Walk in the footsteps of Dracula, for it was here that he came ashore on his journey to England, climbing the 199 steps to the ruins. The first monastery was founded in 657 AD by the Anglo-Saxon era King of Northumbria, Oswy (Oswiu) as Streoneshalh (the older name for Whitby). He appointed Lady Hilda, abbess of Hartlepool Abbey and grand-niece of Edwin the first Christian king of Northumbria, as founding abbess. The name Streoneshalh is thought to signify Fort Bay or Tower Bay in reference to a supposed Roman settlement that previously existed on the site. This contention has never been proven though and alternative theories have been proposed, such as the name meaning Streona's settlement. Some believe that the name referred to Eadric Streona, but this is highly unlikely for chronological reasons: Streona died in 1017 so the naming of Streoneshalh would have preceded his birth by several hundred years. The double monastery of Celtic monks and nuns was home to the great Northumbrian poet Cædmon. In 664 the Synod of Whitby - at which King Oswiu ruled that the Northumbrian church would adopt the Roman calculation of Easter and monastic tonsure - took place at the abbey.
Streoneshalch was laid waste by Danes in successive raids between 867 and 870 under Ingwar and Ubba and remained desolate for more than 200 years. The existence of 'Prestebi', meaning the habitation of priests in Old Norse, at the Domesday Survey may point to the revival of religious life since Danish times. The old monastery given to Reinfrid comprised about 40 ruined monasteria vel oratoria similar to Irish monastic ruins with numerous chapels and cells. Reinfrid, a soldier of William the Conqueror, became a monk and travelled to Streoneshalh, which was then known as Prestebi or Hwitebi (the "white settlement" in Old Norse). He approached William de Percy who gave him the ruined monastery of St. Peter with two carucates of land, to found a new monastery. Serlo de Percy, the founder's brother, joined Reinfrid at the new monastery which followed the Benedictine rule. The second monastery lasted until it was destroyed by Henry VIII in 1540 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Though the abbey fell into ruin, it remained a prominent landmark for sailors and helped. In December 1914, Whitby Abbey was shelled by German battlecruisers Von der Tann and Derfflinger who were aiming for the Coastguard Station on the end of the headland. Scarborough and Hartlepool were also attacked. The Abbey sustained considerable damage during the ten-minute attack.
The original gift of William de Percy not only included the monastery of St. Peter at Streoneshalch, but the town and port of Whitby with its parish church of St. Mary and six dependent chapels at Fyling, Hawsker, Sneaton, Ugglebarnby, Dunsley, and Aislaby, five mills including Ruswarp, the town of Hackness with two mills and the parish church of St. Mary, and the church of St. Peter at Hackness 'where our monks served God, died, and were buried,' and various other gifts enumerated in the ' Memorial' in the abbot's book. Disabled visitors may be set down by the entrance to the visitor centre. There is a ramped entrance to site. Access to monument and grounds is via the visitor centre's lift up to the grounds. There are accessible toilets and assistance dogs are welcome.
Location : Abbey Lane, Whitby, North Yorkshire YO22 4JT
Transport: Whitby (National Rail) 1/2 mile. Bus routes : Esk Valley service 97 & 97A serve Whitby Abbey; The Whitby Town Tour is also operated by Coastal & Country and serves the Abbey.
Opening Times : Daily 10:00 to 18:00.
Tickets : Adults £6.80; Children £4.00; Concessions £6.10.
Tel: 01947 603568