Strange Things and Storylands on the Yorkshire Coast
Yorkshire Coast – Halloween’s on the Horizon. You’ve binge-watched Stranger Things, revived Twilight and Buffy, and fallen in love with the Witcher, but now you need some real thrills and chills – and the Yorkshire Coast is one of the few places left in the UK where you can still do that. Once the summer sun loses its bright glare and the nights draw in, it’s time to peer into the shadows and put a tingle in our spines…
Facts and Fictions
There are few places left in the world with as many strange stories as the Yorkshire Coast. It is a place where the imagination runs wild, full of dreams and nightmares – where myths and monsters never died, and the land beneath our feet vibrates with the echo of an ancient Other World.
As the thirst for all things fantastical and magical grows, the Yorkshire Coast is fast becoming something of an international ‘storyland’, attracting people from across the world in search of Dracula, Middle Earth, or rabbit holes into Wonderland. It might even be one of the oldest literary locations in Britain, thanks to a miraculous dream that turned an illiterate cowherd into the first ever English poet, turning Whitby Abbey into a medieval tourist hotspot as pilgrims came to be similarly inspired.
Ever since then, people have travelled to the Yorkshire Coast seeking inspiration, and the region has cast its spell over some of England’s most fantastical storytellers including Bram Stoker (Dracula), JRR Tolkein (Lord of the Rings), and Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland). There’s even an ancient superhero immortalised in the landscape: Wade, star of famous Viking and Saxon sagas left his mark for you to follow. If that’s not enough, the region’s also part of Harry Potter’s wizarding world.
If you want to make a blockbuster of your life, then this is the place for you.
Here’s the trailer: top 5 haunts on a Halloween-inspired Road Trip…
- Whitby is the world-famous birthplace of Dracula. Bram Stoker’s ground-breaking novel has left an undead legacy on global popular culture that has fascinated and terrified ever since: if Dracula is considered the founding-father of horror fiction and dark fantasy, Whitby is its muse. Dracula’s not just a thrilling work of fiction, however. Bram Stoker drew on real life locations, characters and chronicles from Whitby, so we might indeed question what’s fact or fiction? But Bram Stoker wasn’t the only mythmaker to have been seduced by the Yorkshire Coast…here are a few more.
- Witches once ruled the Yorkshire Coast. But they were not just the cursing crones that we know from history. They were also ‘wyse women’, skilled in the natural lore of the land: weather witches, healing witches, or witches with an empathy for wild things. Where’s the evidence? The region’s museums have some of the most curious collections in the country, including a macabre Hand of Glory, an 11,000 thousand-year old shaman’s headdress, a witch’s doll and more Witchposts (designed to keep away evil spirits), than anywhere else in the country, suggesting the area had a large population! You can even visit a witch’s hovel.
- Wildlife or Wyrdlife? The Yorkshire Coast’s magnificent and unspoilt landscapes provide a safe harbour for some of Britain’s most precious wildlife, promising super-natural encounters whatever time of year you visit: from giant whales to Britain’s smallest birds-of-prey; the cutest of creatures – puffins, to the starriest of skies, with views to edge of the Milky Way. But the Yorkshire Coast is also the haunt of a remarkable ‘wyrdlife’, its land populated by dragons, sea-monsters, hobgoblins, barguests, mermaids, giants, vampires, wraiths and UFO-flying aliens. You can barely travel a mile without bumping into something.
- “To seek out new worlds, to boldly go where no man has gone before”: those famous words uttered by Star Trek’s fictional Captain Kirk started life in Whitby. They were the real-life words of local adventurer Captain Cook, as he set out to explore uncharted lands beyond the horizon. Cook’s fearless journeys into the unknown would transform science, just like Kirk’s transformed Sci-Fi. But there are many more reasons why the Yorkshire Coast is becoming a dream destination for Sci-Fi fans, including a chance to experience Britain’s starriest skies, and to visit a shrine for futuristic, time travelling Steampunks.
- Even the food and drink is legendary on the Yorkshire Coast: from the cake that saved Filey from dragons, to beers brewed from smugglers’ secrets, and spirits distilled with sacred spring water, and crafted with ancient herbal lore.
Where to look?
Toss a coin to the Witcher if you’re adventuring around Whitby, Danby, Spaunton Moor, and Rosedale – they’re the haunts of famous local witches. You’ll be enchanted by sirens in Staithes but spare a tear for the sad stories of wraiths Sarkless Kitty of Spaunton Moor, Gytha of Goathland and Jenny Gallows of Flamborough. You may even come across a hobgoblin on your travels, often to be found watching over the ancient burial chambers (called barrows) that guard the North York Moors. Whether you have a supernatural encounter or not, these spectacular landscapes are dramatic and atmospheric places, a complete escape from the everyday – and from everyone. They’re also all epic spaces for walking or cycling, and you can find route ideas at www.discoveryorkshirecoast.com
Seeking sea-monsters or shipwrecks? Then take a trip to Filey Bay. It might be known as Yorkshire’s ‘Gold Coast’ with miles of stunning sandy beaches, but it’s also home to Yorkshire’s terrifying Loch Ness Monster – estimated to be 30 feet long, with the growl of a dozen dogs according to the last coastguard sighting. Meanwhile its treacherous waters are a shipwreck graveyard, feared by history’s sailors but now thrilling divers from across the world, who search for wrecks like 18th-century flagship Bonhomme Richard, considered to be as important a find as the Titanic.
Go ghost-busting in Scarborough: there’s royal ghosts and roman ghosts at the castle, a ghostly parade at the church, a grand hotel hosting a glitzy dinner dance that’s never ended 100 years after it begun, and a spooky cast in the Old Town – including an apparition warning sailors of bad weather on its way.
Do you need a guide to the Otherworld..? Make a date with experts like the Whitby Storyteller in Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay; go monster-hunting and star-searching with Hidden Horizons; and delve into the shadows during Dr Krank’s Whitby Walks.
Fans of Sci-Fi? Enjoy a star-gazing extravaganza during the Dark Skies Festival each February – there’s ‘wild’ star-gazing safaris year-round with experts like Hidden Horizons, or within the nationally-important observatory at Dalby. Encounter sci-fi stars (and fellow geeks in costume) at the unconventional convention known as Sci Fi Scarborough each April; spot UFOs in Filey, a UK hotspot. Investigate Captain Cook’s 18th-century Space Mission, as he set out to track the Transit of Venus, in Whitby’s Captain Cook Museum.
A Smugglers’ haunt: The infamous smugglers of Robin Hood’s Bay summoned spooks to guard their secrets and scare off the militia, and you can explore their haunts and hoards today, and even meet a few of them in person at the annual Victorian Christmas Weekend (dates for December 2020/1 tbc)
Steampunk or Time-traveller? The Yorkshire Coast’s becoming a shrine for Steampunks: alongside futuristic and fantastical festivals in Whitby, Scarborough and Filey each year (dates in 2021 tbc), there are also iconic places to visit like Filey, Britain’s most unspoilt Victorian town; Whitby, with its glorious Victorian Gothic; Scarborough’s extraordinary vintage Fair Collection, with its world-famous fairground rides, steam engines, and mechanical organs (including the Mighty Wurlitzer); and the North Yorkshire Railway Museum in Whitby, with steam trains and back-to-the-past weekenders.
Visit once and you will want to return time and again, there is always something new and exciting to discover on the Yorkshire Coast.
Where to find out more
For further information and advice when planning your trip to the Yorkshire Coast, talk to the friendly and dedicated team at the Tourism Bureau on 01723 383636.
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