Whitby’s Ginnels and Snickets

Two words which often confuse people from south of the UK are “ginnel” and “snicket.” These appear to be used exclusively up North, to denote an alley or cut-through between buildings.


Whitby is full of character as a holiday resort. Its charm lies in the Dutch-style pan-tiled rooves and tucked-away alleys that suggest quick getaways for smugglers. Whitby has many hidden – if you know where to look.

Pier Lane and Bakehouse Yard

Take Pier Lane (pictured below right). Walking along Cliff Street – on the Westcliff side of Whitby you will pass ornate houses. If you turn left at the railing, you can duck down this sloping ginnel to quickly reach the seafront.

Pier Lane

A few doors down, running parallel with this public access alley, is Bakehouse Yard, through which you can make out the top of Whitby Abbey. The name Bakehouse leads to the assumption that this was the site of a bakery, but a local barman at the nearby Star Inn, helpfully told me it means “Bacchus Yard.” Bacchus was the Roman god of wine and insanity – also known to the Greeks as Dionysus.

Bacchus Artist Karel Jongelinghs

It’s also the former residence for Henry Freeman, a 19th century lifeboat man, who rescued thirty-one people during blizzard conditions, from their wrecked ship in Robin Hood’s Bay. It was only Henry’s first day on the job! Sadly, he was the sole surviving crew-member from the lifeboat team of thirteen people.

Tin Ghaut

A slipway leading to the sea is known as a ghaut. Sadly the old Tin Ghaut off Grape Lane, home to the Captain Cook museum, is no more and is now a car-park. A poster board marking its former spot, shows us just how quaint it was. It is said that Whitby has more than eighty named yards remaining from an original total of over a hundred.

Amusing names include Loggerheads Yard and Arguments Yard!

Loggerheads Yard

Steps and Lanes

Feline lurking in alley off Church Street

There are also thirty or more quaint places of a similar nature named ‘steps’, ‘lane’, ‘square’ or ‘place’ such as Pier Lane.

All in all, Whitby retains its sense of mystery. Its otherworldly charm tends to get under most people’s skin, because the element of travelling back in time is strong. Just glimpse down one of the alleys and you will know exactly what I mean!

Salt Pan Well Steps

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