Whitby Abbey

Things To See and Do

The ruins of Whitby Abbey set against a blue sky

Abbey Ruins

Immerse yourself in 13th-century gothic splendour, and roam the ruins of the abbey church, to discover remnants of richly carved details and mouldings.

This spectacular headland was first settled as a monastery in AD657 by King Oswy of Northumbria. It became one of the most important religious centres in the Anglo-Saxon world under the formidable Abbess Hild. She ruled over both men and women in a double monastery called Streaneshalch.

Centuries of weather and war have taken their toll - parts of the abbey church have collapsed during storms, and its west front was hit by German naval shelling in 1914.

Three girls running towards some steps at Whitby Abbey

Panoramic Perfection

Enjoy exhilarating views every way you turn from this natural vantage point, across the harbour and town, and into the countryside beyond. The ruins of the abbey stand proudly on top of the East Cliff headland above the busy seaside town of Whitby.

If you are feeling energetic, climb the 199 steps up from the town. These were the steps that Bram Stoker's mysterious animal bounded up after it leapt to shore from the deserted ship.

Listen to the audio tour tell the stories of the abbey as you wander the ancient ruins and take in the stunning views.

A father and son examine exhibits at the Whitby Abbey exhibition centre

Mansion Visitor Centre

Seek out fascinating finds in the imaginative visitor centre housed behind the classical frontage of the Cholmley family mansion. The mansion was built after Henry VIII's suppression of the abbey in 1539.

There are items here from throughout the abbey's history from Anglo-Saxon, medieval and the Cholmley family periods. Converse with people from Whitby's past such as Abbess Hild, a monk, and Bram Stoker, through entertaining and interactive touchscreens.

Don't forget to pop into the gift shop on your way out and take home a memento of your visit. There is also a café next door (not English Heritage).

Beautiful sunset at Whitby Abbey

Gothic Inspiration

Imagine Bram Stoker striding through the magnificent abbey ruins, soaking up inspiration for his vampire masterpiece: Dracula. Stoker set some of his most dramatic scenes in Whitby, and even took character names from here, making Whitby the 'Goth' capital of Britain.

Four hundred years earlier, the abbey was the setting for the artistic awakening of Cædmon, the first named English poet. Cædmon was a layman who had never written a single poem, until one night in a dream he was asked to sing about all creation. To his surprise he found himself singing spontaneous verses in praise of God.


Have a game of 'I spy' on the headland and see what you can spot along the coast and in the harbour. Hide and seek to your heart's content amongst the colossal columns of the abbey ruins and keep your eye out for gargoyles hidden high above your head.

Bring your colouring pencils and get creative - the ruins and views have inspired many artists and poets before. Blankets are encouraged for picnicking too!

Enjoy family activities during the school holidays, Dracula shows on summer weekends and a year-round programme of events.

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