One of the most celebrated and visited sights in the whole of North Yorkshire, the ruins of Whitby Abbey have a fascinating history and are awe-inspiring to behold. There has been a monastery or similar on the site since 657 and it held the position of one of the most important religious spaces 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.
The Abbey was founded in 657 by Oswy, the Saxon King of Northumbria. It was initially known as Streanshalh. Lady Hild (and in the future, Saint Hild) was appointed as the Abbess of Whitby Abbey. It offers a double accommodation for Benedictine monks and nuns.
The building we see today was probably in construction from around 1220, though the foundation lines of an earlier religious building can also be seen. The monks of Whitby spared no expense when transforming their home and place of workshop. 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. A popular seaside resort for the whole of Yorkshire and even further afield, Whitby attracted many visitors. At the same time, the abbey ruins became a tourist destination and there are many engravings and paintings of the time featuring it. The author Bram Stoker himself also visited the area and was inspired to incorporate it in his novel Dracula. When the novel was published in 1897 Whitby gained even more Gothic appeal and a major literary association.
Modern Day Whitby Abbey
The modern-day Abbey ruins are a huge tourist attraction as well as a point of archaeological significance. Visiting today you will enjoy amazing views down over Whitby town and the harbour and there is an interactive visitor centre which takes you through many of the fascinating artefacts and historical events from the Anglo-Saxon period and through to the medieval ages.
There’s a small gift shop nearby for mementoes of your visit and the car park is also well located if you’re in Whitby for a day trip. A nearby café provides refreshments and there is also a picnic area within the gardens if you prefer to bring along your own food. Whitby Abbey can be explored with your dog, as long as they are on the lead, and they are not welcome in all areas of the site so please look out for signs.