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W Hamond - The Original Whitby Jet Store

Is Whitby a nice place to live? Here is all you need to know.

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Are you considering a move to Whitby and wondering if it’s a good place to live? This guide will provide you with all the essential information you need to know.

Whitby is not only a beloved scenic destination for visitors, but it also holds a special place in the hearts of its residents. Whether indulging in award-winning fish or conquering the famous 199 steps, there’s endless enjoyment in this charming Yorkshire seaside town. But what’s it like to live there? Here’s all you need to know.

Living in Whitby. Whitby harbour in the sunshine.

Getting to Whitby, transport links

Whitby may not be the most accessible town, but it’s worth the trip. If you’re from Middlesbrough, direct rail services pass through the moors. However, if you’re travelling from the south, the journey by car or bus from Scarborough may be a bit slow, but the stunning scenery of the North York Moors National Park makes it worth it – especially in late August when the heather is in full bloom.

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Just be aware that parking can be a challenge if you’re driving. For a truly unique experience, you might want to check out the North Yorkshire Moors Railway’s timetable to see when you can catch a steam train from Pickering to Whitby.


Pros of living in Whitby 

Whitby is a unique town; although small, there are plenty of things to do!

Little boy feeding squirrels in Pannett Park.

Beautiful open spaces

One of the best things about Whitby is the abundance of open spaces. You can enjoy the beautiful beaches and walk along the cliff tops on the Cleveland Way, which is part of the Jurassic Coast.

The town also has several parks and gardens to relax and enjoy the outdoors. When it comes to walking around Whitby, you’re spoilt for choice. This gorgeous coastal town is in an almost unique position regarding walking and hiking trails.

Whitby Tate Hill Beach harbour view.

There are plenty of beaches to enjoy

Whitby is a great place for beach lovers to visit. One of the most popular activities in the area is visiting one of the beautiful beaches.

Sandsend is one of the best beaches around the town and is enjoyed by both young and old. It’s a perfect spot to relax and enjoy the refreshing sea air. There are several beaches to choose from, with the main beach located on the West Cliff. This beach extends all the way to Sandsend and is perfect for a long walk when the tide is out.

If you’re a dog lover, there’s also a popular dog-friendly beach on the East Side of town worth checking out in the summer months.

A bowl of seafood at The Magpie Cafe.

There are plenty of places to eat 

If you stroll through the centre of Whitby or along the seafront, you’ll find various restaurants offering diverse cuisines. As a seaside town, Whitby boasts an abundance of places to get high-quality fish and chips and numerous restaurants where you can indulge in locally sourced seafood.

Most of the restaurants in Whitby take pride in sourcing all their ingredients from the Yorkshire area, providing visitors with a chance to try some truly local food. With so many high-quality restaurants, narrowing down a list of the best is challenging. However, we’ve compiled a list of 26 highly recommended Whitby restaurants you can read here.

Family at Abbey Wharf having a meal in Whitby.

And drink!

You don’t have to look far for a pub in Whitby! Despite being a small coastal town, Whitby boasts many fantastic pubs. These establishments have preserved much of their traditional charm, serving up excellent ale and delicious pub fare and staffed by friendly landlords.

The pubs and inns along the East and West Cliff are especially popular with locals and tourists. However, do expect them to be bustling during the evenings and over the weekend from Friday lunch onwards. Additionally, many of the pubs are both child-friendly and dog-friendly.

Little boy looking at lucky ducks glass ornaments.

Independent shops

If you like your shopping, you will like Whitby. They have some fabulous Jewellers, selling quality Whitby Jet, of course, but also some independent, interesting, and quirky stores.

The narrow streets of Whitby are filled with independent shops offering a variety of unique items such as jewellery, old-fashioned sweets, and ornaments like glass ducks. You can spend hours wandering these charming streets and discovering new shops.

Art and culture

Whitby and the North Yorkshire coast are perfect if you enjoy spending time in a place with plenty of art and culture. Several museums and galleries in the area offer a wealth of information. Visiting these local Whitby museums is a great way to immerse yourself in the town’s past and present.

Whitby Museum was established in the early 1800s to showcase fascinating fossils brought from faraway lands by captains of Whitby’s sailing ships.

The museum’s authentic Victorian charm has stood the test of time, providing visitors with genuine awe and wonder. In addition to the original exhibits, the museum’s new wing offers a contemporary look and hosts temporary displays. The museum and art gallery boasts many stunning artworks and historical artefacts that date back over a century.

Boy looking out at Whitby Harbour..

Schools

As with any area, the quality of the schools can vary depending on several factors, such as funding, resources, and teaching staff. Several highly regarded schools in the area have a good reputation for providing a high standard of education to their students. These schools include Caedmon College, Eskdale School, and Fyling Hall School. It’s worth researching each of these schools to see which one might best fit your needs.


What is the impact of tourism living locally?

It’s worth noting that Whitby is a popular tourist destination, and plenty of second homes are located here. For some, this tourist-centric hotspot may not be ideal for permanent residence. Additionally, the town has a relatively small population of just 13,000 and a median age of 39.

Parking in Whitby can be a challenge. It is often confusing and busy, and parking zones can change seasonally. During summer, weekends, and events, parking can be very frustrating if you live locally.

There are some excellent aspects of tourism in Whitby. Tourism in Whitby significantly boosts the local economy, creating jobs and generating revenue for local businesses.


What’s it like to live and run a business in Whitby?

We spoke to guest house owner Ruth Dennison about her experience living and working in Whitby.

Mount House in Whitby snug area.
You can stay at Ruth’s beautiful home in the centre of Whitby. Learn more here – Mount House, Whitby

Living and working here was never something I thought possible. Moving here was a post-divorce temporary solution, which gradually became a permanent solution as the family house was re-renovated and I opened two guest rooms. I really love hosting. I can’t tell you how many lovely people have stayed. They tend to be people who love old houses and have an interest in some aspect of Whitby. It might sound a bit mad, but I want the long-since-gone people who built this house to approve of its present use and the way it looks now. They would have been locals, whereas my family came from Leeds and Bradford.

You often read that all humans are drawn to water and the ‘psychologically restorative effect’ of the sea. And that’s it. That’s why it’s so good to live here. Look one way and there is the vast North Sea and extraordinary beaches. You don’t need to walk far to find yourself near to alone in the other world of waves, rocks, cliffs and seabirds.  It is equally restorative and exciting to know that every day there will be a different constellation of sea, sand and sky. A tide retreats and a new pattern of sand ripples settles as unique as fingerprints. There is an irresistible magic and otherworldliness along this coast.

Turn the other way to the town and there’s tangible history everywhere. More than anywhere else I have lived there is so much to discover in Whitby and one interest leads to another and another and another.

Our street is beautiful. There is next to no parking. It’s beautiful in part because there are no cars. You can walk in the middle of the street enjoying the Georgian and Victorian houses and gardens. Yes, lots of the houses in Cliff Street are holiday lets or holiday homes, but more and more are occupied by people who work here, live here or have retired to Whitby. It is just great to walk along the street and know you are likely to chat with a neighbour or greet a friend. Many of us don’t own a car, and we are all older people.

There is tolerance here. It’s often noted. Be as you want, no one will bat an eyelid. Is that something to do with seaside towns? I like the direct manner – and the local accent. It’s not a gentle place; there’s often a rawness of weather both invigorating and tough. The cold is hard to keep out of the house and so in winter, I try to spend time away with my grandchildren.

I am told the seagulls moved from the nearby cliffs to the town rooftops in the 70s. I always wondered about the old photos of washing drying on the beaches. After a while, you attune to the seagull lifecycle. It’s the same with the visitors. Things quieten down a little over winter, just a little. Like all holiday destinations, there are days when the streets are packed, the shops are packed and the beach is packed. You do well to do your food shopping early. There will be long queues if you leave it too late. By lunchtime, the first few drunks are staggering out of the pubs. It can be rowdy at the weekend, but the way noise carries up from the harbour is misleading too. I’ve often thought there must be a riot going on in the middle of the night only to look out of the window and find it’s one or two pub stragglers arguing.

I think you need a bit of flexibility to find your way here. There often have to be sidelines. For me, it’s the fossil soaps I make and package at the house. Like most seaside towns now, there are next-to-no career-ladder jobs here.

Guests often remark that it must be an amazing feeling to live in this beautiful house and wake up to stunning views every single day. It is. I know I am extraordinarily fortunate to live here.

Ruth Denison, Mount House, Whitby

What’s it like to grow up in Whitby?

We spoke to Whitby local Sara Harland about her experience growing up and raising her family in Whitby.

My Whitby lineage descends from local genealogy such as Weatherill, Parkin, Readman, Trueman and Crowter family trees. I currently live here, working and raising my children with Whitby’s historic port as a backdrop.

Growing up in Whitby, we were told stories about Whitby’s past. The local area was used in the school curriculum frequently. We learnt about the River Esk and the North Yorkshire Moors that surround the boundaries of the town. The River Esk is the only major river in North Yorkshire that flows directly into the North Sea. The terrain and geography of the whole area were taught to us, and school trips were just on our doorsteps. We learnt about local jet works, dinosaurs that roamed the area and precious jet that could be found within the cliffs.

I grew up on the East Side of Whitby, which is divided by the River Esk. Previously, there was only one bridge in the town centre that you could cross from one side to the other. So, it has only been in the last forty years that there have been two bridges connecting both sides of the town. This meant that some people never left their side of the water!

Where you lived defined your education and housing, there is more social mobility now, and the house prices on the East Side of town are prime real estate. The cottages within the yards of Whitby that large families used to call their homes are now high-value commodities on Airbnb.

My great grandparents were the landlord and landlady of The Ship Inn pub, followed by my grandparents, so my dad and his sister were brought up on St Ann’s Staith in the harbour area. This pub dates back to 1639, and like all the pubs in Whitby, it was full of fishermen who had come back from the sea to sink a few pints.

Living in Whitby, there is such a strong community feel; Whitby people have an inbuilt genealogy search engine, and when describing someone, they will say, “You do know them; it’s so and so’s lass/lad!” We can go back through various generations to identify someone!

The town’s livelihood was based around fishing, and when the fishing industry started to decline in the 1970s, a workforce of men went to the surrounding area on buses to Wilton into heavy industry. Here, people learnt the scaffolding trade; this is where my Granddad Parkin and my Dad went to work. They would travel 26 miles there and back to work. Now, the job market in Whitby is based on the tourist trade.

The town’s aesthetics have never changed; the cobbled streets of Church Street and the houses of Whitby have witnessed the town evolve into the present day of thousands of visitors who come all year round. The hustle and bustle of the harbour has moved from herring boats bringing the catch home with seagulls circling for treats to the sound of people who have travelled miles to walk up the 199 steps and eat the local delicacies.

I would spend nearly every Saturday morning as a child with my sister, exploring the Tate Hill Sands and Henrietta Street. We would be busy on the beach whilst my Mum, my Auntie, and an army of friends would coordinate the cleaning of holiday cottages on this ancient street. The smell of the smoking kippers from Fortune’s Kipper House and the spices of the Shepherd’s Purse health shop that used to trade on Church Street takes me back to this time.

Regatta Day was a massive part of my childhood, and the build-up of this event would be the highlight of summer. The whole town would prepare for Regatta, and your loyalty to which rowing club would define your friendship with people. If you choose a blue oar, your allegiance is to Whitby Fishermans Amateur Rowing Club, and a red oar is to Whitby Friendship Amateur Rowing Club. Even if your neighbour were part of the opposite club, you would only talk to them after Regatta, as rivalry could intensify. There have been many intense conversations on the fish pier about races about who won what and why!

I feel lucky to live here. The beach is just a short walk away, and my family and friends live all around me. My children get to grow up with activities such as rowing, exploring the coastline, and finding shipwrecks. There is no place like Whitby and the people who live here.

Sara Harland

In conclusion, Whitby is a lovely town with plenty of things to see and do. It has a vibrant community and is a great place to visit. Whether or not it’s a nice place to live depends on your preferences and lifestyle. If you live in Whitby and want to add your experience, please comment below.

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