All the time we were members of English Heritage we could never visit Whitby Abbey as it was closed for repairs. It’s so iconic and somewhere I haven’t visited in decades. I had it high on our summer priority list and as much as I was in awe of the place I was also a little disappointed. Whitby Abbey sits high on the cliff on the south side of this popular North Yorkshire seaside town.
A Brief History – Whitby Abbey
Communities have lived on this headland for over 3,000 years and it has long been an important holy place and seat of power.
In AD 657 Abbess Hild founded a monastery for men and women at Whitby, on land given by King Oswiu. It was Whitby’s first monastic site and became one of the most important religious centres in the Anglo-Saxon world.
The Benedictine monastery of 1078 was suppressed by Henry VIII in 1539 and its ruins are the ones we see on Whitby headland today
Whitby Abbey has inspired many artists and writers, including Cædmon, the first named poet in the English language, and Bram Stoker, who set part of Dracula here.English Heritage
Our visit to Whitby Abbey
We visited on a busy day at 1 pm. Although there was a socially distanced queue it didn’t take too long until we were in. Luckily everyone spent a bit of time at the welcome desk so we didn’t all end up walking into the grounds together.
I think as a child places always seemed so much bigger. I remember visiting on a really windy day, climbing on the old columns and eating ice cream. In reality, there is less to see and explore than I remember and we didn’t even spend an hour there which considering I paid £16.00 for myself and my son meant that I felt a bit ripped off. Usually English Heritage places are such good value for money.
Guide books are at an additional cost. More about entrance prices and facilities at Whitby Abbey to be found below. The paths are accessible and they even have accessible ramps in and around the abbey. You walk one way towards Whitby abbey and you are then free to roam as you please.
Whitby Abbey | Review Guide
It is a stunning abbey ruin with stunning views down to Whitby, its main beach and the inlet for the boats. We spotted pirate ships and a couple of other tour boats running. Even the tourist open-top bus was running which you can take up to the castle.
My son loved climbing onto the old broken columns and choosing which he could safely jump off. Like most English Heritage places you are free to climb on the walls etc. (within reason). Other than walking around the ruin there isn’t really much to see. We did notice signs for a kid’s trail but sadly no one mentioned this to us. I have, however, since noticed that you can download it online.
You have to exit via the exhibition and then the shop. You can choose to go down in the lift and miss the exhibition but it’s worth donning a mask and having a proper look. The shop is huge and I must admit we were drawn to a couple of purchases, it’s been way too long since we were in a shop.
After exiting Whitby abbey and its shop we walked over to the coastal wall to have a proper look down at Whitby. There’s also an old church with an even older graveyard that we had a wander around. Because you can’t exit out the way you came in there is a long walk around the outer wall to return to the car park.
We spent under an hour at the Abbey.
Important Information about Whitby Abbey
Address: Abbey Ln, Whitby YO22 4JT
Car parking at Whitby Abbey – There is a large council-run car park at Whitby Abbey. Like the rest of the town, it is expensive. £3.30 for two hours or £7.00 for 6 hours. There’s no price in between so I had to pay £7.00 as we’d also brought a picnic. They take cards or cash.
Whitby Abbey Prices – Free entry to members of English Heritage. An adult ticket costs £10.00 for standard admission and £6.00 for a child aged 5-17. Under 5’s are free. There are other options available such as a family ticket and concessions.
Facilities at Whitby Abbey: There are council-run toilets right next to the entrance to Whitby Abbey. These cost 40p. There is a large shop and a small shop selling hot and cold drinks with limited snacks by the exit.
Opening Times: Whitby Abbey is open for most of the year. For up to date opening times please click here.
Accessibility – They have accessible paths around the abbey. There are other accessible facilities.
Is Whitby Abbey Dog Friendly: Dogs are not allowed.
Are there places to picnic at Whitby Abbey: Yes, they do have a few picnic tables but you are welcome to bring your own picnic blanket.
Category: Historical attraction, suitable for all ages.