Our long weekend in Whitby came two weeks after we had returned from New York, however, saying goodbye to the North Yorkshire coast, l had holiday blues ten times worse than leaving the Big Apple. I hadn’t been back to the seaside town since graduating from (relatively) nearby University of York in 2010, and it holds a special place in my heart remembering day trips with friends on rare sunny days in the North East. This time, I headed back with my family for four days of surprise plans as part of my 30th birthday celebrations.
If you’ve read my ramblings for a while, you’ll know that I love a theme, from our annual Eurovision party to the 80s movie fancy dress birthday l threw recently, and that entirely stems from the creative genius that is my mum. Amongst the sights and sounds of Whitby itself, she hadorganised party games, fancy dress, cocktail hours and dinner parties centred around one of my favourite literary characters and Whitby’s most famous fictional visitor: Dracula.
In fact, it’s the fang-toothed legend that first drew me to Whitby and up the famous 199 Steps that snake their way up from the cobbled streets below to the imposing Abbey. It was on those steps that one of the main characters of the story first meets the Count, and when the wind is whipping up from the North Sea as you’re wrapped in layer upon layer it feels chilling, rather than cold – there is something of the fictional that feels real up there.
The tourist-laden coasts of the south get all the attention, but Whitby has beauty and a history rooted in magic and the elements which make it weird and wonderful. We went on a walking tour that consisted of 90 minutes around the legends and stories of how the lands around us are rumoured to have been formed, our mesmerising guide spun stories that I could’ve listened to for hours. We were introuduced to St Hilda who turned a plague of snakes into stone and the giants of Wade and Bell who are responsible for the huge valleys dipping into the nearby Yorkshire Moors, tales of old that have been inspired by, and then become part of, the fabric of the land.
Back down in the city, you can of course pick up any number of souveniers and tat dedicated to Romania’s finest, or get spooked at the hideously lo-fi but absolutely hilarious Dracula Experience. In fact, when it comes to the good old fashioned British seaside town tackyness, Whitby has its fair share. I may have only visited for the first time at the age of 19, but the caravan holidays of my childhood mean that you can’t keep me away from an amusement arcade; give me the neon lights of the penny machines and dance mats over Vegas any day.
It’s the sort of place that’s healing in its simplicity and the wind feels like it literally blows the cobwebs from my mind (especially at the end of the shaky west pier!). 245 miles from home and no passport needed but somehow it is a place I can find calm and clarity just for one far too short, long weekend.