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England...Whitby by ColinG
Submitted By: karenc Date: March 5, 2010, 1:15 PM Views: 895


by ColinG

Anybody who has studied Joe Cornish's First Light or David Tarn's Water in the Landscape will already be aware of locations like Saltwick Bay, Robin Hood's Bay, Staithes and Roseberry Topping but perhaps will not realise that they are all within a short distance of Whitby. Indeed Whitby itself has previously provided Messrs Cornish and Tarn and others with well known images even going back to Victorian times when Frank Sutcliffe practised Landscape Photography to good effect.

Whitby is a seaside resort on the North Yorkshire coast and is still popular with holiday makers, weekenders and day-trippers which can be a drawback for photographers, but there is a wealth of subject matter available if you are prepared to avoid the busiest times and even on Bank Holiday Weekends it is possible to capture good images at the start and end of the day before and after the masses gather for fish & chips or ice cream along the harbour front and down on the beach.

Historically Whitby has been an important sea port and was the base for Captain Cook's voyages of discovery to Australia. Even today the focal point of the town is the busy harbour area which is the lower reaches of the River Esk. The harbour mouth is extended by two stone piers with prominent lighthouses and wooden decked extensions, although access to this part of the east pier is no longer possible. These piers provide good vantage points for views of the town and harbour and the wide variety of features (lampposts, capstans etc) on the piers are also good subjects for detail images and foregrounds. I found that even over an Easter weekend it was possible to achieve good results from the piers by taking walks there before breakfast.

Whilst Whitby is on the east coast the actual orientation is north facing thus the best landscape opportunities of the town are very polarised by the availability of good sunlight with the afternoon being best for the old town and Abbey on the east bank and the morning better for the fishing boats moored along the busy harbour side on the west bank. The other influence on images around the harbour is of course the tide, high tide being better for these locations but a low tide is necessary to venture onto the beach or across the rocky foreshore towards Saltwick Nab, Black Nab and the two boat wrecks, take care not to get cut-off as the tide rises rapidly and there are few access points up or down the steep cliffs. This coast is also famous for fossils and Jet which is unique to the Whitby area and has been used in costume jewellery since Victorian times.

The narrow lanes and alleys of the old town are interesting to walk around but rather enclosed for good photographic results. However the small pier beside the Tate Hill Sands is worth a visit for a different perspective of the harbour and to use the large anchor as a foreground subject. Turnstones regularly scurry around this pier.

The Abbey and St Mary's Church on the cliff top, which are reached by the famous 199 Steps, are further well known features of the town immortalised by Bram Stoker's Dracula. Again there are throngs of people here and timing is everything if successful images are to be achieved. St Mary's Graveyard is a fascinating place where Dracula's Vampire roamed and a wonderful viewpoint for rooftop images across the old town to the harbour and its piers. Probably the best locations to capture the austere shell of the Abbey are along the road looking over the wall; there is a small pond in the Abbey grounds which provides a suitable foreground. The Royal Hotel where Bram Stoker stayed whilst writing Dracula is still to be found above the harbour on the West Cliff. The panoramic view across to the Abbey which inspired Stoker is best captured in the late afternoon/evening when the bats are on the wing, but watch your neck, take garlic cloves and a wooden stake!

On the coast to the North of Whitby is Sandsend, Runswick Bay and Staithes. All worth a visit but photographically Staithes is the big attraction. Access to the town is down a steep hill with car parking at the top. The viewpoint for the classic images across the town with fishing boats moored in the river is across the bridge and back up the steep bank on the other side! The streets and lanes of the town are extremely narrow in parts and the town has a feel of still being in a former time when this was a major fishing port.

To the south of Whitby lie Saltwick Bay, Robin Hood's Bay and Ravenscar which are all featured in the aforementioned books. The North Yorks Moors National Park, which includes Roseberry Topping, is also readily accessible from Whitby.

A variety of birds are also present in the harbour area including the ubiquitous Gulls, Turnstones on the harbour walls, Eider Ducks, Mute Swans, Oystercatchers, Cormorants and Terns in the summer months. Further afield the cliffs are used for nesting by kittiwakes and fulmars which can provide good in flight entertainment! The cliffs of Flambourgh and Bempton are about an hours drive away beyond Scarborough and Filey.


Map of Location


Eating Out
Ir Rizzi, Tapas Bar, Silver Street
Alessi's Italian, Church Street
Magpie Café, Harbour Front The Best Fish & Chips restaurant in the country always has a queue with up to 50 people waiting!

Whitby Jet

Some Local History and Information

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April 29, 2012, 2:05 PM
Excellent article.

Like to add a few notes

Also in Whitby there is the football club Whitby Town FC, of which I am the club historian. Lovely friendly club playing in the Evostick Northern Premier League Premier Division.

Robertsons. Just over the swing bridge on the right is a lovely little place to eat .. the Fish and chips are super and reasonably priced.

The White Horse and Griffin is haunted ... Wink keep an eye on your chips.

Additionally if you are there overnight (weekends) try the Ghost Walk from the Market Square, it's a leisurly placed walk and interesting.

I just have to recommend The Chiltern Guest House. My Mum ALWAYS stays here and we have too on many occasions.  Super well run and friendly guesthouse.
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August 13, 2011, 8:00 AM
Very informative article. If I ever get to Whitby I'll know what to look for. Hope I get images half as good as those which illustrate this article, the light is great in them.

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