Whitby, which lies at the mouth of the River Esk, is synonymous with Bram Stoker who took inspiration from the town for his epic novel ‘Dracula’. The atmospheric Whitby Abbey, once home to St. Hilda, dominates the East Cliff whilst the ‘Whale Jaw Bones’ atop of the West Cliff pays homage to the town’s whaling history. Originally Whitby lay within the Kingdom of Northumbria and was the site of an Anglo-Saxon abbey which was founded in 657 A.D. In 664 A.D. the abbey became the setting for the Synod of Whitby which was an important meeting, chaired by the Northumbrian king, to decide if the people should follow the Celtic or Roman teachings of Christianity; St Aiden’s Celtic Christianity was abandoned in favour of Roman Catholicism. The abbey was destroyed during the Viking raids in 870 A.D. and later rebuilt by the Normans who dedicated the abbey to St Hilda a Northumbrian princess, who became the first abbess. Whitby derives its name from the Viking Hviteby meaning ‘the White Town’. The names of many villages in the Esk valley are said to have Viking names, Eskdale, Ainthorpe, Danby and Goathland being examples.
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