Over hills and through dales. Cue theme music to All Creatures Great and Small, enter delightfully black faced Swale-dale sheep, a few newborns, scampering brown rabbits, ancient stone houses, barns, abbey ruins, scones and tea…quintessential England…a movie set. No, it’s Yorkshire, the cream of England.
The village we stayed in was charming and chocolate box pretty. Houses, pubs, and character filled shops begging to be explored all surrounding a village square. Locals and tourists enjoy open air tables outside pubs and cafes. I asked for directions to a grocery store that turned out to be directly across the street, “Lass, you couldn’t be any closer”, the local man with thick white hair, and thicker Yorkshire accent chided me as he pointed across the street from where we were standing.
How you imagine England to look in movies and novels- archetypal England is what to expect in Yorkshire. Narrow winding roads smoothly soaring over steep hills, swooping back down again through deep dales, moors sprinkled with more sheep than you could count, hand- made flint fences that curve through grassy knolls for miles, and tiny villages brimming with character-it’s all Yorkshire. Hills are up, Moors are up, Dales are the valleys.
Within the borders of the historic county of Yorkshire are areas which are widely considered to be among the greenest in England, due to the vast stretches of unspoiled countryside in the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors and to the open aspect of some of the major cities. Yorkshire is often referred to as “God’s Own Country”, and rightly so.
We rented a fabulous house for five nights ideally situated to take in many of the must see sights in the area. Simply driving through the Yorkshire Moors is a treat, every view a feast for the senses. Why rent instead of staying in a hotel? It’s usually more economical, and there were ten family members. We shopped in the local village, walked, ate breakfast around a long farmhouse table, and enjoyed being part of a working farm, albeit an elegant one with manicured lawns, trimmed hedges, roses, poppies, horses, chickens and sheep, oh my. We could cook if we wanted to or not and by the end of our stay, we felt almost as if we had lived there.
The house accommodated our family of ten well with 5 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, beautiful gardens, and well appointed. If we didn’t want to cook, we walked up to the local pub, where we got to know the owner, and the second night we were there, she referred to us all by name, and knew what we wanted to drink.
One Sunday morning, we walked to the nearby hills to take photos of the Chalk Horse(details below) and returned, walking along the main street in the tiny village of Husthwaite.
We thought our eyes were deceiving us as we spotted an army tank driving slowly, followed by a procession of fifty antique tractors driven by locals. I stopped to have a word with one of the farmers involved who said that every year they do this to raise funds for the Yorkshire air ambulance, something they did every year.
There are many places that one must see in Yorkshire, and here are a mere handful of suggestions:
Helmsley: The small market town of Helmsley is about half an hour drive north from York, on the edge of the North York Moors National Park. It is a very pretty town and a magnet for visitors wanting a relaxing country break or to use it as a base for walking or other outdoor activities. So whether you want to spend a day wandering through the quaint streets, popping into shops and cafes at leisure, or want to explore historic buildings, or set off on more energetic pursuits, Helmsley is a good base for anyone. The town itself offers an eclectic mix of individual boutiques, antique shops and galleries as well as tea rooms, pubs, hotels, butchers and bakers.
The attractive market square, which holds the market every Friday, has a stream running round the back of it, and just off the market square is the pretty All Saints parish church. Also in the town is the English Heritage-owned Helmsley Castle, which dates from the twelfth century and was once known as Furstan Castle. The castle has evolved over the centuries from a medieval fortress to a luxurious Tudor mansion to a civil war stronghold to a romantic Victorian ruin.
White Chalk Horse: This most unusual landmark is hard to miss in this part of Yorkshire is a chalk outline of a horse, cut into the side of the hill, just beside the village of Kilburn. The famous White Horse is massive, measuring over 300 feet long by nearly 300 feet high, and can be seen from miles away. It was the work of John Hodgson, a local schoolmaster, who with the help of his pupils completed it in 1857.
Whitby is a working man’s seaside resort town. Even though it’s extremely touristy with over the top junky souvenir shops, it is worth a visit. I recommend a morning visit as its normally a bit quieter. Take a walk to have a look at the harbor and cliff views. Ignore the tourist buses, walk away from the harbour streets, and walk inland a bit for Bistro food at excellent prices. Take a thirty minute tour on an antique lifeboat for three pounds, which takes you through the bay with a lovely view of Whitby.
Tour buses were chock a block unloading enthusiastic, well dressed seniors out for a day of sun and sea. They all seemed to be enjoying ambling along the seaside, an ice cream, often stopping for a sit down. I spotted two sisters who were fabulously outfitted for their day out. When I asked if they were twins, they giggled like schoolgirls. The detailing of their matching ensembles was fabulous, and they loved that I was full of compliments for them. Mavis and Iris were visiting for the day from Stockton on Tees.
St. Mary’s Parish church in Whitby was the inspiration for Bram Stoker to write Dracula. Preparing to travel to Yorkshire, we have been working on a family tree , and through stories, we discovered that grandmothers father was an infamous barrister in Northern Ireland who defended Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde.
Robin Hood’s Bay: A ten minute drive along the coast takes you to this delightfully unique, hilly seaside village. Considered by many to be the prettiest fishing village on the Yorkshire coast, Robin Hood’s Bay, or simply ‘Bay’ if you are local, clings precariously to steep cliffs, its tiny cottages with their distinctive red tiled roofs crowding around the ravine of King’s Beck for protection against the fierce winds that blow in from the North Sea. A steep walk down to the sea takes you along a street lined with charming tearooms, cafes and art gallery shops, brimming with tasteful locally made art and jewellery shops.
A steep walk down to the sea takes you along a street lined with charming tearooms, cafes and art gallery shops, brimming with tasteful locally made art and jewellery. Cliff views seen with locally made ice cream makes a pleasant stop along the Yorkshire coast.
Boggle Hole: a bit further along the ,park your car and walk down to a craggy beach, hotel and Boggle Hole. Made famous in A.S. Byatt’s book “Possession. A Boggle is the local name for a hobgoblin, the mischievous ‘little people’ that were thought to live in caves along the coast as well as the more remote corners of the Moors. Boggle Hole was where smugglers used to land with their contraband. A clifftop path affords superb views of Robin Hood’s Bay, which sweeps in a graceful curve. At low tide, bands of soft shale and hard limestone are revealed to spectacular effect in the shape of curving ridges. The haunt of geologists and fossil hunters, this rocky foreshore is a fascinating place to explore, but keep a careful eye on the rising tide.
Photos: Jeff Thomason