left up to my other half (a rare occurrence in our household I can assure you!)
I had always wanted to visit Whitby and with it only being a couple of hours away it seemed like a good place to go on short notice. Plus, it’s a traditional British seaside town – and what’s not to love about that?! Andy and I have a certain soft spot for a touch of retro charm, and we were sure Whitby would have plenty of it.
Unaware of what plans my husband had made, I set off with an open mind and just one ‘to-do’ on my itinerary: see the famous Whitby Abbey.
It was the height of the summer season when we visited, and boy did we know it when we slowed into town. The small streets, that had clearly never been designed to take so many masses of people, were flooded with bodies shuffling their way the shops, to the chip shop or back up from the beach. In everyday life something like this would ordinarily have started to raise my stress levels, but there was something about the atmosphere and the sun beating down that kept me calm, even when the Satnav insisted our hotel was down a dead end!
Unable to check into our hotel (which was still a mystery to me) until the afternoon, we decided to head straight for the Abbey. What a difference when we got there…
The Abbey is set on a clifftop overlooking the town. High above the summer bustle we had just driven through, the area around the Abbey exuded a hushed calm, similar to that you’d expect in a library or a museum. It was an eerie atmosphere, enhanced by the Gothic remains of the Abbey itself. I could see instantly how Stoker was inspired here – the moodiness of the landscape, even in the sunshine, commanded attention and awe.
We didn’t go inside. Instead we decided to explore the perimeter and get a better view of the town below. In hindsight I’d have liked to have gone in and taken a closer look around the ruins – but with deciding on the trip last minute, we were strictly on a budget, so the laymen’s tour had to suffice this time.
We walked down as far as the 99 steps, and what a great view we got from here. You can see everything: hills to the left, the quaint town in the middle with the coast and open sea out to the right. If you time it right you might even be as lucky as we were and see a steam train billowing through the picture. A postcard moment right there – shame I didn’t have the camera out to capture it but sometimes there’s something to be said about simply soaking it in.
Back down to the beach and it was time to take in the sea, and the obligatory seaside ice cream of course, before heading to the hotel.
Andy had booked us in at La Rosa, a traditional Victorian seaside hotel. Or as I like to think of it, the quirkiest place I have ever been! Our room was still being made up when we arrived (early). We were greeted by smiling staff who welcomed us to enjoy a spot of tea in the lounge. I dropped my bags and took my place next to our good friend Mr Fox – who to this day I cannot tell if he was real.
The walls were lined with all kinds of weird and wonderful books – I wonder where they all came from – I flicked through one about the world’s tattoos and enjoyed my tea, when Andy informed me that we would be staying in the ‘Stoker Room’. Ok.
From what I saw, all of the rooms at La Rosa were themed – Captain Hook and Lewis Carroll I think were both mentioned, but I was secretly thinking we were the coolest people ever to be staying in the Stoker room. And it certainly lived upto it’s name.
The room was cosy with dramatic, gothic interior and an impressed roll top bath (yes I filled it with bubbles – yes it was awesome!).
The selling point for me was the direct view of the Abbey right from the bed, as well as a tiny balcony which was just big enough for two. We later found out that the next morning’s breakfast would be a picnic which arrived in a cute hamper – so lucky to have such lovely weather to have enjoyed it on our balcony.
Anyway, we were keen to make the most out of the sunshine so set off to explore what other delights Whitby had to offer. After herding ourselves through the crowds we made it to Whitby Harbour, just a short stroll from the hotel.
The sun was beating down and the sea and sky were a delicious shade of blue. I love the sea. I find the soft lull of waves incredibly hypnotic and could just sit and watch it for hours. And so that’s what we did for a while. On the way down to the sea-edge we passed a couple who had brought their own antipasti picnic – wish we’d thought of that – it looked really romantic.
There’s a magical hour at the seaside. It’s not when the sun is at it’s highest or when the moon is lighting bouncing of the water. It’s the moment when there’s a slight shift in the air – it grows cooler, a little darker and families take their queue to pack up and head home.
It was at this hour we walked along the beach, along the rows of colourful, well-kept beach huts. The inviting smells of late summer BBQ mingled with the sea air, and the faint smell of vinegar on chips called to me. So in true seaside fashion we perched on a wall stalked by seagulls sharing a bag of fish and chips.
We finished up our day in Whitby with a bottle of champagne left over from our engagement. As the sun was setting the bubbles were flowing on our balcony and in our roll top bath.
I don’t know if it was the weather, the spontaneity, the quirkiness (or cosiness) of the hotel, or a combination of the three, but our trip to Whitby, although fleeting and seemingly insignificant, has had a warm and lasting effect on me. I look back in fondness and would recommend it to all the nostalgic romantics out there. Go. Be inspired.