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YHA Whitby is, and has always been, a firm favourite hostelling destination for families, ramblers and holiday makers over its 85-year history.

Let’s look at the first location.

1934 to 2006

A hostel in Whitby has been a strong talking point from the very beginnings of YHA. The Abbey Stables hostel was due to open in early 1932.

By 1938 the beds were up to 70 and overnights shot up quickly, passing the 3000 mark. By 1940, the hostel was commandeered for use by British troops as it had a great vantage point across the town and the North Sea. The hostel was returned to YHA in 1945 but wouldn’t open for another year as extensive repairs were necessary to bring the building back to its former glory.

By the 1960s, the capacity had been increased again and improvements were made.

(YHA Archive)

In 2001, the decision was made to look for alternative. The negotiations with the landlords of the current site, talks began about the possibility of leasing Abbey House.

Whitby Abbey Stables hostel and garden
(YHA Archive)

The negotiations were successful and the relocation of YHA Whitby was now a reality. The Abbey Stables hostel stayed open until 2006 allowing for a smooth transfer to the new site. When looking carefully, you can still see remnants of the original hostel, a small plaque in the side of the brickwork and the original carved stone entrance with YHA embellished headstone.

2007 to present

Abbey House’s history dates right back to around 1580. There are lots of rebuilds and additions from there including a phase plan of the house shows how the features of the house can be split up over the centuries with some even dating back to medieval times and many materials originating from the abbey ruins.

YHA Whitby Abbey House opening ceremony
(YHA Archive)

In 1896, Abbey House was leased to the Co-operative Holidays association (CHA), founded by Thomas Arthur Leonard just three years earlier.

Abbey House was one of their first holiday centres and into a spacious post-Victorian hotel. Additions along the way included the garden conservatory and an extension to house a new restaurant.

Recreated Victorian Conservatory

YHA were already discussing a possible move to Abbey House with Strickland Estates, current landlords of the Abbey Stables and owner of both sites. Following the collapse of the CHA in 2004, a move to Abbey House became almost inevitable, however it would not be a simple process.

Though the building was in reasonably good condition with minimal refurbishment required, more toilets and showers were required to fulfil the needs of YHA. This work began in 2005 with a scheduled completion for 2006.

YHA Whitby with the Whitby Abbey ruins

Abbey House began its £3.5million restoration of the hostel with grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the European Regional Development Fund and support from the Strickland Estate. Wattle and daub walling and carved staircase panels exposed during construction were preserved behind clear plastic panels for all to enjoy. Lifts were also added for customer convenience.

After almost a year of delays, the hostel finally opened in March 2007 to a very positive reception. The 100 beds allowed 20,000 overnights in the hostels first year, over double the previous site. In 2012, the staff quarters were removed adding another 32 beds. YHA Whitby saw a record year in 2016 with over 28,000 overnights, more than 12 times the number at the previous Abbey Stables location in 1934.

View of Whitby from the gardens

To this day, YHA Whitby remains as popular as ever with plenty of hostelers and conquering the 199 steps to visit the hostel.

Written by Jack Mellors

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