Whilst English hotels, restaurants, bars and pubs have been closed I haven't felt especially motivated to write a travel piece. But, from tomorrow we will be allowed to dine and drink indoors, and like many of us my thoughts are turning to travel again. With only a handful of countries on the 'green list' many of us are thinking that a staycation in the UK is the only sensible possibility this summer. In our experience, that's no bad thing, we've actually really enjoyed seeing more of the local countryside, it can be easy to forget to appreciate all the wonderful places, history and art that we can readily access in the U.K.
Back in the autumn we broke our journey home from Scotland with an overnight stay in Whitby, a north east English seaside town that neither of us had visited previously. We knew of it's iconic ruined Abbey, and as the place where the ill-fated Demeter sailed into the habour with no man alive and just a black dog that leapt to shore and runs up the steps to the church (the landing of Dracula in England). We'd seen photos of the goths who come to revel in the atmosphere of the town for Goth weekend (29th to 31st October this year). We also knew that it was the home of jet jewellry once beloved by the Victorians.
It's not a huge place so accommodation choices are a little limited. We opted for the Dolphin pub right on the harbour. It doesn't have it's own parking, but there is a public carpark less than a five minute walk away with reasonable charges. The welcome at the Dolphin was warm, the place spotless, and our room comfortable with a view over the harbour. I had wondered if it would prove to be a noisy room, but we weren't disturbed at all by noise from the pub or from the street below. That may have been helped by the drinks that were served to us in our room after dinner!
We'd been driving all day, so went straight to dinner at Abbey Wharf (pre-booking was necessary due to social distancing rules). As you might expect, the menu features the freshest locally caught fish, and we tucked into a traditional fish & chips and a seafood pie. Both were generous northern portions, so make sure that you're hungry if you decide to eat here!
The next day we set out to explore after a very hearty full English breakfast. We walked through the atmospheric small streets window-shopping the jet, wondering at the fossil shops, and finding a shop selling nothing but gin. There was a bottle of Whitby gin that called to me, it's absolutely beautiful with the sea represented on the sides and the bottom in the shape of an ammonite. It's a really lovely gin and there's a special Demeter version also available. Whilst we were there the distillery was re-locating to a barn near to the Abbey and it looks fabulous - worth a tour if you visit Whitby and love gin as much as I do. I made a Vampire Bat cocktail using the Demeter version for Halloween.
If you fancy making this for yourself the quantities are:
25ml gin, 25ml port, 10ml syrup, 15ml lemon juice, 2 dashes orange bitters. Shaken with ice and then strained.
The one thing you cannot miss on a visit to Whitby is the Abbey (pre-booking is essential at the moment). It's a climb of 199 steps from the harbour. All the people coming down are very encouraging, "not far to go now" was a phase was heard quite a few times. It doesn't disappoint, it's every bit as atmospheric and eerie as you'd expect from a ruin on a headland. English Heritage provide an audio trail via your mobile phone giving the history of the abbey and the significant people who built it or lived there. History here.
After our fill of history we stopped for a drink in the brewery. There aren't many that can boast a view like this.
We then walked back down the steps, pausing to look in the graveyard where Bram Stoker drew inspiration for his characters' names.
It was time to explore the other side of the habour. There were numerous boat-trips on offer, and traditional sea-side arcades. We walked up to see the whale-bone arch and then stopped in the Fisherman's Wife for a light lunch, we were luckily able to do this without pre-booking. I had a delicious local crab and prawn salad, whilst Alex couldn't resist another fish and chips. We then stopped and bought some oysters to take home in our cool bag from the Magpie Café.
Oh, and we brought home this chap to adorn our Christmas tree.
If we'd had longer, it would be great to explore the coastline more and go in search of jet and fossils. Maybe next time?