I’ve always loved the book Dracula, and I can still remember reading it for the first time, curled up on a stormy winter night by the fireplace: perfect conditions for reading a scary story! When I first visited Whitby, the conditions were equally appropriate–threatening clouds filled the sky and the chilly air was eerily still except when interrupted by dramatic spurts of harsh wind. I was in the town that inspired one of the greatest vampire stories ever written, and it wasn’t hard to imagine the events of the book unfolding in this very place.
Found on England’s northeast coast, and surrounded by the North York Moors National Park, Whitby is one of the most interesting seaside towns I’ve ever visited. Part of Whitby’s appeal is the culture that has grown there because of Dracula‘s popularity.
Every year, a Gothic weekend takes place in Whitby. During the rest of the year, people can just visit one of the many Goth shops. Anyone looking for edgy corsets, spiky boots, long trench coats, or black-lace anything will have plenty of options in Whitby.
It’s fun to look around at the shops and to try on many of the Tim Burton-esque costumes, corsets, and hats, but for an even more interactive activity, my friend and I headed to the “Dracula Experience.” In this haunted house, you walk through creepy, dungeon-like tunnels as a voice narrates the story of Dracula. Complete with sound effects, strobe lights, and monsters that jump out to scare you, this wasn’t necessarily the most cultural experience I’ve had in my travels, but it was a ton of fun to do with a friend. We both screamed every time something jumped out, but a few minutes later, we were walking through the narrow streets again, laughing at how silly that had been.
Whitby is more than just vampire culture, however. The town is crawling with history and beauty.
World explorer Captain James Cook was from Whitby, and the town is proud of that adventurous heritage, showcasing its hero with tributes like this statue.
Just by Cook’s statue is a set of whale bones, which indicate Whitby’s historical significance as a whaling town. Whales had many uses, including their meat for food, their oil for lamps, and their bones for corsets.
The main site in Whitby is its abbey. The ruins of Whitby Abbey are found at the top of a hill and can be reached by climbing 199 steps. It can be exhausting, but it’s a great way to warm up on a cold day! And the view alone makes the climb totally worth it. Whitby is full of houses with red pantiled roofs, and the best way to see them is from above.
The abbey ruins are just as impressive as the view of the town. The abbey fell into disrepair after King Henry VIII started the Church of England, and the ruins are what inspired Bram Stoker to write Dracula.
And if you’re not a literature student, a vampire lover, or a history buff, you can always just go to Whitby to get a taste of the sea. England’s coasts are absolutely lovely, and Whitby is no exception.
I don’t know what it is about Whitby. Maybe it’s the red pantiled roofs, maybe it’s the chills I got from the ruined abbey, maybe it’s the many tributes to Captain Cook and Dracula that can be found all over town, maybe it’s the cute shopping streets, or maybe it’s the view of the sea. There’s something about this place that makes me love it.
Can you see how a place like this inspired the tale of Dracula?