The Joneses have been away on their travels again. In our quest to see as much of the UK as possible we booked a trip to Whitby, a seaside fishing town on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors.This is a very historical town, with the founding of its iconic Abbey dating back to 657AD. It was once one of the busiest ship building ports, and produced ships that sailed the high seas under the command of Captain James Cook. The harbour is now filled with privately owned craft, and a bell sounds on the half hour to signal the opening of the swing bridge to allow boats to pass through.
Whitby also has an association with Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Ever since as a teenager I snuck a copy of Dracula beneath the sheets and all but frightened myself silly reading it, I’ve been fascinated by the paranormal. So on hearing that Stoker spent several months in Whitby, where he got many of his ideas for the story, I have wanted to visit the town. It’s taken me…ahem, quite a few years to get up there, but this year I was determined to make it.
So, during one of the most glorious weeks of the year so far, we set off. After a night’s stay in Derbyshire, we travelled onward and eventually made it to the edge of the Yorkshire Moors. We took several stops along the way for coffee and cake, as you do, and eventually glimpsed Whitby. It’s hard to miss, with ruins of its Gothic Abbey sitting atop a cliff and beckoning the visitor ever closer to the quaint and picturesque town.
We stayed in a lovely guest house, and our hosts knew all the places to see both in Whitby and its surroundings, but there was only one thing I really wanted to do and that was go in search of Bram Stoker’s inspiration for his seminal work. Being a writer, I’m always fascinated by the way fellow writers are inspired to write plot, character and use setting. So, following the directions in the little pink book of the same name, we set off on The Dracula Trail.
We started at the memorial bench, then headed up the 199 steps to the Abbey, the steps that Stoker had the ill-fated heroine of his novel ascending in the dead of night beckoned by the dreaded Count. The Abbey ruins are stunning and very atmospheric. Once a Benedictine abbey, it fell into ruins after the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry V111 in 1540.
We also took a trip down to the old harbour which inspired Stoker to use the bones of a true story for the scene in his novel where the ship Dementer, carrying wooden boxes filled with earth from Dracula’s homeland in which he could rest, was shipwrecked. The old cobbled streets are still very similar to the way Stoker would have seen them and the whole area is incredibly atmospheric.
To end the trail we visited the Dracula Experience, which was a sort of wax museum which told the story from start to finish. No sooner had we entered the darkened building when I knew it wasn’t such a good idea. Now, I love to be scared but this took it to a whole new level. The wax models were far too realistic for my liking and at one stage, deep into the museum when all the lights went out, I actually screamed. Clinging to AJ for dear life, he told me not to look down. Of course I did, only to see hundreds of holographic spiders skittering across the floor. It was my worst nightmare come to life. So, with AJ pulled so tight to me that we could barely shuffle along (and not helped when he thought it would be fun to nibble at my neck) I hurried him through to the much-welcomed exit sign.
Our last day was spent in a more sedate manner and we took the old steam train onto the moor. Since we both love trains, we were in our element. The journey took about an hour and a bit, and we passed through Goathsmead station which became Hogsmead Station in the Harry Potter films. Great fun. Excuse the tilted photo, but I was hanging out the window at the time.
We had such a great time in Whitby, that we’ve put it on our places to revisit at some time in the future. So far the decision to explore the UK and see more of our own country has proved extremely fruitful, and as far as Whitby goes, I’m so glad I got to visit even if it took me more years that I care to admit to make it happen.