One of the most celebrated and visited sights on the North Yorkshire coast, the ruins of Whitby Abbey are home to a fascinating history and awe-inspiring to behold.
There has been a monastery or similar on the site since 657 and it once held the position of one of the most important religious locations in the world. In 664, it became the setting for the Synod of Whitby, a landmark event in the complete history of the Church of England and the Abbey was founded in 657 by Oswy, the Saxon King of Northumbria.
It was initially known as Streanshalh and Lady Hild (later Saint Hild) was appointed as the Abbess. Offering accommodation for Benedictine monks and nuns.
The building you see today was probably under construction from around 1220 (though the foundation lines of an earlier religious dwelling can also be seen) and the monks of Whitby spared no expense when transforming their home and place of workshop. As such, when the Abbey was finished, it represented one of the finest pieces of early Gothic architecture in Britain.
By the early 19th century, Whitby had gained real popularity as a tourist destination. At the same time, the Abbey ruins became a must-visit attraction. The author Bram Stoker even visited the area and was inspired to incorporate it in his novel Dracula. Which, when published in 1897, helped Whitby gain even more Gothic appeal and a major literary association.
Modern Day Whitby Abbey
The Abbey ruins today attract visitors in their droves and are a prominent point of archaeological significance. Offering stunning views out across the North Sea and bustling harbour below from atop the 199 steps. There’s also an interactive visitor centre which takes you on a journey through many fascinating artefacts and historical events, from Anglo-Saxon through to the medieval ages.
There are plenty of places to refuel close by, or a picnic space within the gardens, if you prefer to dine alfresco. While parts of the grounds can be explored with your four legged friends, too.
Whitby Abbey is just a short drive from the doorsteps of our North Yorkshire Coast Moors and Coast cottages. The perfect base from which to explore the surrounding countryside and shoreline.