The best alternative attractions in and around Whitby

23rd October 2017

Floral clock in Pannett Park

The town of Whitby, along with much of the rest of North Yorkshire, is rightly regarded as one of the classic UK holiday destinations. Some of the things which doubtless spring to mind when Whitby is mentioned are its charming seaside attractions, the imposing and historic abbey ruins and, of course, fish and chips.

However, anyone who visits regularly will know that there is far more to this friendly and welcoming destination than what it is perhaps most famous for. In this article, we have decided to pick out a handful of places that are true highlights of Whitby but which you may not yet be familiar with (as well as another favourite which can be enjoyed by those willing to venture a little way out of the town). We want you to make the most of your next trip to this truly lovely spot, and believe that taking the time to discover the attractions detailed below will allow you to do just that.

W Hamond jet shop and tea rooms

W Hamond shop exterior

Whilst, as mentioned, Whitby is probably most famous as a traditional seaside holiday destination, it is also worth highlighting the fact that the town is home to a mini-industry all of its own – that of ‘jet’ jewellery.

Jet, a kind of fossilised wood which takes millions of years to form, is found in various places around the world but the common consensus is that the highest quality examples of the material have always been found in the cliffs surrounding Whitby.

Although it has been used to create jewellery and ornaments for many centuries, the Victorian era was when the popularity of jet reached its high point, even becoming favoured by Queen Victoria herself. This, of course, proved to be a huge boon for Whitby’s economy, causing a large number of workshops and stores to spring up around the town.

W Hamond silver jet split heart ring

Amazingly, one of these shops, W Hamond, is not just still in existence today but is positively thriving. Now also boasting outlets in Leeds and York, it is the Whitby shop – opened in 1860 – which is seen as the original and best, continuing to handcraft high quality jewellery for every taste and budget.

Far more than just a shop, W Hamond is an attraction in its own right and deserves to be visited by anyone who plans to spend a day exploring the town. We were delighted that the team at Whitby’s original jet store were able to tell us a little more about their illustrious history and the work being done there today:

“Located at the top of Whitby's historic Church Street and at the foot of the famous Abbey steps, W Hamond is the town's oldest surviving Whitby Jet Jewellery Shop and this charming boutique continues to operate from its original location.

“During its heyday, Whitby Jet's popularity spawned an industry around the collection of the local gemstone from the nearby coastal cliffs, which in turn supplied the hundreds of workshops in the town.

W Hamond pendant Whitby jet and white mother of pearl rose gold diamond set flowers in pear shape

“Today, as the large lathes and dust-filled rooms of Victorian times have been replaced by modern equipment and a healthy working environment, W Hamond's craftsmen still combine age old techniques with modern technology to keep the traditional craft alive.

“Sometimes the size and shape of the raw gemstone material, collected from local beaches, dictates the finished appearance of a piece of jewellery. This can be seen in the unique items produced by W Hamond, whose designers and craftsmen may take an extra-large and perfect piece of raw material and make it into a single, stunning pendant or brooch rather than cutting it to make several smaller items.”

And as if marvelling at their one-of-a-kind creations was not enough, W Hamond also offers another reason to pay their Whitby shop a visit. The building houses its very own tea rooms, which have been serving up delicious snacks, meals and drinks since 2010, as well as hosting regular events such as musical entertainment, educational talks and even ghost walks.

Conveniently located in the town centre and featuring a wide range of fantastic products, a trip to W Hamond offers visitors a shopping experience unlike any other. Be sure to stop by when you’re next in Whitby.

Eden Camp

Eden Camp entrance

Our next featured attraction is not within the town of Whitby itself but is well worth the journey (roughly a 45-minute drive) for the fascinating experience that awaits when you reach Eden Camp near the town of Malton.

Proudly celebrating its 30th anniversary as a visitor attraction this year, Eden Camp is a real must-see for all those interested in British history, and particularly any military and Second World War buffs.

The sheer volume of information housed within the various huts around the extensive site - which was, in fact, built at the height of WW2 as a prisoner-of-war camp - is more than worth the £8.50 admission fee (concessions are available for children, senior citizens, families and large groups) but there is so much more to Eden Camp than the extensive war-themed literature available.

An impressive range of genuine wartime artefacts can be found throughout the large museum. Just a few examples include Hut 10 - which now features the world’s largest collection of POW paraphernalia - the lovingly maintained ‘Dig for Victory’ garden and accompanying ‘prefab’ house, and Hut 13, which is dedicated to telling the story of every post-WW2 conflict in which British troops have been involved.

Eden Camp Hut 10 - POW

Nick Hill, the museum’s manager, was able to tell us more about why you should be sure to add the camp to your itinerary when you are next in the North Yorkshire area:

“Housed in the buildings and grounds of an original World War Two Prisoner of War Camp, a visit to Eden Camp transports visitors back in time to experience the sights, sounds and even the smells of life on both the Home Front and Front Line during WWII. The museum presents the most comprehensive display of 20th Century British military and social and civilian history from the 1930’s and 40’s period in the world. With a café, shop, free on-site parking and dog friendly, Eden Camp is open 7 days a week from the 2nd Monday in January to 23rd December. Please see www.edencamp.co.uk for more details.”

A special ‘Junior Assault Course’, picnic areas and full accessibility for disabled visitors are just a few of the other features which make Eden Camp an excellent choice for those looking for an educational yet entertaining experience. We’re sure you will agree that a visit here is well worth the journey – the only problem may be fitting everything into one day!

Pannett Park

Pannett Park lily pool

Finally, we will take you back into the town of Whitby itself and to one of its most prized possessions – Pannett Park.

Most towns, of course, have one or more parks providing residents and visitors with a place to sit and relax. It is fair to say, however, that the level of care and dedication which goes into making Whitby’s Pannett Park a haven of tranquillity where guests can enjoy both the peaceful atmosphere and an impressive range of themed gardens puts it several steps ahead of most of its contemporaries.

Many first-time visitors to the park may wonder how it can be maintained and looked after to such a consistently high standard. The answer is a partnership between the hardworking gardeners of Scarborough Borough Council and the Friends of Pannett Park, a group of local volunteers who do a great deal of fundraising and creative work throughout the year.

Pannett Park terrace

We are very grateful to Linda Wilkins, Secretary of the Friends of Pannett Park, for providing us with more information about what the group does and the many beautiful sights which visitors can enjoy when they next take a trip to this jewel in Whitby’s crown:

“Pannett Park is an award winning park in the heart of Whitby and is home to Whitby Museum and Pannett Art Gallery.

“Bequeathed to the people of Whitby by Robert Elliott Pannett in 1920, it has been restored and is managed in partnership between the Friends of Pannett Park and Scarborough Borough Council, with Whitby Town Council being trustees. It is a much loved local park, both by residents and visitors to Whitby.

“An oasis of peace in a bustling seaside resort, a park for all seasons and for all ages. With a variety of carefully considered planting and several special gardens, which include a Jurassic Garden, a Lily Pool, a Commemorative Garden, a South Seas Garden and a Rose Garden, there is plenty to enjoy. In addition, the marine themed play area is always buzzing. Yet another claim to fame is one of the few floral clocks in the country.

Pannett Park in snow

“We have developed trails in the park to encourage further exploration and give information about the special features. These include a Turtle Trail which links the park to the museum, ‘Figure your Way round the Park’, a trail to bring some aspects of Key Stage 2 maths to the outdoors, a Tree Trail describing 20 selected trees and providing a leaf rubbing activity for younger visitors and there are also leaflets explaining the Jurassic Garden and Art in the Park.

“Within Pannett Park we also have a Community Garden, a popular picnic spot for families, with taster vegetable plot and help yourself herb garden.

“With the sheltered aspect and many well cared for benches, what better place to sit and enjoy the stunning views across Whitby to the abbey and to enjoy the fragrances surrounding you?”

Whitby Museum

Whitby Museum and Pannett Art Gallery

As mentioned above, a stroll through Pannett Park will also take you right to the doorstep of Whitby Museum.

The museum (which also houses the excellent Pannett Art Gallery) is, much like the park that surrounds it, a fine example of how an important community resource can and should be managed. The extensive permanent displays are periodically accompanied by special themed exhibits, whilst an invaluable library and archive area allows anyone interested in subjects like geology, geography, archaeology and industry to expand their knowledge through a marvellous selection of books, journals, photographs and more.

If you plan ahead, you will also be able to time your visit so that it coincides with one of the regular special events or expert lectures that the museum hosts. Informative talks are normally held on the fourth Wednesday of each month at 2:15pm, with recent and forthcoming topics including Linthorpe pottery, coastal erosion and the writer’s house museum of Shandy Hall – an eclectic mix of topics which is a fair reflection of the museum’s vast and diverse areas of interest.

Whitby Museum fossil

Here’s what the team at the museum themselves had to say about the many and varied reasons there are for visiting:

“Whitby Museum is Whitby’s treasure trove! Here you can explore stunning collections of local fossils, natural history, model ships, carved jet, toys, costumes and social history. In fact, there’s something for everyone!

“Our collection of over 80,000 artefacts, donated over two centuries, is of local, national and international interest.

“Children will be fascinated by the massive wall mounted marine reptile fossils and everyone is sure to want to see the gruesome Hand of Glory!

Whitby Museum Hand of Glory

“As you wander around our exhibits, discover how leeches helped predict the weather in Victorian times and marvel over the intricate hand carved jet models and jewellery.

“Find out about Whitby’s maritime past, from the adventurous Captain Cook to the famous Scoresby whaling family.

“During your visit, be sure to try our newly re-opened tea room where you can enjoy homemade cakes, scones and light bites in vintage Alice in Wonderland inspired surroundings.   

“Definitely not to be missed."

Whitby piers

As you can see, there is a great deal more to Whitby than may first meet the eye. What’s more, the places we’ve mentioned above are really only scratching the surface of what the town and surrounding area has to offer those staying in any of the hotels near Scarborough, Robin Hood’s Bay or in the town itself in the coming months. We hope that you’ll soon be able to visit beautiful North Yorkshire yourself and see what all the fuss is about!

Image Credits: Pannett Park, W Hamond, Eden Camp, Lee Jeffs, Whitby Museum, Badobadop, Mick Garratt