It was mid afternoon and I begun to feel a bit of snooze, especially after boarding Coastliner where heater was replete and the seat cushion was spongy. I slouched on the seat, head slumped on my husband’s shoulder and browsed through the windows as the scene flashed across me. The sun was still high in the blue sky, adorned by a few scattered clouds and streak of sunlight mottled expanse of green fields.
Prior approaching Goatland, on either side of the green banks, salubrious fields and even near to the roadside, you could see myriads of goats grazing on the grass and soaking under the sun. Some handful ones were actually taking risk by clinging themselves onto the steep sloping mountains, nibbling on the fresher grasses. Goatland has surpassing beautiful village that was used as the setting for television’s Aidensfield.
The Hole of Horcum, bordered by highway roads, offered another spectacular view. It was a colossal depression that miraculously sunk deeply into the ground. The "hole" was so immense that one should stretch the neck and obtain at least a half-stand position to see its depth. Every passenger in the coach preened at the windows and gawked at this obtrusive hole until it momentarily vanished as Coastliner skirted round the bend.
I was uncertain how many times I had fallen asleep and awake again and was totally sober when I sensed a mass movement around me, and my husband nudging at my arm. Everyone was getting out of their seats, putting on their jackets and alighted. Then I came to realize it was the last stop of Coastliner, Whitby.
Whitby was located at the coastline of Northeast England. It put me in awe with its bustling activities as I expect Whitby to be a small and quiet town. The first image that gripped my attention was a street performer who was singing gleefully as his adept hands played the accordion of folk music. Standing right in front of him was a little puppet attached with an almost invisible string to his feet, it hops and dances as the man tapped his feet along with the music. The song was nice, his voice was deep and enthralling that ruptured the air with exuberance and added joys to the tourists.
West Cliff consists of mainly rustic red roofed houses perching high on mountaintop and opulent lodgings constructed high to obtain a better view of the estuary or mouth of the River Esk. There are two lighthouses acting as the sentinels for this inlet since 1835, with the east beacon showing red light while the west showing green light.
East Cliff held the edifice that dominated the entire town - Whitby Abbey that sat astride on top of East Cliff and rose majestically above the steep cliff. It was impossible not to set your eyes on it and possible not to look at the map on your hand to find the abbey.
Before ascending the steps of 199 to the abbey, we navigated through the crowds along Whitby old town – kind of classic and aesthetic town; cobblestone walkway trapped between array of bricked shops that have been there for years, outdoor restaurants and cafe, and particularly a shop that sells chocolate fondue with large display of the fondue, so thick, creamy and frothy. There are many alleys along this street, a turn into them will bring you to another narrower streets cuddled with more shops and Captain Cook Museum hides in one of these alleys, so if you intend to visit the museum, look meticulously for the signboard.
At the end of the walkway, just right before The Whitby Jet Heritage Centre, we came to a steep slope that funneled into the view of Whitby Harbor. The breeze came in was spanking. We met a local couple, each of them with their own pet, an enormous weird dog, bigger than I am if I lie flat on the ground. I’m not too sure of the breed, but it seems to carry the owner away. In fact, it looks like a big bad wolf to me.
My husband asked the owner, "How old is your dog?" and he replied "Five years."
Wow! From its appearance, it seems like this dog has been living for like a century. I tried to haul the dog by its leash but the strength of the dog was overpowering that I almost slipped and felt I was reeling a big fish!
As we took the challenge in trudging up the 199 steps, the weather overhead us seemed to be catching up. Scattered dark clouds across the sky and the wind speed picked up. At that time, all we hope for was no rain. The stairway was rather broad but some interval of each step was high. For someone like me that hate to work out, I had a hard time struggling at the steps. I was breathing hard and gasping when I finally got to the top. But the view from East Cliff was a real splendid and the payoff was definitely worth it.
Abut to the stairway was the notable St. Mary’s churchyard. This was the graveyard where Lucy met Dracula in the Gothic novel, where Mina described the legend of a young nun who broke her vows of chastity and a corresponding legend of a "white lady" who haunts Whitby Abbey. This was how the apparition or phantom of the abbey originated. In fact, St. Mary’s churchyard was enchanting and captivating, it was a hallowed ground mounted with disarray of tombstones with Whitby Abbey as the backdrop. Overlooking from St. Mary’s churchyard was the panoramic view of West Cliff (aka the Crescent), vista of rugged cliffs, meandering coastlines and choppy waves churning and swelling near to the estuary.
We surveyed the graveyard for a moment and then rambled to the front porch of St. Mary’s Church where view of Whitby Abbey loomed and this was when we had a closer touch and experience with the legend of Whitby Abbey…
Whitby Abbey was founded in 651 AD, a site of the Synod of Whitby in 664 AD (about 1,300 years back) when a vote was held to determine if the church should be adopted by the Celtic or Roman date for Easter. In the end, the vote was passed for the Roman and dwindled the Celtic Christianity. Few decades later, in 867 AD, the abbey was annihilated and looted in the bloody Viking raid. However, the abbey was rebuilt by a Norman knight in the late 11th century and influenced the abbey to continue as a place of monastic life until the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII. A story was propagated that Henry’s men moved the abbey bells and loaded them onto a ship. The comeuppance was realized sooner than expected – the ship was sunk not long after it left Whitby’s shore. In the olden years, young lovers would listen for the chime of the bell that was buried deep in the sea, and made believed to be a blissful sign for their future.
Subsequently, the abbey became a setting and inspiration ground for Bram Stoker’s, the author for his classic Victorian novel "Dracula" made known to millions throughout the world, which Whitby was the destination for the doomed ship Demeter that brought Dracula to England.
Outside the abbey was a lush field, a vantage point to grasp the entire Whitby Abbey and to photograph its overall - a ruin that stood in grandiose, towering high into the sky and portray in such a one dimension feature that the other view of the abbey was almost visible. To the right of the field, a few white and black goats were basking among the sea oats, laze around as the crisp air linger them.
Vision from East Cliff was a unique assemblage of historic ruins abbey, spooky graveyards, roaming livestock, mile after miles of cliffs, coastlines of rushing waves, busy harbor and palatial houses. A view could certainly retain us for hours to contemplate at its astounding beauty and ones could feel a sense of history being there. However, light rain began to work its way, small droplets then big ones spattered on us. We scurried to base of East Cliff hoping to find some shelter before the downpour.
At the bottom, we looked back at our path. It was really a historical splendid!