For teachers introducing their pupils to Gothic literature on UK study tours, a visit to the town of Whitby on the North Yorkshire coast is a must. The setting for one of literature’s most famous Gothic novels, Whitby was the town Bram Stoker chose in which to bring his Transylvanian Count on to English soil.
Students who have read the opening chapter of Stoker’s Dracula will thrill at the many sights described in the novel which remain unchanged today.
The writer (then a theatrical agent) visited Whitby in 1890 for a family holiday. He arrived a week before his wife and daughter and spent the time exploring the little port and talking to locals about some of its spookier myths and legends. He spent a lot of his time in the reading room of the Royal Hotel on West Cliff, from which you and your students will still be able to see a view of the town which remains largely unchanged from the description the novelist wrote more than 125 years ago.
Stoker later admitted that it was during this week alone in the town that the idea for Dracula first came to him. Some of the local stories he picked up during his visit actually made it into the finished novel, which students can identify before their trip. These include the ship carrying the vampire which runs aground on Tate Hill Sands: the episode in the book was based on a historical shipwreck in the town in 1885 (although in real life the entire crew hadn’t been killed and the dead captain tied to the wheel – thankfully!).
Other legends which made it into Stoker’s novel include the local Viking myth of a great black hound, which the writer chose as the form Dracula takes when he first arrives in England. Another was the eerie black coach Harker takes to the vampire’s castle, which was said to be based on the carriage of the then lord of Mulgrave Castle, who used it to visit a woman he wanted to woo.
Step in the Vampire’s Grizzly Footsteps
If you want to make this one of your students’ most memorable UK study tours and really bring the novel to life, then a great day can be spent tracing the footsteps of Stoker’s famous creation around Whitby. From the sands on which he first enters the country to the 199 steps up the cliff to the spooky churchyard, your students can actually walk the Dracula trail through the port.
Find your own way around the sights described so evocatively in the text or sign up to one of the local ‘ghost walks’, which often start after dark, to give your pupils that extra ‘thrill’ factor.
For all classes studying Dracula as a set text, or those learning about Gothic horror, a trip to Whitby once they’ve read the novel will be an exciting experience which will help engage them with both the text and the writer’s creative process. To make sure that you and your group get the very best out of this, or any other UK study tours, it’s a good idea to seek out specialist advice from an educational tour operator. From booking tours to arranging accommodation and travel, a tour operator will work out all the details so that you can concentrate on making this a truly memorable trip for your students.
John Gardiner is the Managing Director of The School Travel Company, a tour operator specialising in educational travel for school and youth groups. Whether you’re planning UK study tours , Iceland geography trips or trekking expeditions to India, you can trust both the educational and economic value of their itineraries, whether ready-made or specifically designed to suit the needs of your group.