Friday, 9 April 2010

To Whitby Abbey

The family and I left the cave and headed across the North Yorkshire moors yesterday to visit Whitby Abbey and to look around the town itself. God’s own county is well appointed with the wreckage of our Christian past, but we do make foray across the borders occasionally to visit foreign ruins. The weather was excellent, making the approach into Whitby thoroughly spectacular. The first view is from many miles away and from height. The Abbey itself sits out on a windswept promontory, quite clear and commanding from distance. Then into Whitby and across the river on the way to the Abbey, the view of the harbour area is picture-postcard beautiful (at least until the car park fills up!)

The Abbey itself is one of many testimonies to that evil thug Henry VIII. Wrecked, and the bits and pieces handed out to one of his cronies. Still, what little remains is a beautiful memory to what had been…but little thanks to English Heritage who look after the site. We’ve taken to using the audio commentaries that are often handed out at sites like this in the UK; sometimes they can be very good indeed. But here, the commentary was terrible. It was twee nonsense seemingly written by someone who knew little of history and nothing of Christianity (all the more puzzling because the written guidebook is pretty good). There’s also a new visitor’s centre that just opened; a very pleasant building but with an extremely poor exhibition. I presume that it won its prizes for the architecture rather than the exhibition (leastwise, I hope it did!) Given that the Abbey has been developed as an educational/tourist site, what a missed opportunity; perhaps a symptom of the descent of this country in mediocrity and barbarism.

Still, we enjoyed our day and the drive back was as spectacular as the drive there.


  1. I have to confess to liking Whitby a lot, because I'm a native - literally!

  2. Hi Mike, don't let my grumblings about English Heritage give you the impression that I didn't like Whitby or the abbey itself! Lovely place.

    A few years ago we lived up the coast in Whitley Bay, so we got plenty of opportunities to visit many of the holy sites up and down that coast. We just never got as far south as Whitby!