CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> Previous Beer Columns >> Three Whitby Pubs


Previous Pint Pleasures - December 9, 2002

guinness eileen

Jolly Sailors Inn, St Annes, Staithes, Whitby, North Yorkshire

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Duke of York, Church Street, Whitby, North Yorkshire

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Board Inn, Church Street, Whitby, North Yorkshire

One day last spring my partner Andrew suggested we go have fish and chips for lunch. We jumped in the car and started driving toward the Yorkshire east coast. Two hours later, at Pickering, we turned north up the A169 and took a breathtaking half-hour drive across the North Yorkshire Moors. These are the real Moors, home of dozens of rare species of flora and fauna, some known only here. The terrain is hilly with broad swathes of furry brown ground cover accented with red and copper, where the winters are so severe that people who get stranded in their cars often die of exposure. Past the Bridestones rock formations we came to the Hole of Horcum, a big rusty-brown natural crater 400 feet deep which measures three quarters of a mile across. A bit further we passed a mysterious concrete A-shaped building in such a desolate setting it looked like it could be a satellite communication centre on the Moon. (I'll admit I've never actually been to the Moon, although some of my friends suspect otherwise.) At one point I spotted a colourful cock pheasant pecking around on the side of the road which Andrew said was one of the lucky ones; sure enough, a minute later we passed a squashed cock pheasant, and then another one, and then another. It made me think of the squashed armadillos which line the highways of Louisiana. We also passed a number of sheep grazing by the roadside, but fortunately they're a bit smarter than cock pheasants.

And finally, along with the River Esk, we descended into Whitby, a small town on the North Sea 30 kilometres up the coast from Scarborough. Dating from the Middle Ages, this port town is famous in many ways. Having started life as a fishing and whaling port, Whitby was the home of William Scoresby, who invented the crow's nest. The ships which Captain James Cook sailed to the South Seas were all built in Whitby, where there's still a replica of the Endeavor on display. Whitby is also famous for the poet Caedmon as well as being the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's poem "The Walrus and the Carpenter". And nearby is Goathland, which was the setting for the TV series "Heartbeat".

But Whitby is probably most famous for inspiring Bram Stoker to write Dracula. Part of the novel was based in Whitby, and Dracula is supposedly buried there as well. This makes it a very popular tourist destination, especially for Goths who flock to the town for its biannual Gothic Weekend.

As we arrived in Whitby too late for lunch, we decided to kill some time before dinner with a pint at the Jolly Sailors Inn, located on the west side of the river. Our pints of Old Brewery Bitter (4% ABV, Samuel Smith Old Brewery, Tadcaster, N Yorkshire) were, at £1.25, a real deal. This is a nice basic beer, a good swan beer, with a long graceful neck and a feathery white presence. It's very suitable for accompanying a look out at the water, at swans and boats and seagulls, oh my. And with all that money you save on your pint you can go into either loo, drop five quid into the vending machine, and purchase that Racing Snake Vibrator you've always dreamed of owning!

We ended up having our fish and chips at the Duke of York on the other side of the river. This pub, which was full of summer seaside tourists, offers a pleasant view of the water, the Fun City amusement arcade on the other side, and a Victorian seaside resort on the West Cliff, in front of which stands a whale bone arch which reminds me of a miniature version of the St Louis Arch. The pub, dating from 1851, was a hangout of Bram Stoker's, and there is nautical memorabilia everywhere. On one wall is a clock showing when the tides are high and low as well as the exact location of the pub: Longitude 0° 36' 25" West, Latitude 54° 29' 14" North. (You're bound to find it now.) Our fish and chips were excellent -- well worth the long drive. We accompanied our meal with welcome pints of Black Sheep Special (4.4% ABV, Black Sheep Brewery, Ripon, North Yorkshire). We didn't see many sheep on the moor, though, and only a handful of black lambs, all fairly stationary and not romping about as lambs tend to do. But we did get to watch the sunset over the North Sea as we pictured Germany and Norway off in the distance. I couldn't help wondering if there were any coastal Germans or Norwegians gazing in our direction as they ate their fish and chips.

On our second trip to Whitby we brought along a friend and my visiting mother. On this crowded weekend day the Duke of York was jam packed, so we settled for lunch at the Board Inn next door. Our pints of Theakston's Best Bitter (3.9% ABV, Tyne Brewery, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne & Wear) were disappointing: flat, tasteless, and without character, but mildly improved by the fish and chips, although the cod was quite greasy. As we dined we had a nice view of a beach, lighthouses, and jetties, not to mention a plastic owl decoy on the roof next door. I couldn't help wondering if it vibrates...

Just down the street from the pubs you can climb 199 steps up to St Mary's Church and then on up to the ruins of Whitby Abbey, which dates from 657 AD. Although I was eager to race up the same steps Dracula reportedly ran up disguised as a black dog, my companions preferred to drive in the car. No matter how you get up there -- climbing, driving, trotting, flying, floating as a spectre -- the Abbey is definitely worth seeing. And be sure to say hello to Dracula while you're there.