Set on a headland high over the picturesque fishing port of Whitby, the hauntingly dramatic ruins of Whitby Abbey have been a source of artistic inspiration for centuries. To find out what makes the abbey so unique, we spoke to Members’ Panellist, writer, and serious Whitby enthusiast Lindsay Anne Kendal.
“Friends and family had told me about Whitby Abbey many times. They said it was a place I simply had to visit and that I would fall in love with it. And I have to admit, they were right.
What really captured my interest was when I learned of its association with Bram Stoker. Being a writer myself, I can certainly understand how Whitby inspired him to write my favourite book of all time: Dracula.
As you drive to the location, you see the awe-inspiring ruins of this Benedictine abbey standing proud, overlooking the town of Whitby and the North Sea. There are two entrances. At both you are met by friendly staff and are able to take advantage of an audio tour. You can also visit the shop and take a walk around the museum, which displays a wide range of interesting artifacts found at the site, as well as interactive touch-screens filled with fascinating history.
“I was speechless. It captured my heart and my soul”
I’ve visited Whitby Abbey several times now. On my first visit, as soon as I entered the grounds I was speechless. It captured my heart and soul. I simply stood for several minutes, staring. This had to be one of the most atmospheric places I had ever visited! As I started walking around, my imagination ran wild... Sometimes it seemed as though I had gone back in time; I could picture monks and nuns walking around, and now I was retracing their steps.
I headed towards the presbytery. The beautiful stonework, slightly pitted from, I assume, the salty coastal air, is still rich in detail. This provided me with the opportunity to get some stunning photographs, and it seemed as though I wasn’t the only one. Many people were taking pictures of the ruin, and preserving special memories with family shots. I ended up spending a couple of hours there.
“This place is a photographers’ and artists’ dream!”
I visited again the following year, and that was when I joined English Heritage as a Member. This time there was a rather large group of school children there, who all seemed totally mesmerized. I noticed that most were sketching the ruins (not surprising really - this place is a photographers’ and artists’ dream!) Each looked as though they were thoroughly enjoying themselves. Visitors can also take a stroll around, or sit in the grass beside the abbey pond. On this occasion, I also took time to visit St Mary’s Church, which is equally as beautiful and steeped in history.
In 2014 I joined the Members’ Panel, and was invited to review an upcoming event. I was given a choice of locations, but I just had to go back to Whitby! So, in October, I travelled across country with my partner to attend The Illuminated Abbey, which ended up being a truly wonderful night.
Not only did the abbey look stunning bathed in colour, but history came to life for us. Actors where dotted around in several locations telling stories, and re-enacting parts of the abbey’s history. Costumed characters gave presentations on grave robbing, Jack the Ripper and witch trials. However, this was not only a history lesson, but great fun for all ages. The crowds laughed and cheered as the actors took us back in time.
“This really is my favourite place on earth”
Whitby Abbey really is a great day out for the whole family. Whether you like history, stunning architecture, breathtaking views, atmospheric locations, or simply somewhere beautiful to relax, this is the perfect place for you.
This really is my favourite place on earth, and I’m so happy that English Heritage is here to look after and preserve this magnificent historical monument.”
Visit Whitby Abbey
English Heritage membership gives you free access to over 400 historic properties all over the country, and free or discounted access to hundreds of events every year.