Whitby, in the County of North Yorkshire, is located on the North East Coastline. The town has an ancient seafaring heritage and an historical past. The town has evolved, its early beginnings as a wooden monastery perched on a cliff top, through the ages, to the town it is today.
When Saint Hilda founded Whitby Abbey in 657, little would it be imagined that this imposing building dominating the cliff top, would oversee centuries of history developing below her sacred grounds. The earliest visitors to the town of Whitby were the Vikings, who regrettably decided to pillage the town and destroy the Abbey (later to be rebuilt). Happily the modern day visitor to the town has no such destructive intent.
In the intervening years, however, the path of history has seen many different types of activities around the town. Captain Cook served his apprenticeship and set forth on his naval career from here. Captain William Scoresby, the great whaling captain, who, incidentally, invented the crow's nest lookout, sailed out of Whitby Harbour on his whaling expeditions. The port of Whitby at one time had one of the largest fishing fleets on the North East Coast and was instrumental in the exportation of alum from the local mines.
Since the Victorian times, Whitby has proved popular with tourists. The early Victorians came to Whitby for the 'invigorating air' and were to be seen in their bathing carriages on the sea shore and taking strolls along the harbour side as can be seen in the early photographs of the area. Whitby became more available to the general public with the introduction of the North Eastern Railway, and of course, accommodation was needed to meet the demand. George Hudson (The Railway King) built a sizeable number of outstanding buildings on the West Cliff and over the years these buildings have been converted into hotels. For many visitors, the tariffs of such establishments, were out of reach of the weekly wage.
In the intervening years, there has been a significant rise in the number of residents with bigger than required houses, leasing rooms to the general public. Known as 'bed and breakfast' establishments, or B&Bs, these house owners have provided a welcome alternative to the larger hotels.
There has been an increase in demand for Whitby B&B accommodation. The rates charged by the bed and breakfast establishments are much less than the hotels, as their overheads are obviously less. This is not to say, however, that the standards are any the less. Many of the home-owners have developed and improved upon their properties over the years to bring them in line with smaller establishments in the hotel sector.
Certain quidelines and safety regulations have to be in place to offer accommodation to the public. In order to operate, these home-owners must have fire precautions and certificates, public liability insurance and a general knowledge of food hygiene. The bed and breakfast accommodation providers provide an essential service to supplement the number of beds available at peak holiday times in the holiday season. Many of the guests may return repeatedly over the years, to the same bed and breakfast and recommend them to other guests. Many friendships have been forged in this way.
The homes which do open for bed and breakfast are situated almost anywhere in the town. They range from the more substantial detached houses and the bigger semi-detached homes to perhaps the smaller sized modern family homes and bungalows. Anywhere, in fact, that has a free room or two can be classed as a bed and breakfast place, and of course, a willing house owner ready to welcome complete strangers into their home.