There are ruined abbeys, and there are picturesque ruined abbeys. And then there's Whitby Abbey, dominating the skyline above the East Cliff like a great Gothic tombstone silhouetted against the sky. Looking as though it was built as an atmospheric film set rather than a monastic establishment, it is hardly surprising that this medieval hulk inspired the Victorian novelist Bram Stoker (who holidayed in Whitby) to make it the setting for Count Dracula's dramatic landfall.
The stately mansion beside the abbey ruins was built by the Cholmley family, who leased the Whitby estate from Henry VIII after the dissolution of England's monasteries in the 1530s. Following a £1.5 million revamp in 2019, the abbey has dramatically improved its museum, added a small coffee shop with outdoor seating in the abbey grounds, and replaced its free audio guide with a more family-friendly ‘ammonite quest’ to explore the site with.
From the end of Church St, the 199 steps of Church Stairs will lead you steeply up to Whitby Abbey. By car, you have to approach from the A171 Scarborough road to the east side of the bridge over the River Esk.