Whitby Abbey is one of the finest scenes Whitby has to offer
The history of Whitby Abbey
Whitby Abbey was the first monastery in North Yorkshire and dates back to around 657. It was once the setting for the Synod of England, which played a vital role in the history of the Church of England. The founder of the original monastery was St Hilda, who was born in 614AD. Hilda was an Anglo-Saxon and became the Abbess of the original Abbey in 657AD. This was a double monastery for both monks and nuns, and having appointed Abbess St. Hilda decided to settle in Whitby. She hosted the famous Synod of Whitby and was also a much-respected teacher. In addition, she supported many causes including being a patron of the arts. She died in 680AD and was buried at Whitby. People reported seeing miracles at her grave and she was eventually sainted and her bones were enshrined. However, her shrine was demolished as a result of the invasion by the Danes.
During the 9th century, Whitby Abbey was abandoned, possibly as a result of Viking raids. However, in 1078 a new monastic community was founded in Whitby. In the 13th century, the church was rebuilt in a Gothic style and is thought to have been finished in around the 15th century.
During the 1700s and 1800s, a lot of the Abbey was destroyed due to exposure to the elements. However, in the early 19th century, Whitby town started to gain popularity as a seaside destination and what was left of the Abbey – the ruins – became a popular attraction and landmark in the area.
Whitby Abbey and Dracula
One of the things that really put Whitby Abbey, or rather the ruins of the Abbey, on the map was the publication of the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. This was published in 1897 and resulted in renewed interest in the ruins of the Abbey.
Bram Stoker came to visit Whitby town in 1890, and it was this visit that gave him the inspiration that he was looking for to create his world famous character and Gothic novel. The ruins of Whitby Abbey dominating the landscape and the eerie setting of the ruins gave him inspiration for his book. He also went to a local library, where he found a book that was written eight decades earlier. This book mentioned an evil 15th century villain in Romania who was known as Dracula and impaled people on wooden stakes. While the book did take a number of years to write following his visits to Whitby, it was his experience in this town and of the Abbey ruins that provided him with his inspiration.
Whitby Abbey Illuminated
If you want to see Whitby Abbey in a new light and from a new perspective, one event you may be interested in is Illuminated Abbey. This will take place from 25th to 31st October and will see the Abbey ruins spectacularly illuminated. There will be costume characters in attendance, ready to tell spooky stories associated with the Abbey. In addition, you can also come along in fancy dress for Halloween. To finish your special experience, there is also a live performance of Dracula for you to enjoy, resulting from the Abbey’s close association with Bran Stoker and his Gothic novel.
199 Steps to St Mary’s Church and Whitby Abbey
For those who have the stamina, one way to reach the Abbey is to climb the famous 199 Steps to St. Mary’s Church and then through the graveyard to Whitby Abbey.
It is well worth trying these steps for the spectacular views you get as you get towards the top. Another reason why people climb them is to count them – this has become something of a tradition.
Contact Tel: 01947 603 568
Seasonal opening times
- April – September: 10am until 6pm
- October: 10am until 5pm
- November 1st to 5th: 10am until 4pm
- November 6th to December 23rd: 10am until 4pm (Saturdays and Sundays only)
- December 27th to 31st: 10am until 4pm
- January 1st to February 11th: 10am until 4pm (Saturdays and Sundays only)
- February 12th to 18th: 10am until 4pm
- February 19th to March 29th: 10am until 4pm (Saturdays and Sundays only)
Please note that last admission is always 30 minutes prior to closing.
There is a council-run car park around one hundred meters from the Abbey. There is a fee for parking. There are wheelchairs available for disabled visitors at the car park entrance as well as the Visitor Centre.
- Baby changing and push chair facilities
- Audio tours are part of the admission
- Dogs on a leash are allowed in certain parts
- Toilets are located in the car park
- Gift shop
- Open grassed areas for picnics
- Cafe located next door
Other than Whitby Abbey, Whitby has many other historical and interesting modern structures that are noteworthy. Whitby Railway Station, St Mary's Church, Old Town Hall and the Whalebone Arch (and that is exactly what it sounds like), are a few of these examples.
This beautiful town has been home to many authors, inspiring their work, and offering them the peace they need to write. Caedmon, a well-known Anglo-Saxon poet, Stoker (the author of the well-known novel Dracula), Charles Dickens (the author of many famous novels such as David Copperfield, and Great Expectations), and even the American writer James Russel Lowell are known to have lived in or visited Whitby at one point or another. What better proof of Whitby's beauty than Lowell's quote: “This my ninth year at Whitby, and the place loses none of its charm for me.”