A fishing port with a Gothic edge (it is host to an annual Goth Weekend), Whitby is also a busy tourist hub, but it handles the crowds so well you might not notice (except at dinnertime, when it's hard to get a seat in a restaurant). Set in a ravine at the mouth of the River Esk, Whitby’s narrow streets rise from the curved harbor up cliffs surmounted by the dramatic ruins of a 13th-century abbey. Fine Georgian houses dominate the west side of the river (known as West Cliff). The smaller 17th-century buildings of the old town (known as East Cliff) are found on the other side of an Edwardian swing bridge. Here cobbled Church Street is packed in summer with people exploring the shop-lined alleyways.
Whitby came to prominence as a whaling port in the mid-18th century. Whaling brought wealth, and shipbuilding made it famous: Captain James Cook (1728–79), explorer and navigator, sailed on his first ship from Whitby in 1747, and all four of his subsequent discovery vessels were built here. A scaled-down replica of Cook’s ship Endeavour runs tours of the Yorkshire coast.