Cook Country (1) - Whitby


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Europe » United Kingdom » England » North Yorkshire » Whitby
May 28th 2015
Published: May 31st 2015
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Continuing to indulge my obsession with Captain Cook, this morning we headed off to North Yorkshire where James was born and lived until he joined the navy in his mid-twenties. In the past we have headed north-east towards the Yorkshire Moors from Stalybridge by cutting up through Mossley, Uppermill, Dobcross and Denshaw to pick up the M62 at Junction 22. With Bernie being more than happy to take Ken's directions we actually headed west around the M60 ring road before joining the M62 at Junction 18. It's hard to say which is better. I guess the traffic on the motorway travels faster than it does going through all the small villages on the A roads??

The traffic was moving pretty well until we merged with the M1 to the south of Leeds. For some reason the traffic was a bit snarled up all the way around Leeds until we reached the A64 turn off towards York. North-east of York the road alternates between single and dual carriageway so we found the traffic was a bit heavy each time it had to merge into a single lane. Fortunately we turned off onto the A169 at Malton to head towards Whitby over the North York Moors and left most of the other traffic behind as it continued on the A64 to the coast at Scarborough.

On a day such as today - mostly cloudy - the moors looked very dark and uninteresting. At this time of the year the heather covering the moors looks very drab. When the heather flowers later in the summer the moors will take on a completely different look with a blanket of purple upon them. Today the main point of interest was the Hole of Horcum. The A169 runs very near the rim of this ginormous hollow 120 metres deep and just over one kilometre wide in the valley of the Levisham Beck. On a warm and sunny day it would be lovely to hike around and/or down into the hole. Indeed there were some hardy people out and about in the Hole of Horcum even on a cold and blustery day like today!

We arrived in Whitby and found a very tiny carpark to squeeze the Yaris into. We didn't see the B&B Bernie booked as we drove around the block, but found it easily on foot and checked in. Garry also provided us with a parking permit for the car so that we wouldn't get a parking ticket. Bernie went back to the car to display the permit on the dash and bring the bags in. Garry asked if we needed any help with restaurants for tonight. I told him that on the way up we had been discussing the relative merits of fish and chips versus a roast served in a giant Yorkshire pudding. Garry was momentarily nonplussed by my giant Yorkshire Pudding request, but then remembered that his father-in-law is a fan of the giant Yorkshire puds served at the pub just across and down the street a bit.

When Bernie returned with our bags Garry showed us up to our room for the night. When booking this B&B Bernie had put in a special request for their Cook Room. You would think that a room with a Captain Cook theme would have nautical decorations but, no, the decorations were more woodland than ocean. Regardless of the theme, the room was very spacious and tastefully decorated. With our bags stowed, we headed out to spend the rest of the afternoon exploring Whitby.

Our first stop was the Captain Cook Memorial Museum which is housed in the mid-18th century house that belonged to the Walker Family with whom James Cook lodged between 1746 and 1749 when he was apprenticed to Captain John Walker. The style of living in this type of 18th century household has been recreated by furnishing the ground floor rooms in accordance with an inventory dated 1751. Because the Walker family were Quakers the house was and is very simply and modestly decorated.

On the first floor the house has a Whitby Room, a London Room and the Voyages Room dedicated respectively to Cook's years in Whitby (1746-54), his early naval career (1755-67) and, of course, his three great voyages of discovery in 1768-71, 1772-75 and 1776-80. A cabinet in the Whitby Room contains the Muster Roll of Walker's ship Freelove in 1747, when James Cook was an apprentice. James's name appears third from the bottom of the page displayed. Surprisingly this book was only discovered in 1980 ... inside an attic where it had been stored for who knows how many years. What a remarkable find!

The second floor is dedicated to the scientists and artists whose work on the voyages contributed significantly to many branches of knowledge such as: botany, ethnology, astronomy and hydrography. The attic is the room in which James Cook lodged with John Walker's other apprentices when ashore. In its present condition, the attic is one large room used to house temporary exhibitions.

There is speculation that in Cook's time it may have been divided into a number of smaller areas and that it could have provided lodging for up to 17 apprentices. It is unlikely that all 17 apprentices would have been in port at the same time though. It is hard to imagine a young James Cook studying navigation, mathematics and astronomy - the subjects that would advance his career - in the attic by the light of a single candle end saved for him by the housekeeper, Mary Prowd. If only walls could talk, what stories they could tell.

From the museum in Grape Lane we made our way up the 199 step to St Mary's Church and the ruins of Whitby Abbey. With the afternoon panning out to be more sun than cloud we were treated to a fabulous view along the North Yorkshire coast and down onto the River Esk, Upper and Lower Harbours and the lighthouses and breakwater. We watched as the 40% sized Endeavour replica headed out through the breakwater on its afternoon cruise ... in rather heavy seas! Very happy to watch from the headland rather than be on board rolling and pitching in the North Sea swell.

Whitby Abbey is administered by English Heritage rather than the National Trust so we had to pay again to visit this historic site. When we visit the UK again, especially if it is for a longer period of time, we shall have to look into what English Heritage memberships are available for visitors to the UK. There has been a religious community on this headland above the River Esk since the 7th century. In fact, the future of Christianity in England was determined here at the Synod of Whitby in AD664.

A Benedictine monastery was raised in the 12th century and remained a centre of prayer and study until its suppression in 1538 during the Reformation commenced by Henry VIII's following his break with the papacy in Rome. This allowed the site to be purchased by the wealthy Cholmley family who started to dismantle the monastery to use the stone to build themselves a stately home!

What goes up must come down, so we descended the 199 steps to return to the south side of the harbour. Unlike the families with children we didn't feel the need to count the steps as we ascended or descended. It was funny how many people we passed counting off the steps to make sure that there actually are 199 steps! We walked back over the swing bridge and then along the north side of the harbour to where the mini-me Endeavour was berthed for the night. Although it has masts there is only a semblance of sails and we suspect that its daily cruises up the coast are always powered by motor rather than by sails.

People were queueing to get a table at the Magpie Café which is, apparently, THE place to eat in Whitby. Mind you, they have a take-out counter just along from the restaurant where you can buy your fish and chips to go without queueing at all. Never mind, we had fish and chips on Monday night in Marazion; we're all set for a giant Yorkshire pudding tonight!

From the harbour, where all of the ships that sailed in Cook's voyages of discovery were built (they were all Whitby colliers originally before being purchased and re-fitted by the navy), we climbed up to the north headland to see the Captain Cook Monument. This version of Cook has a rolled map tucked under his left arm and a compass in his right hand. The statue could do with a really good clean to remove all of the seagull poop that has been deposited on Cook's head and shoulders. In the great cities of Rome, Florence and Milan it was the pigeons that showed no respect for Italy's great heroes. Here in coastal Whitby, bloody Stephen came and perched on the head of the world's greatest explorer, navigator and cartographer while we watched! The plinth of the monument has plaques dedicated by Australia, Canada and New Zealand acknowledging the contribution that James Cook made to the exploration of each.

From the monument it was just a short walk back to our room to thaw out after an afternoon out in a rather brisk sea breeze. The Leeway must have an astronomical heating bill because it was very, very warm. We had to turn the radiator to the nighttime setting and have the window open a little to be comfortable warm rather than roasting.

It was raining when we headed over to the Granby Hotel for dinner so we were pleased not to be venturing too far for our meal tonight. On the plus side we were treated to an amazing double rainbow arching over Whitby. With our cameras back in the room, Bernie tried to capture the moment with his iPhone. The spectrum of colours displayed in the inner rainbow was particularly intense. It's not often that your are treated to such a magnificent rainbow. We probably should have gone back for our cameras and headed for the headland to take a photo looking over to the abbey ruins opposite. Sometimes I think we are much more snappers than photographers - we don't like too much discomfort when we are taking our photographs!!

So, Janet will be pleased to know that we ordered our giant Yorkshire puddings filled with roast beef, mixed veggies and gravy. The puds were just big enough - not gargantuan like some we have seen! - the veggies were good and the roast beef ... well, that was a bit dry and gristly. Mine anyway, Bernie seemed to be lucky enough to score a slightly more succulent slice of beef!



Steps for the day 12,027 (8.19 km)


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Captain Cook needs a clean


1st June 2015

hardly snappers!
I can't imagine anyone describing you both as snappers rather than photographers, you go to much greater lengths than the average person to get your images, and are rewarded well for your efforts. Lovely pics, even the iphone one has come up well. I love the Whitby abbey photo, very atmospheric. No mention of Dracula in your blog, the Whitby folk love to play up that connection. We visited there with Jill and Trev, my aunty Ann and friend Kath in 2008 and made the same observation about that poor statue. They must clean it regularly otherwise it would be a lumpy encrusted mess by now! We were on our way to Durham to visit my cousin and family. I phoned him from that spot to make arrangements to stay that night because there were no vacancies anywhere in Whitby that night due to a festival. I had a very long conversation with a man who didn't deny being my cousin or express surprise to any of my conversation, before I realised it was a wrong number. The person just went along with everything I was saying, didn't even seem concerned that 6 people were coming to stay with him. How bizarre! Glad to hear that you have had a giant Yorkshire pudding. Too bad about the meat but as long as the yorkshire was good we wouldn't have cared. Our niece Kim can't wait to meet us over there and will be searching out Yorkshire puddings high and low throughout her visit.

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