Go Gothic in seaside Whitby

by RHD

Fish and chips, candy floss, arcades… Whitby in North Yorkshire conjures up the usual seaside images – with a Gothic twist. If Dracula, Victorian costume and the macabre are your thing, read on

Cobbled streets and narrow alleyways lead to all manner of delights. There are boutiques selling everything from antiques to tacky souvenirs; seafront arcades with flashing lights and loud jingles luring people in, coat pockets jangling with coppers; and shops and stalls selling the old favourites: fish and chips, candy rock, fresh doughnuts and candy floss. The beach is dotted with dog walkers, their animals scurrying excitedly across the wide open space, kicking up sand and chasing waves. Welcome to Whitby in all its quaintness.

These, too, are the very streets in which Dracula came to life. I wonder what prompted Bram Stoker to unleash such a fiend into this tranquil setting. Then again, the contrast is pure genius – and quite comical for a moment, as I imagine a modern-day Dracula strolling along the beach with his dog Zoltan. Sucking on a sugar dummy, he throws a squeaky ball seawards for the hound to retrieve.

If you are partial to the odd Dracula movie, and love all things macabre, why not visit during Whitby Gothic Weekend (October 30-November 1, 2009, and again next spring)? You will see plenty of women kitted out in Victorian corsets, full skirts and ethereal white make-up – and lots of men wearing top hats, with long flowing hair spilling down on to frilled white shirts and smart black waistcoats, many clutching canes to complete the Victorian Gentleman look. You will probably see a few flashes of fangs, too – but they are just part of the costume, honest.

If you find you are a little peckish, and feasting on the blood of a wholesome maiden is not your style, try the ever-popular Magpie Café (14 Pier Road, adjacent to the harbour) for a fresh fish experience. If you don’t fancy waiting in the long but eager queue, grab a hot pork-and- stuffing sandwich at The Greedy Pig (on Golden Lion Bank) to eat on the move. Scrumptious. Alternatively, enjoy a satisfying pub meal accompanied by a well- deserved pint at The Granby (34 Skinner Street), which is cosy and friendly.

To burn off the excess calories after lunch, how about a slow climb up the 199 steps leading to the Abbey – admittedly, no easy feat. If you’re not up to that, you can always browse the variety of shops and market stalls scattered throughout the town. Not in the mood for shopping? Spend all your loose change in the arcades, or venture out on a short boat trip (various local operators).

If you decide to make a weekend of it, there is a wide choice of accommodation in and around Whitby. Why not stay in a self-catering apartment or cottage? I can personally recommend Eskape Cottage (01274 586032, email claire@eskapecottage.com), a Grade II-listed property which overlooks the marina and is in a prime location for reaching shops, restaurants, pubs and the beach.

If you don’t fancy making your own bacon butties for breakfast, stay at one of the many b&bs up on the West Cliff. A few examples are the Esklet Guesthouse (01947 605663; doubles from £27.50), the Europa (01947 602251; doubles from £62) and the Boulmer Guesthouse (01947 604284; doubles from £60).

Whitby attracts people of all ages and backgrounds. Whether it is a summer day trip to eat ice-cream on the pier, or a weekend break to enjoy one of the many specialised festivals taking place, you are guaranteed to have some good old-fashioned British fun.