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Day Out: Eye eye captain. There's a lot more to this coastal gem than jet, fossils and 199 steps : Head down the coast to learn more about Teesside's most famous son Captain James Cook.

Destination: Whitby Who went: Keith Newton FOR a relatively small place, Whitby has a huge and mightily impressive range of top class attractions.

That is the beauty of the resort just down the A171. No wonder visitors return again and again and vote it one of Britain's best days out.

I agree with them.

You can get there from the Tees Valley by car, bus or Esk Valley line train. For an alternative approach, take the steam hauled trains of the North Yorkshire Moors Railways which arrive via Grosmont from Pickering.

During school holidays and bank holidays, the tourists head there to enjoy the sea, sands and amusements. If you give those times a miss, as I just have, you will find Whitby full of a different kind of folk.

They covered all ages but the only children were on school trips with their teachers or were tots in pushchairs with their parents.

Some were taking advantage of the warm sun to gravitate past the amusements to the beach and pier, but most were keen on exploring other parts of the town - starting from the car parks near the railway station and upper harbour.

Start alongside the sailing ship Grand Turk and head away from the sea and River Esk and you will find the locals' town with its shops and Pannett Park with its museum and giant dinosaur era fossils.

Go over the harbour bridge and the crowds will turn left, winding through the narrow little streets, past the jet and souvenir shops and cafes, and eventually reaching the foot of the famous 199 steps.

One long climb later and you have gone by St Mary's Church with its fascinating graveyard to the abbey ruins and the smart visitor centre.

All of these are essential viewing, but too many miss the little turn to the right immediately after crossing the bridge.

This is Grape Lane and at the bottom is the red building that marks one of the greatest reasons for Whitby's fame.

St Hild gave it the original abbey in the seventh century, the discovery of jet made it a jewellery collectors' delight, the railway and royal crescent brought the Victorians who re-popularised it in the 19th century, Frank Meadow Sutcliffe photographed its inquisitive inhabitants, and one Abraham Stoker was so taken with its blood-red twilight creepiness he was inspired to create Dracula.

All these and more are celebrated in the town but none more than the young lad from Marton via Great Ayton and Staithes who arrived in 1746 to go sailing.

His name was James Cook and while he was a seaman apprentice he lodged on the top floor of the red building. Then, he was a nobody and it was the home of his boss John Walker. Now it is Grade 1 listed and the home of the Captain Cook Memorial Museum.

It has a series of permanent displays on several floors full of fascinating artefacts marking the discoveries and journeys made by the great mariner, explorer and scientist, while that famous attic plays host to special changing exhibitions.

The latest, opening this weekend, gives an insight into a little recorded part of Cook's career - his search for the fabled North West Passage above Canada between the Atlantic and Pacific.

This was the purpose of his third voyage, on the Resolution, and the exhibition - called Smoking Coasts And Ice-bound Seas - explores the efforts to find a way through the ice, contacts with Russians and landfall in Siberia through the work of John Webber.

He was the official artist on the voyage and last year the museum acquired six important drawings by him.

Cook's ships probed twice beyond the Bering Strait before being forced back by the ice. The exhibition focuses on the second try after Cook's tragic and untimely death in Hawaii, when the expedition visited Kamchatka in eastern Siberia.

There they met native peoples, experienced a volcanic eruption, travelled by dog-sledge and were welcomed by the Russian governor.

The current governor would surely welcome you too, unless maybe you were a Manchester United fan. His name is Roman Abramovich and he happens to own Chelsea.

Cook's terrible death was not allowed to interfere with the expedition and the exhibition tells its story with loans of pictures, most of which have never been seen in public before.

Cook expert Professor Glyn Williams says: "They didn't know what to expect in Russia, and were surprised by their warm reception from the governor.

"The pictures in the exhibition wonderfully evoke Siberian landscapes and peoples, and their way of life at the time."

The professor will be at the museum tomorrow to give a talk on Cook's third voyage.

Details of this and all other museum activities on 01947 601900. Open daily 9.45am-5pm, admission: adult pounds 4, child pounds 3, senior pounds 3.50, family pounds 10.50.

SHIPPING FORECAST: Grand Turk (far left) and the east side of the harbour are popular sights on the tourist trail, but many miss the little turn to the right after crossing the harbour bridge ... visit the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, current exhibition Smoking Coasts And Ice-bound Seas explores the efforts to find a way through the ice, contacts with Russians and landfall in Siberia through the work of John Webber (left)

What else can you see and do in Whitby?

WHITBY ABBEY Climb up the 199 steps from town and you can also see the parish church of St Mary's and the remains of the Cholmley house. The Abbey is open 10am-6pm from March 21-Sept 30 and from 10am-4pm from Oct 1 to March 31, 2009 (closed on Tues and Wed). Admission: pounds 5 adults, pounds 2.50 children.

WHITBY LIFEBOAT MUSEUM On Pier Road, the main exhibit is the last pulling lifeboat to be in service with the RNLI, plus models of lifeboats and other vessels. Open daily, admission is free.

WHITBY MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY Located in Pannett Park, open Tues-Sun, and closed on Monday except Bank Holidays and half-term holidays. Admission: pounds 3 adults, pounds 1 children.

NORTH YORKSHIRE MOORS RAILWAY Enjoy the bygone days of steam - trains run between Whitby, Grosmont, Goathland and Pickering operated by the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. The line also has trains linking Middlesbrough with the seaside town. Get more details from www.eskvalleyrailway.co.uk or NYMR on www.nymr.co.uk Discover more about Whitby at www.yorkshirevisitor.com or www.discoveryorkshirecoast.com
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:May 9, 2008
Words:1074
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