Our coastline has been watched over and protected by the Whitby lighthouses for hundreds of years. They’ve stood helping fishermen safely come into harbour as they brave the changeable North Sea.
With the new footbridge over to East Pier, it’s never been a better time to explore the harbour and the lighthouses that safely guide boats and their cargo back into town. When you do, we thought you might like a little bit more knowledge about our lighthouses.
Whitby high lighthouse
There are lots of different lighthouses in Whitby that you can visit. There are two on the piers in the harbour that dominate the town and a third south-east of the town on Ling Hill. This third, and largest of the lighthouses, is also sometimes known as Whitby high lighthouse and has been protecting sailors since 1858.
Whitby high lighthouse, operated by Trinity House, is the remaining half of a pair of towers that used to serve as a fixed pair of lights to warn of the dangers of Whitby Rock. Each was initially equipped with paraffin lamps and single story keeper’s cottages.
By 1890, more efficient lights were installed in Whitby high. Its pair was demolished and fog signalling apparatus took its place. Fast forward to 1976, Whitby high was electrified and then automated in 1992. The keeper’s cottage still stands and is available to holiday makers to rent.
As far back as Henry III there has been mention of piers protecting Whitby harbour, usually commenting on the poor repair and need for rebuilding! The harbour lighthouses have a very important role to play in keeping the town and sea going industries safe. They guide fishermen out and welcome them back home after a long trip out on the water.
The West Pier was completed in 1831 with its elegant 75 foot high lighthouse finishing off a grand promenade extending from the bridge.
The East Pier is a much shorter structure, even so, at 16 yards wide and 215 yards long it was a major task. On its completion in 1854 a much smaller and less ornate lighthouse was erected. The whole East pier project was based on plans by the famous mariner William Scorseby.
The two Whitby lighthouses stand on the grade II listed east and west piers. The west lighthouse is often open to the public for a modest fee. You can climb up to the top and get a unique view over the town and coastline in a tower that has existed since the 1800s.
East pier boasts its own lighthouse, though shorter than west pier’s. Both have been recently refitted with new lights to allow the towers to continue their important work. A new footbridge was installed in 2020. Visitors and locals can once again walk the full length of the pier and right up to the beacon.
The harbour mouth points due north and Whitby is one of only two places on the east coast where the sun rises and sets in the North Sea. The sun both rises and sets over the sea in June – an unusual sight that you might want to set alarms for when you next visit our coast!