Sunday, 12 April 2015

Halos in the Sky (Whitby Trip Part 3: Abbey and Church)

It was a cold and windy day when my friend Sara and I went to Whitby. After warming ourselves with food and tea, and meandering around the shops, we went to Whitby Abbey, the town's most famous landmark.

Despite the cold and wind, the weather was also clear and sunny! When we reached the abbey, I realised the sun had a 'halo', which is a phenomenon that happens when light interacts with ice crystals in the air. (Wikipedia page)
I got a couple of great shots of this, the best one being at the top of this post.

Along with the abbey, we wandered around the grounds of the Church of Saint Mary, which also sits upon the cliffs, close to the abbey.

To reach the church and abbey required walking up 199 age-worn steps. It's such a task that there are benches on the way up, so visitors can stop and take a breather! The steps are wide, with railings either side to help people on their way. There are grooves worn into the steps, from the footfall of countless people who have walked upon them! I found it was easier to walk straight up the middle, taking the steps two at a time. Then again, I do have long legs and good balance ;)
The view from the steps was great, and if they hadn't been so busy I might have stopped to take more photographs than the one of the church, above. But I digress. On with the pictures!

Although I wasn't able to take photos whilst on the 199 steps, I did snap a few once we reached the Church of Saint Mary, at the top.
Seriously, even if you have no interest in churches or ruined abbeys, the East cliff is worth the climb for the view...

The living overlooked by the dead
You can see for miles!
The view also shows off what a pretty town Whitby is. It's one thing to walk amongst the buildings, but you get an entirely different perspective by seeing them together. Structures from different eras are all jumbled together in one stretch of land.

Within the graveyard, I was fascinated by the way some of the headstones had weathered. This one was so far gone, it looks as though it may break in half within the next few years. There were several with a similar pattern on them, all at various stages of eroding away.

Many headstones were also blackened in places. I can only assume it's related to further erosion and the church's exposed position on the cliffs. The names on these stones are long gone, eaten away by the wind.

The abbey can be seen from the clifftop pathway, very much like a weathered and broken headstone itself. The other view from the path looks over the harbour. I posted a photo of this at the end of a previous post.

From the church, we went to the abbey. Though in ruin, I can imagine that it was absolutely stunning in its day. The abbey fell into ruin after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, during the reign of Henry VIII. Damn you, Henry! 

Ruined religious buildings have always interested me. I love to see the variation of colour in the stones, and the remains of intricate details in the stonework. A lot of time, skill, and money went into the creation of these structures.

It's easy to understand why the abbey was built up on the cliffs (aside from it being the site of an earlier, 7th century monastery). The abbey affords views that stretch for miles--and more importantly, the abbey can be seen for miles, from land and sea.

Even as a ruin, Whitby Abbey is an imposing building. With its jagged form, empty windows, and looming walls, it's no wonder that Bram Stoker drew inspiration from it for Dracula.


From some viewpoints, parts of the abbey even look vampiric--this sight struck me as somewhat like Max Schreck's Count Orlok, from the 1920's Dracula rip off, Nosferatu. Well, the abbey picture has the bald head, eyes and ratlike teeth, anyway!

I really have to thank Sara for being so patient with my run-around, snap-happy behaviour. I ended up with over 100 photographs!
The blue sky and bright sun were incredibly deceptive, as it was freezing up there!

A testament to how windy it was, here is our failed 'Selfie with the Abbey'. Hair everywhere!
I took all these photos on my phone, which was nearly blown out of my hand a few times!

Whitby Abbey is a truly inspiring place to wander around. At £7.50 it wasn't cheap to get in, but I more than got my money's worth in photos. Also it's worth bearing in mind that English Heritage, who maintain the abbey, will use that money to keep the building structurally sound, so people can continue to visit. Not to mention the running costs for the museum and maintenance of the grounds!

If you're interested in history, looking for inspiration or enjoy photography, the abbey is definitely worth a visit!

This is my last post relating to the Whitby trip. Thanks again to Sara for putting up with me, driving all the way there and back, and suggesting the trip in the first place!


  1. It was a fun day! :D You got some really good pictures!

    Next time I vote York! :D Or Sheffield!

  2. Looks beautiful x