My alarm awoke me at 5am to a day beginning in Islington that should end in Whitby. By now we have a well rehearsed routine and left home at 6:30, arriving a few minutes later at Kings Cross aboard a number 30 bus. This left enough time to buy baguettes and coffee for breakfast before boarding the 07:00 Glasgow train.
The journey to Whitby is long – about 5 hours – but also disjointed. We have to take three trains in all: Kings Cross to York; York to Middlesbrough; and Middlesbrough to Whitby. Because each train belongs to a separate train company, we have a set of tickets resembling a pack of playing cards!
Our reserved seats are not together, so while I was buying breakfast Tigger went on ahead and bagged two end seats. These are designed for disabled people and offer much more leg room – worth remembering if you have long legs.
The train speeds through a morning landscape lit by an overcast sky dimmed by a light mist. Much as I love the city, I always find the rolling panorama of the countryside engaging. Perhaps it is because the greenery and the apparent calm offer a restful contrast with the hurly-burly of town.
Along the way, the overcast gradually cleared and by the time we disembarked at York, the sun was shining. We had 20 minutes at York and so made the transition to the 09:26 Middlesbrough train with ease.
In theory, we had reserved seats on the train but in fact no reservations were visible nor were the coaches labelled with letters. Not that it mattered that much as there were plenty of seats but you have to wonder why useless reservations are made and sometimes charged for.
I dozed off during the run to Middlesbrough and awoke at Thornaby, the stop before. At Middlesbrough we had 8 minutes to get across to the other platform for the 10:38 Whitby train. This is a two-carriage local rail bus of a type with which we have become familiar. They often become crowded and provide little room for baggage. Fortunately our bags can just about be squeezed onto the overhead rack.
My first impression of Whitby, on arriving on the crowded station platform, was “What a pretty town!” As the station, also the town: the place is crowded. I suppose this is only the be expected in such a lovely town on such a lovely day.
We made our way across the swing bridge spanning the Esk estuary to The Dolphin, where we are staying. Owing to the lateness of our booking we had to pay more than usual for our accommodation but in return for this, we are in the heart of Whitby in picturesque surroundings.
Our room is large and comfortable. There is even a settee in the bay window overlooking the estuary and the swing bridge. The pub is right on the water. We can sit in the window and watch the herring gulls swoop past us inches away.
Despite the attractions of the room, we soon set out in quest of lunch as we were both hungry after the long journey. We chose Shambles, a pub restaurant a few yards from our hotel.
After lunch we went exploring. There are many pretty views and quaint buildings to be seen but all has to be viewed through the crowds. Perhaps in the week there will be fewer people, making it easier to move about.
We went into the old Methodist Hall, now used as an indoor market. It is a curious place that at first sight resembles an old fashioned haberdasher’s but there are also more modern things on sale. The organ console was almost hidden beneath the wares and the pay desk was the pulpit! Mammon seems to have triumphed here at least.
There is a choir competition in Whitby this weekend so as you proceed you come across choirs performing or hear their singing echoing across the Esk.
Further up we came to Church Lane, also known as Donkey Road. The church in question, perched near the top of a cliff, is St Mary the Virgin, the local parish church. There are two ways up to it and to the ruined abbey that is further up still, the steps or the donkey road, a steep cobbled path that curves upwards and offers unfolding views of the town, the estuary, the coast and the countryside as you gain height.
The abbey ruins are impressive but as you have to pay to go in, we contented ourselves with photographing them from outside. Then we descended again, this time by the steps—199 of them—and visited the tourist information centre before returning to the hotel for tea and a rest.
We spent some time in the room, watching the people, the boats on the estuary and the antics of the gulls. This is really an unusually good room for lounging and watching the world go by.
It was 7:45 when we finally stepped outside and went in search of dinner. I was surprised how cold it had become after the warmth of the day.
We chose the Whitby Indian Tandoori restaurant at the station. Once inside, we found the choices available to vegetarians were limited. We often choose a selection of side dishes when all else fails but even this was closed to us because the menu stated that side dishes could only be selected in addition to a main dish.
We spotted a vegetable thali and ordered that. It wasn’t good. In fact, I would say it is the worst Indian meal I have ever had. I did not finish everything which is very rare for me. If they are trying to discourage vegetarian diners, they certainly succeeded as far as I am concerned.
After eating, we explored the part of town near the restaurant and then returned to our settee in the hotel room, where we remained until bedtime, enjoying the changing views as evening fell.