Whitby and Dracula go hand in hand. So when we decided to dedicate a whole month in October 2019 to Bram Stoker’s Dracula there was only one place to go and that was Whitby.
Whitby is a place said to have inspired Bram in his writing of the novel and Whitby appears in the novel, most notably when Dracula arrives by boat during a storm.
Whitby is pretty much unchanged and the view you look at from the West Cliff is the same view that Bram would have seen.
I had never visited Whitby before but my mum has and she had two shots she wanted to get; one on the 199 steps and one by the Abbey. We researched photos on Pinterest to find the best views from these two places before we went.
Now, what we had to do was find a hotel that matched the vibe and let me tell you, this took weeks. We knew we wanted something opulent, nostalgic, and a tiny bit spooky. We eventually found the La Rosa hotel and in particular The Swan Room.
Situated in an elegant period townhouse on Whitby’s West Cliff, our hotel was once a favourite of Lewis Carroll and boasts one of the finest views in the country. Facing us across the picturesque harbour are the ruins of Whitby Abbey, the inspiration for the novel.
This hotel was the best find ever. The owners are lovely, the room was such a delight and the breakfast was served in a hamper to your room. We just fell in love with this place instantly and the view out of our two floor-to-ceiling windows was inspiring indeed.
If you are going to Whitby, be warned; there are lots of steps and you have to climb up and down a lot. The town lies between two cliffs, our hotel on the West Cliff and the abbey on the East, up the 199 steps and we ended up exhausted. The town is so cute; cobbled streets, old buildings, an atmospheric harbour and of course a Dracula exhibit. It really is picture-perfect and very busy. We went in September after the schools were back and it was busy – I can’t imagine what it’s like in season or October where it’s overrun with Dracula fans.
The two shots we wanted outside were the ones we tackled first after we had scouted them the day before; don’t even ask me how many times I walked up and down the 199 steps. Interestingly enough there are benches that used to be used to hold coffins as the bearers rested on the way up.
We could actually see the steps out of our hotel window and they pretty much seemed busy all the time, so we decided an early morning shoot would be the answer. We got there at about 7.15 and the town and steps were almost deserted, if we went again I think we would try for a shot where it was a bit darker but presently I don’t have the right equipment for that shot.
The Abbey proved a little bit more challenging since it opened at 10 and there was no way to get a picture out of hours. We did go the day before and ask if it would be OK to take the picture – we have a media pass with English Heritage but we have learnt to always ask first so as to not cause alarm and panic.
We arrived just after 10 and it was busy but not too bad. The shot we wanted was with the Abbey Pond in the foreground so we headed straight there. Getting in the right position for the shot took us a good 40 minutes and loads of test shots, we eventually had to get right down on the bank and I had to walk through lots of long grass to get to the bank at the left side of the abbey. This also involved getting into a dress out in the open with people walking past, it was a bit odd and a little uncomfortable but when we got into it, things were fine. And again we had spoken to the staff when we went so that they weren’t alarmed by a girl changing into a ball gown in the middle of a field! We ended up loving these pictures and were glad we took the extra time to repeat in a hurry, but the place is so iconic and as it was such an inspiration to Bram it just had to be done.
Also to note, next to the abbey is St Mary’s Church which is a truly spooky church and graveyard but I didn’t take any pictures of this for my feed as posing in graveyards feels disrespectful to me. I did, however, take a few pictures of the church.
Whitby is a place that stole my heart and is a place I feel deserves a bit more credibility on Instagram. It’s unusual in that it’s a mix between beauty, romanticism, and a harsh, often unforgiving sea. The first night the sea kicked up a storm, the windows rattled, the waves crashed against the pier; it felt like a scene from a Dracula film! At that moment you could see where Bram Stoker’s inspiration came from, only to wake the next morning to see sunshine and a calm, tranquil sea. It is a place that lures you in and scares you, only to lull you into love again. So much like the iconic story it inspired.
I left a little bit of my heart with Whitby and La Rosa hotel. I feel like the pictures we got were some of the best we have ever created, and it felt like we were really bringing this iconic story to life before our eyes. I can see why Whitby and Dracula are so connected.