By Peter Russell

Once in the North of England, Whitby is a must see destination. The ancient seaport of Whitby, Yorkshire is a beautiful and picturesque natural harbour situated on England’s North East Coast.

It is essentially a town of two parts divided by the River Esk, and Whitby’s natural geographic situation has shaped both its historical and commercial past and continues to influence its culture to the present day.

Whitby is steeped in history. The East Side of Whitby is the older of the two sections and the location for the Abbey, the founding point for the town, which dates back to 656 AD. On the headland near the Abbey, there are indications of an earlier Roman lighthouse and small settlement. Indeed the early Saxon name for Whitby was Streonshal meaning Lighthouse Bay, which leads onto Yorkshire’s famous Cleveland National Trail.

At the bottom of the 199 steps that lead to the Abbey is Church Street (formerly known as Kirkgate), whose cobbled streets and many cottages and houses date from the 15th century, when the numerous narrow alleyways and yards provided escape routes for smugglers and gangs of youths from the customs men and press gangs who were hot on their heels. Church Streets origins can be traced back even further, however, with dwellings having been documented at the foot of the Abbey steps as early as 1370.

At the top of the steps, you can see the harbour vista which provided the inspiration for the opening passage to Bram Stoker's Dracula. You can also the chapel and its graveyard and the Abbey.

A must eat destination is the famous Whitby Magpie Cafe, serving what locals proudly say is "the best fish 'n' chips in the world." But be prepared to queue and a long wait to get into the cafe and be served. Don't be shy, ask for "scraps."

During the Summer holidays, there's a good chance to get a ride on a Stanley Steamer bus. This is an amazing blast from the past that can cruise up the steep hills with ease. In fact, easier than in an automobile.

Whitby is also the stomping ground for the young James Cook, who would later become Captain Cook, who discovered Australia. There is a museum in town dedicated to Cook and his exploits. You can see the type of bunk in which young apprentice James would have slept. There is also a bust of Cook on the North Head, overlooking the harbour.

If at times, you feel something familiar about Whitby, it's probably because you were a "Heartbeat" fan. The popular TV show was often filmed in location, using the historic building as a backdrop.

The UK is one of the "must go" destinations for many Australians. Nearly everyone who chooses to travel there gets in the "London-rut". This is when people tend to get stuck in the capital and surrounds and not travel to the North.

A little-used trick is to fly from Melbourne to Manchester or Edinburgh and work your way around the North of Scotland and England, making London your departure point. It usually costs no more and from time to time can be cheaper than flying to London.

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