Top Ten Cities
~ Attractive including location, lots of parks, green spaces and a water attraction
~ Size – No Megalopoli and you can walk most of it
~ Activities include historic sights, outdoor entertainment and museums
~ Transportation is convenient and perhaps even fun
~ Lots of coffee shops, pubs and culturally interesting food
No. 3 Whitby, North Yorkshire, Northern England
Ahh, Whitby! Enjoyed it thoroughly for one lovely, long day! I have wanted to return ever since I left. There are many activities and sights, tea and food to relish. My favorite place, besides the ‘chippy’, was the Abby. If you love history too, especially Celtic history, keep scrolling! I’ve saved that for last.
Located, as you can see by clicking on the link above, north of the famous ‘Scarborough’ – you know – ‘are you going to the fair there’? (Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme) It is much smaller than that city and much more picturesque. Located on the coast, it has high cliffs and many wonderful steep walks along with 199 steps going up to the ancient Whitby Abby. The North Sea makes a great ‘water attraction’! It also straddles the mouth of the river Esk. Since Yorkshire gets lots of rain there’s always lots of green. There are a few golf courses or you could go sailing.
Transportation is not that great, unless you go sailing, but you can walk! The historic east side is quite ‘doable’ in a day. There is an excellent museum which brings out the highlights of the Abbey.
Whitby has lots of coffee and tea shops in the narrow lanes, along with pubs and the Best out of 10,000 Fish and Chip Shops in Britain! Seriously. At the quayside (pronounced key side for you americans) there is some fattening, but tasty fare to be had – haddock that is!
http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/jan/23/britains-best-fish-and-chip-shops Check it out! I have and I wish I could scarf some down right now! But it certainly is not on my diet. (Here in Santa Rosa, California we have to make due with Betty’s Fish N Chips. Good for here, but much pricier than there, and the authentic taste I grew to love when living ‘over there’ just ain’t in Betty’s!)
The quayside is a fun place to ‘hang out’ and eat your fish supper. (Just watch out for the seagulls!) Sometimes there are outdoor musicians to entertain you as they did last time I was there. I recall listening to a group from Peru and although they had some lovely haunting melodies they were quite out of place actually!
There is also a stature of Captain James Cook, a famous navel captain who was a great navigator and has recently been voted one of the top 20 Britons of all time! You can learn about him in 3 minutes here: http://www.captcook-ne.co.uk/ccne/who.htm One thing I learned just now is that he was responsible for ensuring the health of his crew by having them eat fruit and in this way avoiding scurvy! (Ironically I have heard that some high school kids in Glasgow got scurvy because they refused to eat anything except for chips! So fish and chips may be good for you in moderation, but don’t forget the lemon!) There is also a museum in Whitby about Captain Cook.
Now for my favorite part: Whitby Abbey, Saint Hilda and the Celtic Church
I’m not interested in the bit about the inspiration of Dracula by this building. I’m fascinated by the fact that near the site of this building there was once, in 657, a monastery here where a famous woman named St Hilda was the Abbess.
“The abbey that still (mostly) stands dates from the 12th century, but lies near the site of a 7th-century Saxon monastery. Caedmon, the first identifiable English-language poet, was a monk here.
It was on this site in *664 AD that it was decided to follow the Roman Catholic church instead of the Celtic Church with regard to the date of Easter.
The first abbey was founded in 657 by the formidable St Hilda, a princess of the Northumbrian royal house, whose Saxon name means “battle.” Recent archaeological research undertaken by English Heritage suggests that it was once a bustling settlement as well as the burial place of monarchs.”http://www.sacred-destinations.com/england/whitby-abbey
You can discover more about St Hilda here. http://www.ohpwhitby.org.uk/site/the+priory/st.+hilda+of+whitby (This site will also lead to information about becoming an Anglican ‘sister’. I find it interesting that there are such communities today.)
In Hilda’s day (she was also known as ‘Hild”) there were both men and women in the community which she led. They lived a celtic form of monasticism. It was also a center of learning and probably had a scriptorium where illuminated manuscripts were created. It was here that ‘Caedmon’, a cow herder was brought to Hilda for her to hear his songs. With her encouragement and Bible teaching in the vernacular, instead of Latin, he eventually became England’s first poet. https://saintsbridge.wordpress.com/2013/12/01/st-hilda-of-whitby/
He was “famous for adaptation of the aristocratic-heroic Anglo-Saxon verse tradition to the expression of Christian themes.” http://www.wilfrid.com/saints/hilda.htm You may have heard of the group, Caedmon’s Call. Now you know where they got the name. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMCSrYNv-zQ (Great song here!)
Lines from Cædmon’s hymn, added at the bottom of a page of Bede’s ‘History’ © Bodleian Libraries (Hatton MS 43 fol 129r) THIS DOES NOT LOOK LIKE ENGLISH TO ME!
I find it interesting that in the early days of the Church there was a strong and respected Lady Leader to whom even kings came to get advice. Hilda was a peace maker too. It was during her time at Whitby Abbey that the ‘*Synod of Whitby’ was held. At that meeting the Latin Church took precedence over the Celtic church which Hilda favored. She accepted the decision they made though, thereby keeping peace. http://www.wilfrid.com/saints/hilda.htm
The Celtic Church was, put simply, more egalitarian and community based than the hierarchical Latin Church. I daresay that men retained more power in the later as well. The Celtic Church favored monasticism and the leaders of the church were the Abbots and Abbesses rather than bishops etc. There were also peregrinate such as St Patrick, St Columba and Aiden who clearly were leaders but they did not base their power in hierarchy or the legacy of monuments.
Saint Hilda, though from a royal family, was a servant leader who left behind other abbesses and other leaders.
The Vikings destroyed the abbey of Hilda’s day in 867 and the ruins that are there now are from another era. But the location lends itself to imagining what it might have been like. Furthermore, the artifacts displayed in the museum down below the abbey ruins helped me to picture the original abbey in my mind as I climbed up those 199 steps to the hill top.