Posted on 18th August 2016
On our day trip from York (Steam Trains, Whitby & the Moors) we spend three hours at leisure in the fishing town of Whitby, one of the true gems on the British coast. Our minibus tour from York drops you in Whitby, where you are free to explore the town. You will also have the chance to explore Whitby Abbey during our tour from York to Whitby. Here’s what it’s all about:
Founded in the late 11th century and closed on the orders of Henry VIII in 1539, Whitby Abbey is located on a dramatic clifftop above the fishing town of Whitby. The site occupied by the abbey has been used since at least Roman Times, where there was almost certainly a signal station. Throughout the 7th, 8th and 9th centuries an Anglian community thrived in Whitby, with a grand Minster (founded by St Hilda) on the site where the abbey now stands.
The name “Whitby” is Viking in origin (thought to be “Hviti’s Place” after a Viking chieftain) and thanks to the arrival of these Danish Vikings the minster on the clifftop had disappeared by the end of the 9th century.
The monastery was founded by Benedictine monks towards the end of the 11th century, although the ruins you see today were built between 1220 and 1250. Thee abbey was and still is) a remarkable example of English Gothic architecture, with many elements of the design likely taken or adapted from the transepts of York Minster, which were rebuilt between 1225 and 1255.
The survival of the ruins
Following the suppression of Whitby Abbey in 1539 (by order of Henry VIII), the abbey would likely have disappeared entirely soon after (as local people strip the site of the valuable building materials and stone), were it not for the intervention of a wealthy local family. In 1540, shortly after the abbey closed, the Cholmley family acquired the abbey and its estates, protecting the abbey church from destruction. However, as the developed their estate on the clifftop site, the Cholmleys were probably responsible for destroying and removing the remaining monastic buildings in order to build their abbey house.
Exploring Whitby Abbey today
You can visit Whitby Abbey throughout most of the year. Located beside St Mary’s Church at the top of Whitby’s famous 199 steps, the abbey is run by English Heritage and is complemented by a superb visitor centre. On a day trip from York with Grand Yorkshire, you’ll have chance to climb the 199 steps from Whitby’s Old Town – or to be dropped off right outside the abbey on the clifftop, saving you from the energy sapping climb up the steps.
Grand Yorkshire visits Whitby on a minibus tour of the North York Moors from York, twice weekly from March to November. On the tour you can visit the quaint market town of Helmsley, explore the amazing North York Moors National Park, enjoy three hours in Whitby, discover the famous Moors village of Goathland in Heartbeat country, and finally ride through the Moors by steam train on the wonderful North Yorkshire Moors railway.
Book your place on this day trip from York with Grand Yorkshire and read the full itinerary by clicking here: STEAM TRAINS, WHITBY AND THE MOORS