Friday, 5 June 2009

Family Day Out – Whitby

My youngest son is five years old and is a serious fan of all things Thomas the Tank Engine. During a recent holiday on the North Yorkshire coast we took him on the North York Moors Railway to ride on a succession of steam engines, or “steamies”. The North York Moors Railway runs from Pickering to Whitby and stops at a few villages on the way, including Goathland where the ITV programme Heartbeat was filmed. Grosmont has some engine sheds and train oriented gift shop, Goathland has more going for it as a village, with large open areas and a tea shop.

As you arrive in Whitby there are many great views, the fantastic bridge, the ships and boats in the harbour and the Abbey on the hillside. A further surprise greeted us whilst approaching the northern side of the harbour. An old red steam bus came trundling past us, causing great excitement with my young son. “Elizabeth, its Elizabeth!” he shouted. Now what you need to know is Elizabeth is a character from the Thomas the Tank Engine series, an old red steam bus. When we caught up with the bus at the terminus we realised he was right, the red steam bus not only had “Elizabeth” written on the side, but Elizabeth’s face as in her Thomas the Tank Engine book. We just had to go for a ride on Elizabeth. It was only a short tour round a few streets of Whitby, but it was tremendously exciting for all Thomas Tank Engine aficionados. What is more the owner / driver used to drive steam trains on the aforementioned North York Moors Railways and had also driven Thomas the Tank Engine himself.

There is more to Whitby than Elizabeth and the North York Moors Railway, as if you could want anymore!

On the South side of the harbour are ye olde world cobbled streets with a number of small, local shops many of which have a gothic feel. Whitby is the home of the author of Dracula, a fact that will not escape you as you wander the town’s streets. Amongst these shops is an excellent chocolate shop with an excellent range of flavours. We go there on every visit to Whitby, I think it is called Justin’s. From Justin’s you can work off a few of those calories by walking up the 199 steps to take you to the Abbey. The steps are quite wide and shallow, so its not as difficult as it sounds.

Back on the North side of the harbour there are various boats offering rides out to sea or up and down the river in Whitby. Naturally there are a lot of fish and chip shops. We always used to go to the Magpie Café, but it has become so popular now that there are lengthy queues leading down the steps and along the pavement to get in. So on this occasion, with children that don’t like waiting, we decided to try the Quayside which is a larger establishment just a short walk down the pavement. Perhaps they do well from all the people not willing to queue at the Magpie. I can confirm the fish and chips were excellent and the service was unhurried and friendly too.

The Sage of Sheffield thoroughly recommends a visit to Whitby, especially by steam engine from Pickering.