Set between windswept moorlands and spectacular coastline, Whitby has wild beauty and dark character in abundance. This is where Count Dracula arrived in England and Captain Cook served his seaman's apprenticeship. Of all its delights, Whitby's ancient Benedictine abbey, perched on its East Cliff, leaves the most lasting impression. War and weather have taken their toll, yet the abbey, from which Bram Stoker took inspiration, remains haunting and magnificent.
The town itself buzzes around a fishing port and a maze of cobbled streets and hidden courtyards that haven't changed since the Middle Ages. First-rate chip shops, tearooms and taverns are easy to come by. Distractions are plentiful; those devoted to Whitby's favourite sons vary in quality. The high-seas tour around the bay, in a cut-down replica of Captain Cook's HMS Endeavour is decent; the Captain Cook Memorial Museum is an instructive nook on the harbour front; the Dracula Experience at Marine Parade, though, is typically campy, and aimed at teenagers. But the best thing is to soak up the vibe at the Abbey, and get lost in the backstreets.
Scarborough got its start as a seaside resort in the 17th century. By the Victorian era, it had developed into the trendiest holiday spot in the land. Its Victorian grandeur has faded, but Scarborough - more expansive than Whitby, and sunnier in disposition - has managed to reinvent itself in recent years. Bar and café culture pervades, and its cultural life has been put on show.
Like Whitby, it has serious literary credentials: blue plaques on the Grand Hotel commemorate Wilfred Owen and Anne Bronte; the local theatre, Britain's first in the round, has close ties with Alan Ayckbourn. The wonderful castle, overlooking the North Sea, has been a fortress during 1000 years of sieges and conflicts. On South Cliff, on the opposite side of the bay, the parish church of St Martin-on-the-Hill has stained glass and decoration by William Morris, from the town's Victorian heyday. From here, you can take the Esplanade to Scarborough Spa, now an arts venue, and on into town across the Spa footbridge. The Rotunda Museum, just below the bridge, has the finest collection of Jurassic geology in the region, with plenty of interactive exhibits for kids.
Walk From Whitby To Scarborough
You can walk the stretch of the Cleveland Way between Whitby and Scarborough in a couple of days. The going is fair, and the views are dramatic, taking in the vertiginous cliffs, quaint fishing villages and some of the most glorious beaches in the country. Staithes, a dozen miles north of Whitby, is a fishing village lost in time. Its cottages huddle around a busy harbour and a tiny beach. Further south, Runswick Bay is a picture - a sheltered stretch of sandy beach unfurls from a cluster of red-roofed cottages under the headland. Sandsend gets busy; better to keep on until Robin Hood's Bay, a lively fisherman's village with steeply banked cottages tumbling down to a rocky foreshore. A mile south, accessible at low tide, Boggle Hole is even more atmospheric. Cut from the rock face, it was a notorious smugglers' haunt; its old mill is now a youth hostel and its quiet cove offers the best beach combing around.
There's another fabulous bay at Ravenscar, high on the cliff top and two busy beaches at Scarborough, with donkey rides and pleasures steamers to the south. Towards Bridlington, Hunmanby Gap has golden sand and quiet; Filey Brigg has sandy play and rock pooling; Flamborough Head has white cliffs and wildlife; and Bempton Cliffs has seabirds galore, including guillemots and puffins.
The drive across the top of the moors is breath-taking, but it only lasts 20 minutes. To get the best of the North York Moors National Park, you need to pull up, and go under your own steam. The park website has a number of walks to download, of varying difficulty and interest. Alternatively, the North York Moors Railway, which runs along the valley floor between Pickering and Whitby, offers a more leisurely journey. The route meanders past a string of bucolic moorland villages, each with good walking and cycling, plentiful picnic spots and the occasional pub. Goathland featured as Hogsmeade in Harry Potter and Aidensfield in Heartbeat.
At around £26 for an adult day pass, the North York Moors Railway is not cheap, but it makes a superb day out. At Whitby or Grosmont, you can also hop on the Esk Valley Railway, which pootles past moorland villages towards Teeside, offering stopping points at Egton Bridge, Lealholm and Danby, where the National Park visitor centre is located.
Jeremy's has been voted one of the best seaside restaurants in the country. Scarborough-born chef/owner Jeremy Hollingsworth paid his dues in high-class dining establishments in London and Asia, at the tutelage of Marco Pierre White among others, before returning to start this sophisticated locale on Scarborough's picturesque north side. Stunning food, stunning spot. Advance booking is advisable.
Ditto Restaurant, Whitby
An intimate, family-run restaurant serving classic French and Italian fare Ditto Restaurant is extremely well-regarded locally. The food is delicious, with subtle flourishes, service is first-rate and the value is excellent. It has limited spaces and only a single sitting each night, so you do need to book in advance.
Fish & Chips
Whitby has the best fish and chips in the land. Its Quayside fish and chip shop was crowned king of the fryers last year. But you can't go very wrong for fresh fish along the coast here, with the Magpie Café in Whitby and Ramshill Fisheries, Tunny Club and Mother Hubbard's in Scarborough all taking the art to a higher level.
Real Ale & Pub Grub
If you like real ale, it is worth stopping by the North Riding Brew Pub, two minutes from the North Bay beach, which holds the title of Scarborough CAMRA Town Pub of the Year and has some nectar-like malty hops flowing from its taps. Its reputation is down to its home-cooked food as well. Old Scalby Mills on the Promenade is another highly recommended real-ale pub, with great sea views and decent food.
Ox Pasture Hall, Scarborough
A luxury country house hotel set in 17 acres of grounds and located just outside Scarborough, Ox Pasture Hall offers respite from the bustle of the town and easy access to the coast and countryside. Also boast an award-winning courtyard restaurant offering modern British food.
The Marine, Whitby
Situated on Whitby's harbour side, The Marine, an an elegant corner plot, has just four luxurious rooms with sea views. If you can't get hold of one, then the seafood restaurant downstairs is worth the trip alone. Recommended.
YHA, Boggle Hole
This YHA family-themed hostel in an old mill in the old smugglers' cover of Boggle Hole, just down from Robin Hood's Bay, is a delight for groups. It offers a range of rooms, a no-fuss diner, a pirate-themed decor, spooky treasure trails and unparalleled sea views.