Whitby Abbey

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Opening Times:

1 Apr-30 Sep daily, 10am-6pm;
1-28 Oct Thurs-Mon, 10am-4pm;
29 Oct-4 Nov daily, 10am-4pm;
5 Nov-17 Feb 2013 Sat-Sun, 10am-4pm;
18 Feb- 24 Feb 2013 daily, 10am-4pm
25 Feb- 28 Mar 2013, Sat & Sun 10am-4pm 24-31 Dec and 1 Jan 2012 closed


Adult: £6.20
Child: £3.70
Concession: £5.60
Family: £16.10
English Heritage free

Venue contact details:

T: 01947 603568
W: www.english-heritage.org.uk

Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey is the principal landmark throughout Turner's sketches of this location.  Set high on a cliff above the seaside town, the gaunt, imposing ruins of this Abbey have drawn successive generations to this site of settlement and religious devotion.

Founded in AD 657 by King Oswy of Northumbria, Whitby Abbey has over the years been a bustling settlement, a kings' burial place, the setting for a historic meeting between Celtic and Roman clerics and the home of saints, including the poet Caedmon, while its gothic splendour inspired Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Turner's 1822 visit clearly awakened older memories of Whitby and his 1801 trip to the town.  He turned to his 1801 sketches twice in the following years to make finished watercolours.

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Turner's Viewpoint

In the mid 1820s, Turner painted a wonderfully active watercolour of the view along the west beach to the abbey with heavy waves breaking on the shore, presumably after a stormy night, with a team of salvagers hauling ashore what appears to be a broken ship's mast (Whitby, Private Collection, Wilton number: 903 - image not currently available).

A few years later he returned to his sketches of the inner harbour to paint a watercolour of the sun rising behind the abbey ruins (Whitby, Private collection, Wilton number: 905).  In this Turner synthesised his memories of Whitby with his observations.  The view is from the south end of the inner harbour, but the sun cannot rise behind the abbey from this particular angle.

What Turner evidently did remember correctly is that the sun does rise behind the abbey from some part of the main quayside at all times of year (from the end of the pier in midwinter to the inner harbour in midsummer).  Turner was always concerned to keep alive in his pictures the sense and knowledge of nature that was being eroded by an increasingly industrial and urbanised age.

One of Britain's best loved visitor attractions, the iconic ruin of Whitby Abbey is a must when visiting the town to enjoy the best views from inside the abbey.

Discover The Landscape

The Turner Trails bench can be found within the grounds of Whitby Abbey.

Whitby podstroll
Take a Turner Tour around Whitby with your iPod, the 21st century version of a sketchbook/guide. The Turner Trails podstroll will work with any colour-screen iPod. Each podstroll comprises a sequence of images, specifically created for the iPod screen and arranged into a folder that can be easily added to your iPod.

You can also visit the Turner Trails panel which is located on New Quay Road (opposite the New Angel Hotel).

Turner's Religious Houses

Listen to Episode 4 of our Turner podcast series when Turner expert, Professor David Hill, is joined by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, as they look at Turner's sketches and paintings of Yorkshire's historic religious houses.

The Venue


Abbey Lane, Scarborough, North Yorkshire, YO22 4JT

Map reference: NZ903112

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Directions to Whitby Abbey:

Follow A171 to Whitby. A well-signposted road leads from the town outskirts to the cliff-top abbey.
From the Whitby harbour area, the abbey can only be directly reached on foot via the 199 'abbey steps' which are well-equipped with halting places and benches