“There was a bright full moon, with heavy black, driving clouds, which threw the whole scene into a fleeting diorama of light and shade as they sailed across. For a moment or two I could see nothing, as the shadow of a cloud obscured St. Mary’s Church and all around it. Then as the cloud passed I could see the ruins of the abbey coming into view, and as the edge of a narrow band of light as sharp as a sword-cut moved along, the church and churchyard became gradually visible.”Dracula, Bram Stoker
I had every intention of this post being a traditional ‘guide’ for the weary traveller, hunting for inspiration for new things to do on their trip. I quickly realised that I hadn’t discovered anything new about Whitby and these guides were out there in abundance already. But what I had to say wasn’t.
It turns out there isn’t very much to do in Whitby, but that doesn’t detract from its subtle charm if you delve deep enough. I arrived – tired, uncertain, excited – and a wave of disillusionment hit me like the first ice of winter. What am I doing here? Where am I going? I knew it wouldn’t be like any trip I’d had before, but in many ways, it was exactly like every other trip I’d had before.
The difference I perceived was that I had something to prove to myself. I have spent the better part of ten years slyly whispering in my ear like a lover, tender, sinister, and full of fear: “you can’t do this”. ‘This’, of course, is whatever duty, challenge, or role that found itself at my mercy.
I have been my own undoing and the source of my own unhappiness.
Like me, Whitby is a place of beautiful duality – it is a gothic treasure and a kitsch seaside town. It is a place of light and dark – the brainchild of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and the heart of religious hope and enlightenment. It is a place of subtle consumerism that echoes simpler, bygone times. It is steeped in mystery, folklore, and tales of peculiar goings on.
The ruins of Whitby Abbey loom over the sleepy seaside town – stoic, strong, and most importantly, it has survived the storms it has had to weather. It is a symbol, an emblem. It is an eerie wonder that demands your gaze – almost as though you are under the influence of Dracula himself – if you stop long enough to admire the townscape. I made sure to stop. For me, this ancient ruinous Abbey became a delightful reminder of the storms I had managed to tame and defeat. I may still be broken and trying to find my way, but I stand stronger. The lover’s whisper is now benevolent, encouraging, and full of hope. You can do this.
Whitby hadn’t been the trip I was expecting, but it was pleasant in its own way. Someone kindly reminded me that I was exactly where I needed to be. Whitby was just a tiny piece of the immense journey I am on to be as every bit in love with myself as I am with the world around me. I could never have imagined nineteen-year-old Jade going to the cinema alone, let alone embarking on a trip to the other side of the country alone. What I am trying to say is do that thing that scares you. Take that risk that could bring you happiness. Take yourself out of your comfort zone and watch yourself bloom.
Whitby swaddled me in its quaint safety for three days, so I couldn’t end this post without acknowledging some of the highlights of my trip.
- Dr Crank’s ‘Whitby Walks’, Ghost Walk
Autumn or spooky season, is my best-loved season and fuelled the fire that burnt inside me to visit Whitby so resolutely. It is a town with a rich and eerie history that Dr Crank managed to bring to life in his vibrant walk through Whitby’s winding back streets and lonely alleys. He awakened real, unadulterated fear that stayed with me throughout my trip.
- The Many Tea Rooms of Whitby
I am an advocate of sweet treats and excellent cups of tea, so discovering that Whitby’s cobblestoned streets were hemmed by tearooms was a revelation for my soul. Being spoiled for choice, I was led by my eyes alone – the quirkiest decor or most delicious-looking treats enticed me, and I was powerless to resist. I ended up visiting three: Marie Antionette’s (a slice of 18th Century decorative heaven, with the best Biscoff cake); Sherlock’s (home to a cheese scone bigger than my head); and Jet Black Jewel (offering the most inviting cinnamon hot chocolate that was the perfect Sunday morning companion to the little book of peculiar tales adorning each table). These moments of calm, sitting, and watching the world go by was my greatest joy. I was grateful to spend time alone, reflecting, journalling, and really getting to know myself against a wholesome backdrop.
- Pannett Park
Nestled comfortably into the side of West Cliff, Pannett Park was a beautiful treat for the soul. Autumn was just a gentle murmur in the air: my feet were cold, my nose was runny, and the caress of newly fallen leaves beneath my feet felt like magic. The autumn sunshine set the trees alight, glowing red, auburn, and gold. It quickly became my happy place, the place I retreated to when the buzz of the world around me was too much. I spent many happy hours of my trip sitting, reading, feeling the warm sunshine on my skin, and feeding the curious squirrels.
4. Pannett Guest House’s and it’s Victorian Bathroom
My guest house was cosy and comfortable and housed the last remaining original Victorian bathroom in Whitby (according to my host). My choice of accommodation was solely influenced by the big, antiquated bath – I indulge in bubble baths too frequently, but it is a simple pleasure I couldn’t quit. Being able to relax enveloped by the gentle touch of bubbles and the soothing sway of warm water on your skin lulls my soul into happiness. The only thing that disturbed my peace was my own imagination – I like the spooky, but I get scared. Dr Crank and his ghost stories tour were too fresh in my memory and I conjured up eerie horror film-esque scenes and spooked myself out of the bath.
Happy travelling and, more importantly, happy learning!