Why Whitby, the seaside town that inspired Dracula, is to die for


Britain at its best: Whitby is the coastal city of Yorkshire that inspired Dracula – and to die for

  • In the 1897 classic of Bram Stoker, Count Dracula landed at Whitby on a gunman
  • The most beautiful Gothic place is its abbey, which overlooks the coast
  • Harry Mount stayed at The Riviera, a comfortable B&B with & # 39; epic & # 39; sea ​​views

Sitting in the Fisherman's Wife restaurant, eating a dressed crab fresh from the North Sea, I was suddenly cold to the bone.

There, walking along Whitby's empty beach, was a huge, lonely dog. For a split second, I thought it was Dracula.

In 1897's classic Bram Stoker classic, Count Dracula landed at Whitby on a shipwrecked schooner, the Demeter, thirsting for blood. The crew is all dead, including the captain, found to be towed. The only survivor is a relentless dog.

Gothic splendor: The ruins of Whitby Abbey overlooking the North Yorkshire coast

Once the Demeter touched the shore, the dog jumped out to the sand and went straight to the steep cliff under St Mary's Church. The dog is Dracula in disguise.

The dog I saw was indeed directed at his owner – and, thankfully, he did not turn into a blood-sucking, chest-wrenching, Transylvanian mass murderer.

There are echoes of Bram Stoker everywhere in Whitby. He stayed in & # 39; the charming Royal Crescent (at number 6), just around & # 39; a corner of my comfortable B&B, the Riviera Guesthouse.

The Riviera, a tall, classic house, has epic ocean views. I looked for hours out of my bay window of my bedroom when it fell dark over the waves, which then left me asleep.

Whitby still has a Gothic feel, with Goths dressed in black, strolling through the city. I passed two in the 60's, in matching, sweeping hats, and ran their dog along the Khyber Pass, a street that came forward from & # 39; e port.

Whitby's most beautiful gothic place is its abbey, which sits on its head above the city. Despite being bashed by Henry VIII – and a stray German bomb in 1914 – the towering arches still survive, yards from & # 39; cliff side and St Mary & # 39; s Church, just above the beach, where & # 39; the dragons of & # 39; a dog made his landing.

English Heritage recently completed a beautiful refurbishment of its museum in the 17th-century country house which is in & # 39; the shadow of & # 39; an abbey sits. It was at the Whitby Synod in 664 AD that King Oswiu of Northumbria said he would follow the southern Christian customs of Rome, instead of & # 39; the northern Christian customs, followed by Irish monks on the Scottish island of Iona.

The Riviera Guesthouse, is a & # 39; comfortable & # 39; B&B with & # 39; epic & # 39; sea ​​views, says Harry Mount

The Riviera Guesthouse, is a & # 39; comfortable & # 39; B&B with & # 39; epic & # 39; sea ​​views, says Harry Mount

In the Whitby Abbey museum, the earliest three-dimensional Anglo-Saxon crosses have ever been found in Britain – from around 700 AD, just after the Synod. D & # 39; s a very early fragment of Anglo-Saxon stained glass; jewelry made from that familiar black jet; and the 12th-century Abbot & # 39; s Book, written in Latin and Anglo-Saxon – a real rarity, with the details of & # 39; the landholdings of & # 39; an abbey.

The explorer Captain James Cook, killed 240 years ago in Hawaii, remains the city's favorite son. He began his career as a merchant apprentice there. His statue looks out to sea from West Cliff, and he figures prominently in the Whitby Museum in Pannett Park.

Also worth seeing is the Captain Cook Memorial Museum – a beautifully elegant, mid-18th-century house where Cook was housed from 1746-49. The most stirring exhibits are the 16th-century maps that show large holes in the Pacific Ocean on & # 39; places that have yet to be discovered by Cook.

You might say it was Cook that didn't really put Whitby on the map either – until a mammoth dog with a manic blood lust came to the beach in 1897.


Double sea view rooms at Riviera Guesthouse from £ 80 per night (rivierawhitby.com). Whitby Abbey is open daily from 10am to 6pm (englishheritage.org.uk/whitby). Whitby Abbey and its new museum opened on April 1 (adults £ 8.90; children £ 5.30).


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