Excerpts from 1,200 word article

WHITBY, HOME TO SEAGOING HERO AND VAMPIRE'S HUNTING GROUND

This is one of those delightful old seaports where you can pursue the past while enjoying the comforts of modern hotels. As a gateway to the North Yorkshire Moors, it is a convenient base from which to tour surrounding countryside. For us, it proved an interesting stop-over on our drive north to Edinburgh.

Since the fifteenth century Whitby has been known for its ship-building industry and by the 1700s had become an important port. Naval captain and explorer James Cook learned his seamanship on locally built vessels and went on to sail them across the world.

A stretch of beach below the cliff is where the fictitious Count Dracula came ashore in Bram Stoker's famous novel. It is said the author never visited Transylvania, but from descriptions in three chapters of his most successful book he obviously knew Whitby well. You are invited to follow a Dracula Trail, outlined in a leaflet written by the secretary of the London-based Dracula Society, and available from Whitby's tourist office for a few cents.....

On its lofty East Cliff perch, the churchyard is creepy enough by day, beneath a grey sky and whipped by a wind from the North Sea. At night, with the abbey ruins silhouetted against a moonlit sky, and ancient gravestones lopsided as if being pushed from the earth, it would turn the bravest person to jelly. Mina ran up the 199 steps leading to the churchyard. We took them slowly, stopping often to view red-roofed cottages around the harbour, and beyond it the West Cliff capped with modern hotels...

The Abbey of St Hilda was established on this cliff in the seventh century and another which lies in ruins was built by the Normans 300 years later. From all accounts, Lady Hilda was a most remarkable woman who ruled her domain with an ability and energy that is talked about still. As a self-supporting commune, the Abbey had its own farms, workshops and even a hospital. When she wasn't supervising these , Lady Hilda trained her clergy, educated children and adults and taught the scribes to painstakingly copy manuscripts onto vellum. She died from consumption at the Abbey in the year 680.....

Like most small seaside places, Whitby has an old town with narrow, crooked streets to poke around in. Shops down here are small and dark, and crammed with crafts, antiques and the inevitable sticks of rock candy.......

We lunched on delectable plaice which was doubtless caught that morning, and cooked while we waited. Something to remember when travelling this coast, whether you eat it from a newspaper on the beach, in a small cafe or plush dining room, North Sea fish can be the tastiest in the world......

IF YOU GO: Whitby is 230 miles (370km) from London via M1, A64 and A171. By rail, leave King's Cross station and change at Middlesborough.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact the Whitby Tourism Information Centre, Langborne Rd, Whitby, North Yorkshire YO21 1YN, tel (01947) 602674.