The next day dawned with more promise. Although some clouds loomed in the sky, they didn’t look threatening to our quest of Dracula in Whitby. We checked out of our guesthouse after breakfast and headed into the town. Our first destination was Royal Crescent. This is a beautiful spot on the West Cliff with a close connection to the novel and its storyline. But before you proceed to read about it, make sure you read our previous blog to get a clear picture.
Royal Crescent – The Remnant of Past Glory
Perched atop the West Cliff is a grand set of buildings called Royal Crescent. It was built by George Hudson, a visionary who brought railways to Whitby. Hudson came into some money as a beneficiary of a distant relative. He bought shares in the newly formed North Midland Railway. The success of the venture motivated him to set up his own railway company to link York with towns in the West Riding.
Railways changed the fortunes of Whitby. It became easily accessible and affordable. Day trips and long stays became popular and it spurred Hudson to construct a structure similar to the famous Royal Crescent, a row of 30 terraced houses laid out in crescent shape in the city of Bath, Somerset. However, this proved to be an over ambitious project as Hudson ran out of funds mid-way.
Regardless, the structure was impressive and it soon attracted tourists from far and wide. One day an Irishman, who was the manager of actor Henry Irving, also arrived in Whitby.
Tip: Parking is free at the Royal Crescent premises during the off-season. That is a huge blessing as you can park your vehicle there and head to other spots on foot.
Bram Stoker and Number 6, Royal Crescent – Connection to Dracula in Whitby
That was none other than Bram Stoker. He arrived in Whitby on a holiday during the late 1800s. He was already in the process of writing his novel – named count vampire – and was working towards its completion. Stoker stayed at Mrs Veazey’s guesthouse at the Royal Crescent and the rest is history. The place influenced him so much that he spent the years from 1890-96 in Whitby, finishing his novel.
During the early day of his stay in Whitby, Stoker used to go sit at the library while the housekeeper went about cleaning his room. It was through the library window that he first saw the view of St. Mary’s church and Whitby Abbey perched on the East Cliff.
Bram Stoker Bench – Underlying Dracula’s Connection to Whitby
Just ahead the Royal Crescent, on a small mount overlooking the East Cliff and the River Esk, you’ll find several benches. They offer a fantastic view of East Cliff, church and the abbey. The bench at the extreme right (as you face the East Cliff) is popular as Dracula bench.
The Scarborough council installed that bench to mark the spot from where Bram Stoker looked out to the East Cliff. This spot inspired Stoker to use Whitby as a setting in his novel. As we know, he included the town and its setting beautifully in the novel. Stoker incorporated Whitby in the story so beautifully that we almost believe Dracula really came to Whitby and killed the people here for real.
The Screaming Tunnel or Dracula Tunnel – Another Spot that Ties Dracula to Whitby
By the side of the benches or almost underneath them, you’ll see a small tunnel leading to the town. It is a sort of short cut that takes you to the town. However, this tunnel has its own tales to tell. Although a perfectly harmless looking tunnel in broad daylight, many locals and tourists have experienced unexplained coldness, screams and other such things while walking through it at night. Locals believe that the tunnel is haunted by ghosts.
Stoker obviously heard these tales and used it in his novel. It is this tunnel through which the two characters, Lucy and Mina come from town to their hotel. Lucy sleepwalks through the tunnel towards the church when she feels Dracula’s pull. No wonder that most people hesitate to use the tunnel after dark even today.
Ghost stories and eerie feelings aside, the tunnel offers a beautiful view of the East Cliff. It is a great spot to take some stunning photos too – if you don’t mind apologising for blocking the way to the endless stream of people walking through the tunnel.
Captain Cook Monument
Along the West Cliff, overlooking the East Cliff and River Esk/Sea is the Captain Cook monument. He was a British explorer, navigator, cartographer, and captain in the Royal Navy. Cook created detailed maps of Newfoundland before making three voyages to the Pacific Ocean. The first recorded discovery of eastern Australia, Hawaii and the first circumnavigation of New Zealand occurred during these voyages.
Captain Cook is closely associated with Whitby. He trained in Whitby for nine years and all four of his ships – Endeavour, Adventure, Discovery, and Resolution – were built in Whitby. So, it is only natural that the city has a monument to honour one of the most famous explorers of the time. Countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada donated the plaques installed on the sides of the column on which the statue stands, to honour his contribution.
The Whalebone Arch – A Whitby Speciality
A notable attraction at the Royal Crescent is the huge whalebone arch. Whitby, a harbour town and port was famous for its whaling industry in the olden days. It is said that Whitby’s whaling industry was responsible for harvesting close to 3000 whales between 1753 and 1833. As many as 55 whaling ships operated from Whitby during that period.
A successful whaling expedition was marked by whale jaws attached to the ship’s mast. Such a trip would bring money and fame to the local men who braved hazardous seas and extreme weather conditions. However, Whitby’s whaling industry came to an end by 1837 as successive trips resulted in failure and the last whaling ship returned empty to the shores of Whitby.
The whalebone arch is a tribute to their bravery. The original Whale jaw bone arch was erected after 1853 – it is preserved in the Whitby Archives & Heritage Centre. Norway presented Whitby with a replica whalebone in 1963. However, the present whalebone arch that greets us is donated by Alaska in 2003. It is the bones of a whale found abandoned after a legal hunt on the Alaskan coast.
A Befitting Structure in Whitby
The whalebone arch is massive. It features a harpoon at the top to represent Whitby’s whaling past. The harpoon points in the direction of the North Pole. Apparently, there is no land mass between Whitby coast and the North Pole.
Unsurprisingly, the whalebone arch offers a perfect setting for photos. You can take awesome pics standing underneath the massive bones. Another photo opportunity is to click the picture of Whitby abbey framed within the whalebone. Can anyone think of a better pic to show off on Instagram?
Ghost Walk Tour – A Great Way to Know the Local Ghost Stories
We had visited West Cliff the previous night when we went on a ghost walk tour. We had opted for the Ghost Walk by Dr, Crank – a 70 min walk along the towns alleys hearing all about the Whitby ghosts and Dracula. Dressed in an impressive long coat and top hat, along with a walking stick (don’t be surprised if someone thinks that is Dracula himself), Dr. Crank took us along the dimly lit alleys of the town as he told us all about the local ghosts.
If you love ghost stories, the tales of the Dutchman’s house, headless horseman, hand of glory, grey lady (many of which reminded of characters in Harry Potter) and haunted lighthouse will delight you. Dr. Crank will also show you the town in all its ghostly splendour, with the right dose of fear and dark humour. We enjoyed the walk and would recommend it to anyone interested.
Now, after enjoying the scenery to the fullest, we went through the Dracula tunnel into the town. We wanted to explore it in day time. We walked along some of the alleyways we went through the other night. It certainly looked less eerie and more welcoming in day light. In fact, we liked what we saw. A lovely town town nestled between two cliffs, with the river flowing past – a beautiful setting indeed.
We came across many tourist attractions such as ferry trips, arcade games, and of course, Dracula themed attractions. The Dracula experience is a tour showing Dracula’s connection with Whitby. Exhibits, animated stories and even live acting are all a part of this. One of the major attractions here is the outfit worn by Christopher Lee, the lead actor of Dracula film of 1977. It weighs 50 kg!
Unfortunately, we were short of time and so we couldn’t see it all first-hand. Next time, maybe.
Time for Whitby’s Famous Fish n Chips
By then, it was well past noon and we were yet to eat our lunch. We came across Magpie Cafe, which is known as the best fish and chips shop in the town. We did not pre-book and so dining in wasn’t possible. However, there was a takeaway counter. Although the line in front of it was fairly long, we too joined the queue.
After waiting in the line for almost half an hour or so, we ordered our food and carried it to a bandstand by the pier. It was full of people enjoying their takeaways from the nearby cafes and eateries. We found a place to sit and as soon as we took out the box of fish and chips, gulls started closing in. One cheeky gull almost grabbed the food, but we were too quick for him.
It was a huge challenge guarding the fish n chips from the gulls while trying to enjoy the lunch. Thankfully, we managed to eat our lunch without losing them to the gulls. It was sad to note that several people fed these gulls even though there were notices everywhere asking people not to do so.
We sat watching everything for sometime and walked towards the pier. It was already evening by then and the sun was about to set. We walked along the pier enjoying the view. There was a lighthouse at the end – one on the other pier as well. The piers looked like a necklace from the clifftop – as if someone left a necklace floating in water…
Some families were enjoying themselves at the small beach by the pier. We were too cold to venture out there. We just walked towards the end. It was getting darker. The sun disappeared behind dark clouds. The rains, which stayed away the whole day threatened to fall any moment.
It was time to go back home. We had a wonderful time in this lovely town. Although it was the search for Dracula in Whitby that drew us here, the sheer beauty and drama of the landscape mesmerised us. We wish to come back to Whitby for the Goth festival, which is a big event.
In case we can’t be back for that, we know that this beautiful town has given us good memories to last a long time. If you don’t believe us, visit Whitby and discover for yourself its hidden charms. We are sure you’ll fall in love with it as much as we did!
Watch our video on Dracula in Whitby to see a glimpse of the town.
And don’t forget to check our previous blogs too.