Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles ♪ (Whitby Lad, Fay Hield) ♪ In the north east of England, where the freezing waters of the North Sea meet the Yorkshire coast, the fishing town of Whitby nestles between the surrounding cliffs. Whitby emerged as a fishing port in the Middle Ages, while the sparkling black jet embedded in the rock here was mined by both the Romans and the Victorians. Above the picturesque roofs of the town, on top of the east cliff, a soaring gothic ruin is silhouetted against the skyline: Whitby Abbey. This imposing structure has been an important religious site for over 1000 years and its towering arches and turrets still retain all the drama and solemnity of that history. Whitby Abbey dominates a rocky headland here in this part of the Yorkshire coast. But what we see today are the remain of a Benedictine abbey founded initially around 1078 by a Norman soldier who actually fought with William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings. But the roots of this place go much further back. The soldier when he came here was moved by the remains of a much earlier religious house on this site and this is one that had been founded by the formidable Northumbrian abbess, Hild in 657. Unfortunately nothing is now visible of this much earlier minster. Whitby came to prominence shortly after in 664 when a great meeting, a Synod, was held here to decide upon the method for calculating Easter. There were two schools of thought. There was the local Celtic tradition and then the Roman European one. In the end the decision was made to follow the Roman method and this is what we follow to this day and personally I love the fact that our year is still very much shaped by decisions that were taken here more than 1300 years ago. Looking at the ruins here and the dramatic clifftop setting, it's easy to see why this place has inspired such religious reverence over the centuries. But it's also been a site of poetic inspiration. The Anglo-Saxon monastery is supposedly where the first named English poet Caedmon had his divinely inspired artistic awakening. Whitby is filled with legends. Some are centuries old and linked to the abbess Hild, others are part of the local folklore such as the 'barghest' or ghostly black dog who's said to roam the local area. Those who see the dog are destined to die soon after. But in more recent times the Abbey and the town have been associated with another dark figure: Count Dracula. In Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula arrives in Britain on a ship that runs aground off Whitby. He takes the form a large dog, a reference to the barghest perhaps, when he first comes ashore. And Whitby is the setting for some of the most haunting scenes in the book and these associations have most definitely stuck. Stoker came on holiday to Whitby in 1890, a few years before writing Dracula and it was in the public library here that he found a book referring to Vlad the Impaler, or Vlad Dracula, a 15th-century prince from what is now Romania. Whitby's role both in terms of the setting and the inspiration of Dracula really cannot be underplayed. For centuries the abbey itself was used as a seamark, a navigational aid for seafarers, and that ship that brought Dracula to Britian is thought to be based on an actual shipwreck that occurred here in the 1880s. This has always been a dangerous coast. Over the centuries generations of sailers would have departed from Whitby, and for some, the sight of the abbey's steep arches jutting out from the clifftop would have been their last glimpse of English shores. The Whitby Lad, immortalised in this local traditional song, sung for us by Fay Hield, would certainly have known what it felt like to bid farewell to England in this manner. The song tells the tale of a boy born on the wrong side of the tracks, who is sentenced to transportation to an English penal colony in Australia. His journey to Botany Bay began here in Whitby and we can imagine him peering back over the side of the boat as the silhouette of the abbey gradually fades into the horizon.