Cleaved in two by a deep harbour, Whitby is a handsome maritime town with an illustrious past, beloved by film productions for its remarkable state of preservation. In ITV’s Victoria, its cobbled streets and quaint storefronts featured as the backdrop to busy town scenes. Its East Cliff is lined with huddles of fishermen’s cottages now full of restaurants, shops and cafes, while the opposing West Cliff has a broad beachfront promenade backed by grand Victorian hotels.
It’s also recently hosted the Oscar winning Phantom Thread (2017) starring Daniel Day Lewis and Jeremy Clarkson’s The Grand Tour.
In real life, Whitby is famed for its links to Bram Stoker and Dracula. The writer spent many holidays here in the 19th century and set part of his gothic novel here – this is where Dracula’s boat washes ashore when the Count reaches England. And there’s certainly a ghoulish air about the town; it’s said to be home to witches and ghosts, and the spectral ruins of Whitby Abbey on the headland really look the part. As such, Whitby has featured in a number of productions inspired by the novel over the past century.
Most recently, it was cast in Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat’s 2020 adaptation of Dracula. The film crew used the abbey ruins, but stroll around town and you might spot other filming locations, such as Cholmley House, opposite the abbey. In the third episode, look out for the Spanton fashion shop and see if you can match it up with one of the real-life shops on Whitby’s Flowergate.
Whitby has also been a fishing port since the Middle Ages and was once home to whaling fleets. Whitby is where Captain Cook – the explorer to first circumnavigate New Zealand and parts of Australia in 1770 – learnt his trade and built his voyaging ships. This rich naval history is still visible in monuments and museums, and has helped cement the town as a highly desirable filming location for productions requiring a maritime setting.