The rugged mountains and coastline of North Wales attract many…
There’s something good in every bad they say. Well, I tend to agree with that. As our bathroom renovation took longer than anticipated, it meant that we were left without a functioning bathroom over the Easter weekend. Therefore, Bill suggested spending the long weekend in the countryside. I didn’t even dream of travelling, so I was very excited about this last minute opportunity. I had several options in mind, but I couldn’t really choose as there are so many regions I’d love to explore or re-visit, so I asked Bill to have a look at the list. He picked Yorkshire!
We visited York several years ago and I was fascinated by this old town. The National Railway Museum, the cobbled streets, the food and the ambience of York really took my breath away and wanted to return ever since. Well, We didn’t cover York this time, but we explored Yorkshire. Well, sort of… You will see by the end of this post, why I mean sort of and why we still have to return to Yorkshire again. However, the below list of places of interests was easily covered by us in 3 days without stress and hurry, so it’s all manageable. So let’s have a look at a long weekend in Yorkshire.
A bit about Yorkshire
Let’s have a look at Yorkshire first. Yorkshire is the largest county in England and it includes the North York Moors, the Yorkshire Dales, a part of the Peak District and don’t forget the Yorkshire Coastline. This is the county where the Brontë sisters lived, All Creatures Great and Small was filmed here, and the expression a “flat cap and a whippet” indicates a Yorkshire man. Well, I did see quite a few flat caps, but they seem to keep more spaniels than whippets in Yorkshire these days. The most famous dish is undoubtably the Yorkshire Pudding served with the traditional Sunday roast, but also the Wensleydale cheese has its origin in the county as well as some of the earliest chocolates.
Charming Yorkshire villages and towns
I must admit I’ve been to many places in England and seen many villages, but none of them felt like Haworth. I think this is one of the villages where the ambience really comes through but only once you are there. Walking up the cobbled Main Street with lovely shops on either side, the village takes you back in time. Its heritage railway station, buildings and cottages built in the distinctive Pennine style using local sandstone and gritstone, Victorian shop fronts, pubs and the church provide an authentic Yorkshire feel.
Although Haworth looks charming and quaint today, it was a notoriously unhealthy place, almost as bad as London’s slums. This was due to poor water supply, no sewage and unhealthy working conditions. As a result infant mortality reached 41% and for those who survived life expectancy was 44 years. But like everything else with time Haworth improved a lot in which the Brontës and their father, Patrick Brontë also played a role.
- Don’t miss the Victorian shopfronts such as the Curiosities shop that used to be a pharmacy, or the old sweet shop.
- There are several pubs in the village, have a drink or a bite to eat whilst enjoying the ambience of this old village.
- The most iconic one is the Black Bull, we loved it.
- Visit the Brontë Parsonage especially if you are a Brontë fan.
- Don’t miss the heritage railway station.
- Wait for the sunrise or the sunset – the views are fabulous.
- If you’d like to take some photos, visit the place early in the morning or late after dusk, as it gets quieter.
Helmsley is a charming market town famous for its market and motorcyclists meeting point. The little stream running through the village gives a special ambience as well as its streets, old shop fronts and heritage.
- Arrive early as the town gets very busy after around 10-11am.
- Enjoy a breakfast or a cup of coffee sitting on the terrace of one of the many cafes in the town.
- If you like ruins and fortesses, definitely visit Helmsley Castle.
Bill suggested visiting Thornton le Dale-be because of Mathewsons, which is an auction house specialising in buying and selling vintage and classic cars made famous by the TV program Bangers and Cash. As I knew there is an iconic thatched cottage in the village, it was fine with me. This village surprised me big time. What a gem! A stream, the Thornton Beck runs through the village and is crossed by several bridges. I couldn’t help but Bourton-on-the-Water in the Cotswolds sprung to mind… This village is an absolute must to visit when you are in Yorkshire, but I recommend arriving as early as possible because it gets busy, quite understandably. Another big surprise was that I found my dream farmhouse table at Selbys’ Antiques and Fine Art which is just opposite this thatched cottage.
- Unfortunately, arriving early applies to Thornton le Dale as well as it gets very busy with tourists and visitors very quickly.
- There are several restaurants, tea rooms and cafes in the village, try one.
- If there’s an auction at Mathewsons, pop in and have a look.
- Do some antique shopping at Selbys Antiques and Fine Art, the owner, Ray is super helpful and knowledgable. And who knows? Maybe you find a treasure you’ve always wanted.
- Don’t miss the Beck Isle Cottage, the iconic 17th century thatched cottage that appeared in many calendars and chocolate boxes.
Knaresborough is a charming town close to Harrogate. Its famous landmarks are the Knaresborough Castle, Mother Shipton’s Cave (a 15-16th century fortune teller) and the viaduct which crosses the River Nidd. It’s very pleasant having a stroll by the river and admiring the view from the grounds of the castle.
- If you’d like to photograph the viaduct, looking from the Castle grounds, the sun catches the structure in the morning and in the sunset it will be backlit. It’s gorgeous either way. Also, there’s a nice perspective looking from the other side of the viaduct.
- If you are up to it, hire a boat and enjoy the views from the river.
The Yorkshire Coastline
The Yorkshire coastline is fascinating, but be aware that getting down to most of the fishing villages you have to use steep steps which you will have to climb on the way back! Having said that, it’s absolutely worth it because these fishing villages are stunning.
Saltburn is a typical seaside town that became popular during the Victorian era. Interesting fact: Saltburn Pier is the only pleasure pier on the Yorkshire coast. Built in 1884 it was Britain’s third cliff lift, the first two having been built at Scarborough in 1875 and in 1881. The funicular encouraged people to visit the beach and the pier who were put off previously by having to climb the steep steps. Walking along the Victorian buildings, exploring the streets of Saltburn and the Victorian pleasure beach, we certainly can have a good impression how this seaside town would have looked and felt like in its heyday.
Whitby is a vibrant seaside town which pleasantly surprised me. I certainly didn’t expect it – mind you, not sure what I expected to be honest… It has a typical seaside town ambience with its harbour, pier and lighthouses, but feels special because of the iconic Abbey including the famous 199 steps and its galleon, The Endeavour.
Bram Stroker mentioned in his book Dracula, that the famous 199 steps in Whitby is the most direct route from the town to the abbey and church. It was used for funeral processions as well and people carrying coffins could have a rest on the level platforms. The document first recorded the Whitby Abbey dates from 1370 but it is suggested that it might be older than that. Originally made of wood, the steps were replaced to stone in the 18th century.
- Public toilets are not free but you can use your card if you don’t have change.
- Arrive early or early evening as it’s very busy during the day.
- Walk up to the pier, the view is fantastic.Visit the Abbey.
Robin Hood’s Bay
Robin Hood’s Bay is one of the most iconic fishing village on the Yorkshire coast. I’ve seen many photos of the place but I would have never thought I’d love it at first sight. Whether in Cornwall, Devon or Yorkshire, fishing villages have a special ambience I just cannot get enough of. They have the reputation of smuggling and Robin Hood’s Bay is no exception. Allegedly, there’s a network of subterranean passageways linking the houses. None of the fishing villages in Cornwall captured my heart as much as this one did, well, okay, perhaps apart from St Ives and Port Isaac.
- Climbing the steep steps are definitely worth it, the village is fantastic.
- Fish and chips is more likely be made of the catch of the day, give it a whirl
- Explore the narrow cobbled streets, they have a special ambience.
- Pop down to the beach to have a different view of the village.
What we missed but will explore next: Staithes, Runswick Bay, Sandsend, Ravenscar, Scarborough, Flamborough.
Gardens and country houses in Yorkshire
We knew it for sure, we definitely wanted to visit Shibden Hall, home to the series Gentleman Jack on our Yorkshire trip. We absolutely love the series and wanted to explore Shibden. But who is Anne Lister aka Gentleman Jack? The manor built in Tudor style dates back to 1420 and it has been the home to the Listers between 1615 and 1926. Anne Lister lived on the estate and wrote a diary written in code language about the estate, being a businesswoman and her travels. The reason she encoded her diary was to keep her personal life discrete – she had a love relationship with women and lived together with her love, Ann Walker at Shibden. The series, Gentleman Jack is about her/their story and on top of the filming location at Shibden they used a lot of CGI to achieve the desired landscapes of the time.
The manor didn’t disappoint: although it’s not huge, it does feel very cozy and there’s a lot to explore starting from the wooden interior to the farm buildings including different carriages and coaches. Entry to the estate is free, however there’s a fee to visit the house (it’s very reasonably priced). What I particularly liked is that they didn’t show Shibden from Gentleman Jack’s perspective only and they focused on the estate’s history just like at Highclere Castle home to Downton Abbey.
Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal
One thing I knew for sure: if and when visiting Yorkshire, being a landscape garden fan, Studley Royal is a must. Well, Studley Royal and Fountains Abbey to be more precise as they both happen to sit in this fantastic UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I must admit, I’m not a huge fan of ruins, but walking in the grounds of the abbey was fascinating and breathtaking.
Fountains Abbey is the largest monastic ruin in the country and it was founded by 13 Benedictine monks in 1132. The valley of the River Skell seemed to be perfect for a simpler life and had all the natural features needed for the creation of a monastery. In 1135 Fountains became the second Cistercian house in northern England and was built in Romanesque style usually referred to as Norman style in Britain.
Walking further we got to the beautiful Georgian water gardens of Studley Royal which was built in 1718. It features artificial ornamental ponds, natural looking lakes, cascades, canals, a banqueting house, fishing pavilions, follies, temples, bridges, a grotto and of course statues. No idea why I’m so crazy about landscape gardens, I just love them. I’d also say you can easily spend a full day at Studley.
- Don’t miss the viewpoints from where you have the most amazing views of the grounds and the abbey.
- Always look back because you can discover a new perspective and a view.
- Pack some snacks or sandwiches and have a picnic in the garden.
- Wear comfortable shoes as you will walk a lot.
What we missed… Castle Howard, one of the biggest and most grandiose stately homes in England, Harewood House, which is owned by the Queen’s cousin and could be seen in the final scenes of the 2019 Downton Abbey.
- Make sure you carry some change as in most of the towns and villages you can only pay by coins for parking.
- Weather can change quickly in Yorkshire, so make sure you are prepared for all sorts of weather.
- If you can, go hiking in August when the heather is out to see the Moors in purple, but if hiking on the moors, be prepared for all eventualities as things can change quickly. Seek advice first if you are not an experienced hiker.
It may seem a lot, but we managed to spend a long weekend in Yorkshire in a very relaxed way and we did manage to visit all the places listed above. If you enjoyed this post, please share it and subscribe to my newsletter. Thank you.