30th Mar 2012
Bram Stoker’s centenary is approaching, and I can’t think of any finer way of celebrating his work than visiting Whitby, the inspiration for one of the three famous locations in his classic horror Dracula.
I am a massive fan of Whitby, a seaside town that refuses to conform to the typical jellied eels and arcade flurry of most British seaside resorts. Whitby is a town drenched in true gothic origin, and nowhere else sums up the place best than Whitby Abbey.
For me, the scene in which Dracula hunts his prey within the graveyard of the Abbey is among the most beautifully descriptive and physiologically terrifying parts of the book.
Even today, while the Abbey is a stunning example of Gothic architecture (despite its ruinous form), at night, at least for the easily paranoid among us, you can picture all too vividly the scene of a dangerous cloaked stranger moving around just out of sight.
High above the rest of the town, there are the infamous one hundred and ninety-nine narrow, steep steps to climb to the abbey, with little more than a iron bar to keep you from falling into the ocean below.
Once you’ve reached the abbey you’ll be rewarded with a stunning aspect of the entire town, alongside the choppy sea below, making it one of the most visually stunning scenes from any British seaside town.
The abbey itself is absolutely mind-blowing, with the remains of the monastery towering above you, and some sides of the abbey still almost completely intact, it provides you with an almost complete image of the building in its full magnificence.
It was originally built in 657 AD, but then included in the Desolation of the Monasteries by Henry VIII, and further damaged by intensive bombing in World War One.
With this connection, Whitby is a hotspot for lovers of the alternative. On most visits you will see gothic wedding parades of women wearing intricate corsets with dark parasols and men in top hats and cloaks, savouring the narrow cobbled streets and the consistently gothic architecture on offer throughout the town. You’ll find plenty of shops to feed your punk and goth side, as well as beautiful tea shops and quaint restaurants throughout the town.
Anyone with a love of vampire-infused fiction has a lot to thank Bram Stoker for on his centenary. The gentleman that brought vampires into mainstream literature ignited a lust for blood-sucking tales of terror than has only burned stronger as time has gone on.
You may love or hate the new softer side of the vampire in YA fiction (I am of course referring to Twilight), and as much as I personally dislike the Twilight saga, it is fascinating to see how the classic figure of horror has progressed and become an icon now predominantly in the hands of women writers.