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Whitby and Dracula

The influence of an Irish author on a seaside town.

The ruins of Whitby Abbey dominate the landscape

Bram Stoker arrived in Whitby in July 1890, having been recommended to visit the Yorkshire coastal town by the actor Henry Irving. Stoker spent a week exploring Whitby alone before being joined by his wife and baby son for a family holiday. Stoker quickly became enchanted by the winding cobbled streets, dramatic cliffs and red rooftops which is hinted at in one of the character's description of Whitby in the novel:

The houses of the old town - the side away from us - are all red-roofed, and seem piled up one over the other

From the Royal Crescent where Stoker was staying, to the dramatic headland, Stoker gathered ideas and inspiration everywhere he went. In fact, the name of Dracula’s first victim, Swales, is taken from one of the weather-beaten gravestones which cluster around St Mary’s Church, standing proudly on the East Cliff.

Stoker created the famous vampire based on a 15th-century prince Vlad Tepes, known as Dracula the ‘son of the dragon’ as it was said he impaled his enemies on wooden stakes.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula arrives on the shores of Whitby aboard a shipwrecked boat, all the sailors are found dead including the captain who has been tied to the helm. The only living creature aboard is a fierce black dog which bounds up the 199 steps leading to the Abbey: Dracula ready to inflict terror on the unexpecting town. This too is based on real life events; 5 years earlier a Russian boat had run aground on Tate Hill Sands, rearranging the name, Stoker created Demeter from Varna, the novel’s doomed vessel.

Tate Hill Sands, where Dracula arrived on Whitby's shores

This terrifying tale about a blood-thirsty vampire has left its own mark on this seaside town, it is hard to miss Whitby’s gothic connections as you stroll through its cobbled streets.

Experience Dracula

Whitby’s Dracula Experience is rarely left of the to-do list of a tourist visiting the town for the first time. A unique tour through this spine-chilling story, the Dracula Experience is not for the faint hearted.

Whitby Goth Weekend

Goths enjoying afternoon tea during Whitby Goth Weekend

Twice a year Whitby is overtaken by goths from around the country and across the world for this alternative music festival. Chosen for its Dracula connections, around 1,500 goths flood the streets and the Spa Pavilion for music, markets and more. It is a true sight to behold, a sea of black, red and purple as men and women transform into their gothic selves to embrace this world-renowned festival. With the next event taking place from 26th-28th October, the town is already preparing for the arrival of its most terrifying visitors.

An Ongoing Legacy

Dracula has had as much of an influence on Whitby as the town had on Bram Stoker during that summer in 1890. Whitby’s connections to Dracula and the Goth scene add a dark and dangerous edge to this otherwise charming seaside destination, its presence being widely felt wherever you go. In fact, the story of Dracula is so intertwined with the history of Whitby that tourists ask to be shown Dracula’s tomb, rumoured to be in the graveyard of St Mary’s Church from which Bram Stoker himself took inspiration. It would seem this most vile character has been able to blur the lines between fact and fiction.

Our home town has been our greatest source of inspiration in creating Whitby Gin, providing the flavours and philosophy which make our gin so distinctive. With such significant connections to Dracula and the Goth scene, it was inevitable that Whitby Gin would in some way reflect this important part of the town’s history. We’ve been working on a project which embraces this darker side of Whitby. Watch this space for an exciting announcement coming soon…


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