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11km (7 miles) NW of Robin Hood's Bay; 564km (350 miles) NE of London

The resort town of Whitby, at the mouth of the River Esk, has a rich and interesting history. It began as a religious center in the 7th century, when Whitby Abbey was first founded. Later, Whitby became a prominent whaling port and eventually, like most coastal towns, an active participant in the smuggling trade.

Several famous explorers have pushed off from the beaches of Whitby, including Captain James Cook. Captain Cook, as the king's surveyor, circumnavigated the globe twice in ships constructed by local carpenters and craftsmen. He also claimed Australia and New Zealand for Great Britain.

Literary references to Whitby add intrigue to the town. Herman Melville paid tribute to William Scoresby, captain of some of the first ships that sailed to Greenland and inventor of the crow's nest, in his novel Moby-Dick, and Bram Stoker found his inspiration for Dracula in the quaint streets of Whitby.

Whitby Tourist Information Centre, Langbourne Road (tel. 01947/602674; www.whitbyonline.co.uk), is open daily May to September from 9:30am to 6pm. The rest of the year it opens daily 10am to 4:30pm.

One bus a day travels between London and Whitby. The trip takes approximately 7 hours and is a direct route. Call the National Express bus service at tel. 0870/580-8080, or visit www.nationalexpress.com for more details. To get to Whitby from London by train, you'll have to ride to Middlesborough or Scarborough, and then transfer to the train or bus to Whitby. The number of trains to Whitby varies, so call ahead. The number for rail information is tel. 0845/748-4950 (www.nationalrail.co.uk).