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Dracula's Whitby

Through Whitby town to see the inspiration for Bram Stoker's classic.

Distance 4 miles (6.4km)

Minimum time 2hrs

Ascent/gradient 256ft (78m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Coastal and field paths, then town pavements, 2 stiles

Landscape Old town clustered around harbour and steep cliffs

Suggested map aqua3 OS Outdoor Leisure 27 North York Moors - Eastern

Start/finish NZ 905113

Dog friendliness Dogs should be on lead in town

Parking Main Abbey Car Park to east of the Abbey

Public toilets At Whitby Abbey and (signed) in town centre

1 From the car park, walk up the road towards the Abbey. Go right at the Cleveland Way sign, through a gate at the coastline and right along the path. From this part of the coast you can look out to sea and imagine the stormy night on which the Russian schooner Demeter, steered by a corpse lashed to the wheel and with its strange cargo of boxes of earth, approached Whitby harbour.

2 Near the National Trust Saltwick Nab sign leave the coast along a caravan site road and walk past the Galleon Inn. Where the Cleveland Way continues ahead, bear right, following the road. Just before a telegraph pole on the left, turn right to a waymarked stile and follow waymarks through three fields and over a stile on to the road. Cross it and turn left. At the end of the wall take a path to the right, following the line of telegraph poles and passing through a kissing gate into a lane. When the lane swings right go ahead beside a fence to a road. The town and harbour of Whitby are below: 'The River Esk runs through a deep valley which broadens out as it comes near the harbour? The houses of the old town are all red-roofed, and seem piled up one over the other anyhow,' wrote Stoker.

3 Cross and go down the road opposite, swinging right into The Ropery. Turn left down a cobbled slope to descend to a road. Turn right, then left just after the car park, past the Captain Cook Memorial Museum. At the end, turn left and go over the bridge then right along the quayside. Where the road bends left, turn left up a steep narrow lane, turning right at the top. When you reach the summit, East Crescent is to your left. Mina Murray was spending her summer in a house here with Lucy Westenra, one of Dracula's victims.

4 Take the steps on the right to find the Bram Stoker Memorial seat (the right-hand one on the terrace) from where the town is laid out below you. On the opposite cliff are the Abbey and the old parish church, where at night, in 'a narrow band of light as sharp as a sword cut' Mina saw Lucy. 'Something dark stood behind the seat where the white figure shone, and bent over it,' and she rushed headlong through the town to save her friend.

5 Descend through the Whalebone Arch on to the road. Turn left and go down to the harbour and back over the bridge. Just beyond, turn left down Sandgate and on to the Market Place, passing left of the Town Hall, and turning left along Church Street. As it bends right, go straight ahead to Tate Hill Pier. This is where Dracula's ship the Demeter crashed and from where 'an immense dog sprang up on deck? and jumped from the bow?', before running off up the street.

6 Follow the road round into Sandside, and climb the 199 steps, up which Mina ran to save Lucy from Dracula, to the churchyard. The seat where Mina saw 'something long and black bending over the half-reclining figure' of Lucy was on the north side of the church, in the shelter of the transept. Nearby, Stoker wrote, was the grave of a suicide, where the Count spent his days in Whitby. Leave the churchyard by the iron gate at the far end, bearing left past the Abbey to the car park.

Three of the most significant chapters of Bram Stoker's Dracula, first published in 1897, are set in Whitby. This walk takes you to some of the places where the dramatic tale is set.

Where to eat and drink

As you'd expect of a thriving tourist town, Whitby has all manner of pubs, restaurants and cafés, catering for every taste. If you want to sample that seaside favourite, fish and chips, the place to go is the Magpie Café near the harbour. Although in the season you are very likely to find queues, the food's worth waiting for.

While you're there

Whitby Museum in Pannett Park, off St Hilda's Terrace on the West Cliff, provides a fascinating insight into what makes the town tick. Run by the Whitby Literary and Philosophical Society, founded in 1823, it has exhibits of local fossils, plants and animals, as well as displays detailing the archaeology of the area. There are many models of ships, and you can learn about the history of the whaling fleet from Whitby, and about Captain Cook - the Museum has several of his manuscript documents. Whitby men have always explored the world and the collection reflects their journeys, with Japanese armour, a calabash from Cameroon and furniture from Dahomey.

What to look for

As an antidote to the horrors of Dracula, explore St Mary's Church, at the top of the 199 steps. It has one of the oddest interiors you'll ever see. It is basically a 12th-century building, but it's difficult to spot this either from the outside, with its huge Georgian windows, or inside, though the semicircular chancel arch is an indication. What really hits you as you go in is the staggering number of 18th-century box pews - some complete with fireplaces - and galleries. They are crammed everywhere, painted in subtle Georgian colours and all focused on the dramatic three-decker pulpit. Even the chancel is blocked off by the elaborate Cholmley family pew, raised high on barley-sugar columns. With all this accommodation, the relatively small church could hold 2,000 people. In a vain attempt to keep those without their own pew fires warm, there is a small stove in the centre of the nave with a long chimney that disappears through the ceiling.


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