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Atmospheric Gothic ruins
Whitby Abbey (Whitby)
Member Name: SusanLesley
Whitby Abbey (Whitby)
Date: 21/03/08, updated on 22/03/08 (193 review reads)
Advantages: Wonderful views, great to mooch round
Disadvantages: A bit of a climb if you walk
Whitby is a picturesque little town on the north east coast of Yorkshire. The main industry of Whitby is fishing as it has been for many years and you can still watch the boast coming in and landing the catches if you're up early enough!
It is set at the mouth of the River Esk and the town is split with shops, pubs and houses rising steeply on either side of the river, which is spanned by a swing bridge to allow ships to pass upstream.
On the east cliff of Whitby stands the ruins of Whitby Abbey which is reached by climbing 199 steps so it's not for the faint hearted, although to be fair you can also get to it by road which cuts out the steps. You might think I'm mad but for me walking up the steps was part of the attraction. There is also a slope at the side of the steps but, trust me, you wouldn't want to try and push a wheelchair or even a pushchair up as it is very steep!
It was originally founded in 657 AD by Oswy who was the Saxon King of Northumbria and was home to the Saxon poet Caedmon.
In 867, the abbey fell to Viking attack, and was abandoned until 1078, when it was re-founded by Regenfrith who was a soldier monk, under the orders of his protector, the Norman, William de Percy.
The second monastery lasted until it was destroyed by Henry VIII in 1540. The abbey buildings fell into ruins, and were mined for stone, but remained a prominent landmark for sailors.
The historical information in the last couple of paragraphs has been taken from http://www.whitbyabbey.co.uk/
The Abbey, already in ruins, was then heavily bombed during the war.
It is a lovely place for a good walk round. There is enough of the Abbey remaining to get an idea of how it must have looked all those years ago. The views of the ruins and out across the sea are wonderful from up here and you certainly get a breath of fresh air whether you want it or not!
Work is ongoing at the ruins and they have recently uncovered a 17th century garden which has been restored to its former glory.
The church of St Mary is next to the Abbey and houses an 18th century wooden interior carved by shipbuilders. Go in and have a look at the pews - they are 'family pews' with little doors from the aisle so only the correct people were allowed in. I have never seen these in such quantities anywhere else before or since. Mind you I think it gives the church an unfriendly feel, which is very sad.
When I went in August one year there was a mediaeval pageant on up at the Abbey ruins, with old crafts, games and sports with everyone dressed in period costume.
In the summer there is an open top bus tour of Whitby which gives a magnificent view of the town and the Abbey from the bridge over the River Esk which is slightly further inland. One of the stops on the tour is next to the Abbey ruins to save you having to climb the aforementioned steps. The guide on the bus will give you an interesting insight into the old town of Whitby with stories of smuggling and tales of the high seas.
The Abbey is open from 10am until 6pm from April to September and from 10am until 4pm from October to March. It is owned by English Heritage and the cost to visit is £5 for adults, £2.50 for children and £4 for concessions. A family ticket will cost you £12.50. There are good picnic areas and the customary souvenir shop on site.
The Abbey is reputed to be part of the inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula, which is very believable as you look up at the atmospheric ruins, particularly at dusk when it stands out against the disappearing light.
If you are ever in that part of the country I would recommend that you visit the Abbey - I don't think you will be disappointed.
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Summary: A great Gothic ruin
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