A town and civil parish in the Scarborough district of North Yorkshire on the north-east coast of England. Nowadays it is a fishing port and tourist destination. It is situated 47 miles (76 km) from York, at the mouth of the River Esk and spreads up the steep sides of the narrow valley carved out by the river's course. At this point the coast curves round, so the town faces more north than east. According to the 2001 UK census, Whitby parish had a population of 13,594.
Whitby was founded under its Old English name of Streonshal in 656, when Oswy, the Christian king of Northumbria, founded Whitby Abbey, under its first abbess Hilda. The Synod of Whitby was held here in 664. In 867, the monastery was destroyed by Viking raiders, and was only refounded in 1078. It was in this period that the town gained its current name, Whitby, (from "white settlement" in Old Norse). In the 18th century Whitby became a centre for shipbuilding and whaling, as well as trade in alum and jet.
Tourism and fishing now form the mainstay of the town's economy. There are rail and bus links to the rest of Yorkshire and the North East of England. Whitby has featured in literary works, television and cinema; most famously in Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula.
The modern Port of Whitby, strategically placed for shipping to Europe, with very good proximity to the Scandinavian countries, is capable of handling a wide range of cargoes, including grain, steel products, timber and potash. Vessels of up to 3,000 tonnes DWT are received on a routine basis at the Wharf, which has the capability of loading/unloading two ships simultaneously. 54,000 square feet (5,000 m2) of dock space is currently (2004) allocated for storage of all-weather cargo and a further 17,000 square feet (1,600 m2) of warehouse space is reserved for weather-critical goods storage.
The town is served by Whitby railway station which forms the terminus of the Esk Valley Line from Middlesbrough, formerly the northern terminus of the Whitby, Pickering and York line. Whitby is also served by the Yorkshire Coastliner bus line (which can take traveller’s to and from Leeds, Tadcaster, York, Scarborough, Bridlington, Pickering, Malton and many more towns in Yorkshire) and the Arriva bus company, which runs services connecting Whitby to Scarborough and Middleborough.
The town was awarded "Best Seaside Resort 2006", by Which? Holiday magazine.
The town's college, Whitby Community College was granted specialist school status in September 2002, specialising in Technology.
Whitby has a fish market on the quayside which operates as need and opportunities arise. The ready supply of fresh fish has resulted in an abundance of "chippies" in the town, including the Magpie Cafe which Rick Stein has described as the best fish and chip shop in Britain.
Many interesting fossils have been found in the Whitby area including entire skeletons of pterodactyls. Whitby is known for its well preserved ammonite fossils, which can be found on the seashore or purchased from stalls or shops in the town.
Three green ammonites are featured on the coat of arms of the Whitby Town Council. These ammonites are shown with a head carved on, as "snake stones", which were sold as religious souvenirs in memory of Saint Hilda of Whitby.
One unusual feature of Whitby is the Dracula Museum. Part of Bram Stoker's famous novel was set in Whitby, describing Dracula's arrival in Britain on a ship washed ashore in the harbour, and how Lucy watched from the churchyard as the sun set over the nearby headland of Kettleness, but did not know how many steps she climbed to get there. Stoker's story incorporated various pieces of Whitby folklore, including the beaching of the Russian ship Dmitri, which became the basis of Demeter in the book. Furthermore, it was at the public library in Whitby that Stoker discovered the name "Dracula."
The novel Caedmon's Song by Peter Robinson plays in Whitby. Whitby also features significantly in the novel Possession, by A. S. Byatt. Michel Faber's novel, The Hundred and Ninety Nine Steps is set in Whitby. Whitby is prominently featured in The Resurrectionists, by Kim Wilkins. Robin Jarvis has written The Whitby Witches, a trilogy of children's fantasy novels set in Whitby, that borrow from bits of local folklore. Paul Magrs's series of novels following the neighbouring spinsters "Brenda and Effie" — Never the Bride, Something Borrowed, Conjugal Rites — are set almost exclusively in Whitby. The 2008 anthology Fabulous Whitby edited by S. Thomason and Liz Williams is a collection of fantasy stories, all set in Whitby.
The novelist Storm Jameson (1891–1986) came from Whitby but spent most of her life in London.