• LOCATION 37 | Essential Whitby: A Guide to the Town’s Legends, Treasures and Main Sites

    Tate Hill Pier

    Tate Hill Pier on Whitby audio tour Essential Whitby: A Guide to the Town’s Legends, Treasures and Main Sites

    Welcome to Tate Hill Pier - claimed to be the oldest pier in the world.

    The pier is believed to have been here since 1190 however, its a little bit like Archimedes' ship - it been redeveloped and rebuilt so many times one could question whether it is the 'same pier'.

    The current structure dates from 1632, but there was extended in 1766. Its perfectly safe so don't worry.

    To your right is of course the setting for one of the most well-known scenes in the history of English literature. Right here, Count Dracula made his arrival from Transylvania in Bram Stoker's famous novel.

    The scene is dramatic - a tempest raging at sea and a sole Russian sailing ship heading directly for the town. As it defies the odds and makes it into the piers, locals notice the ship's captain with his hands lashed against the steering wheel - dead.

    The ship, the Demeter, crashes into the beach right here and a black dog emerges and scurries off into Whitby's smoky eastside.

    Attempting to make sense of the circumstances the Captain's log book is retrieved by a reporter and the events since the ship departed Varna in the Black Sea.

    The Captain writes of strange happenings and crew claiming the existence of an undocumented presence on board. Slowly, the crew begin to disappear - leaving only the Captain alive - convinced that something other worldly is onboard. He was right of course - but he would not live to tell the tale.

    During Stoker's visit to the town in 1890 he will have heard the tale of a Russian ship that did in fact crash into Tate Hill. The name of the ship was the Dmitri.

    Look across the water now - towards the west side - and you'll see a large building with the name Quayside. This was in fact the library where Stoker first became acquainted with the name Dracula.

    Dracula comes from the Wallachian language - a region that you would find in modern day Romania - and simply translates as Son of the Dragon, which was itself another name for the Devil (a little bit like Old Jake perhaps). This clearly had a big impact on Stoker and the Transylvanian theme also introduced him to Vlad the Impaler.

    Vlad, the 15th century leader of Wallachia, is well-known for driving wooden-stakes through his enemies. This is also part of the procedure, according to Van Helsing in Stoker's novel, for killing a vampire.

    There were clearly a lot of inspirations for Stoker here in Whitby and the town will forever be associated with vampires and Dracula. Twice a year we host 'goth weekends' when people will visit the town from all over Britain, and even abroad. The goths might appear a little scary, but they are generally very pleasant and come to Whitby for its welcoming atmosphere, fine array of pubs and ideal settings for photographs.

    At the end of Tate Hill Pier you'll find the sculpture of a fishergirl by local artist Emma Stothard. It is a tribute to both Whitby's fishing heritage and also bears a resemblance to some of Frank Meadow Sutcliffe's subjects, the photographer I told you about earlier in the tour.

    Look out now towards the pier ends - they face due north. This makes it easy to remember whether you're on the east or west side of town. Because Whitby faces north it means that the sun rises and sets here over the water. This is rather unique.

    It is all down to preference, however I think the best sunsets here in Whitby are in the latter-spring. These are the hazy night when the water is calm and the sky fills with some amazing oranges and deep reds.

    When you're ready, head back towards the steps at the end of the beginning pier and take a left, you'll be going back uphill.

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Essential Whitby: A Guide to the Town’s Legends, Treasures and Main Sites