IT’S ASSOCIATIONS with Dracula and Captain Cook are well known, as are its 199 steps, its fish and chips, jumbled pantile roofs and spray-lashed piers.

Everyone loves Whitby. And now the town has been named as the most popular British holiday destination, beating off competition from Welsh holiday spots Tenby and Anglesey which bagged second and third place, and York, which came fourth.

Based on 2019 booking and traffic data, Whitby was crowned as the most popular staycation choice by holiday rental agency It also came up trumps on the affordability scale, with a calculated average price of £490 for three nights - eight per cent less than the UK average of £528.

Whitby’s dramatic headland with its clifftop abbey and church captured Bram Stoker’s imagination and formed the inspiration for Dracula.

Stoker visited the town in July 1890, when he stayed at Mrs Veazey’s guesthouse at 6 Royal Crescent. Having already written two novels, at the time of his stay he was working on a new story, set in Styria in Austria, with a central character called Count Wampyr.

The gaunt outline of the abbey and its windswept graveyard, which Stoker would look out on this each day as he walked along the West Cliff from his lodgings, perfectly fitted the Gothic literature of the period.

Young James Cook would also have stood and looked across at this fine view during his time as an apprentice to ship owners John and Henry Walker.

The Walkers gave Cook - whose stone statue graces the West Cliff - the opportunity to sail the seas.

Visitors wanting to learn more about Cook should check out the Captain Cook Memorial Museum based in the house in Grape Lane where the ocean explorer stayed during his apprenticeship.

Whitby is great to visit at any time of year, but in particular winter when the summer throng has died down. Not that it is quiet out of season - the town attracts visitors whatever the weather.

I’ve been visiting Whitby for as long as I can remember. And most of those visits have been in winter.

I have fond memories of bitterly cold days when my parents, brother, sister and I would be bent almost double as we battled easterly winds to walk along the pier to the lighthouse.

My own children have enjoyed winter similar excursions to the tip of the pier, and up the 199 steps, counting as we climbed.

The view of the town from the clifftop, across its higgledy-piggledy roofs has been a favourite of artists and tourists for centuries.

My dad used to help us search for what he called the pirates’ graves - gravestones with a skull and crossbone on the front.

I was disappointed many years later when I found out that they were not really pirates’ graves, but most likley ordinary people - the skulls being simply a symbol of death.

The graveyard is full of interesting graves, some bearing the names of the ships, trades or professions to which people belonged. Many of the stones facing the sea have been pitted and gouged over the years by the elements, erasing all trace of their owners.

St Mary’s Church itself is interesting, with its box pews , three-tier pulpit and ear trumpets used by the deaf wife of a rector who did not want to miss anything.

In the shadow of the cliff, Church Street bustles with life, with its art galleries, gift shops, cafes and everything in between. Look out for the jet jewellery shops, selling necklaces, earrings, bracelets and other pieces made from Whitby jet.

Also of interest, although omitted from tourist literature, is Whitby Swing Bridge. Built in 1908, it links the upper and lower harbour areas and the east and west sides of the town. It opens on the hour and half hour, on request, and is a sight to see as it swings into action allowing a ship to sail through.

Whitby is also well-known for its narrow ginnels and yards lined with small cottages, where in days gone by many families who worked in the fishing industry used to live.

It is also the home of Botham’s, the town’s reputable bakers, established in 1865. With shops in two locations as well as a restaurant and a café, it stocks a range of tasty fare including cakes, buns and pies. My mum always orders a consignment of their delicious butter buns in advance, in case they sell out.

Whitby is a town full of surprises. No matter how many times you visit there are always new places to explore.

If it’s sunny, run on the beaches, if it’s pouring down head for Whitby Museum, a place packed with treasures including fossils, model ships, carved jet, quirky objects and artefacts of the town’s famous whaling family the Scoresbys and also the explorer Captain Cook. It is closed for maintenance work but reopens on February 1.

Few visitors to Whitby leave without sampling the town’s delicious fish and chips. Whether eat-in or takeaway, you’ll be spoiled for choice as to where you decide to dine.

*For more information on the town look at