Tour of Yorkshire, England
5/5/16 to 5/10/16
In 2013, we met a lovely couple from Leeds, England on a Baltic cruise, Paul and Gail. We had conversed with them on a Cruisecritic.com roll call, where cruisers meet other cruisers on their particular cruise. Before that Baltic cruise, Carol and I did a road trip around England including spending the night in the town of York, which is only about a half hour away from Leeds. We had arranged to meet them for dinner. We went to a local restaurant named Bettys (there is no apostrophe in the name). It is an old small tea room chain that is very respected for their fine food. Paul had mentioned on our roll call about a treat they have called a Fat Rascal. It is a very tasty type of muffin, which we had hoped to try at the York Bettys. So that is where we went. We had a lovely dinner, including a Fat Rascal, and walk around York.
By the time we boarded the ship for the Baltic, Paul and Gail were already old friends. They were invited to join our merry group of friends that cruise together, called the Martini Mates. We cruised with them again in 2014 on a Panama Canal cruise. They were having difficulty getting their pre-cruise Miami hotel reservations, so we invited them to just stay at our home prior to the cruise. With us only being an hour’s drive from the Miami Airport, it was easy to pick them up and bring them home. While they were with us, we showed them the tourist attractions in Palm Beach County. We had a great time pre-cruise as well as a most enjoyable cruise with them.
While on that cruise, we booked a cruise that would go to Iceland and Ireland, that embarked out of Southampton in May 2016. We had no idea at that time that we would not be seeing Paul and Gail again for some time, since none of our Martini Mates had booked the same cruise we did. In 2015, Paul invited us to stay with them prior to the Iceland/Ireland cruise, so that he could show us around Yorkshire. That sounded like an outstanding idea; but we would need to figure out how to get to Leeds; and then from Leeds back down to Southampton. I assumed that we would need to take trains, since it is just over a 3-hour drive to Leeds from Heathrow without traffic; and then 4.5 hours to Southampton from Leeds. Paul told me not to worry about it, he would drive us. He did ask if we could fly into Manchester instead of Heathrow, since it was only around an hour’s drive. I didn’t want him to have to drive that much and tried to look at other options; but he insisted. He said he would spend the night in Southampton with us before the cruise to break up the drive. I told him that what he wanted to do was way too much; but it was what he wanted to do.
Flight to England and Day 1
There weren’t any non-stop flights to Manchester, so we found a flight from Miami with a connection in Philadelphia. The only problem with it was that there would be a 6-hour layover. Both Carol and I do not like to be late; and when it comes to flying we want to be very early and leave time for unknown disruptions. So we much prefer a longer layover than a tight schedule, where we could miss a flight. Plus, the flight was supposed to arrive in Manchester at 8:55 AM, which was good for Paul and Gail. As it turned out, our flight was about an hour late into Philadelphia; but we still had plenty of time to kill. Since I had previously lived in the Philly area, I had hoped to get a good cheese steak and pretzels. I should have known better; the cheese steak was OK, but I can do better in Florida. And the only pretzels I saw were Auntie Ann’s.
The flight to Manchester left on time and was on an American Airlines A-330. We were shocked at how empty the plane was. You can see in the photo below. This was taken shortly before we took off.
Many people got to lay across the whole middle aisle and sleep much of the flight. Carol and I each got our own 2-seat row to ourselves. We had a good tail wind and we arrived a half hour early. I was surprised that when we left baggage claim, Paul and Gail were waiting for us with a cute sign in Yorkshire speak. I had to take a photo of it with Carol and Gail holding it.
With our arriving in the morning, we would be able to tour Yorkshire for the full day. With us not getting much sleep on the plane, being active would help us to stay awake and get our internal clocks adjusted to Yorkshire time. Paul had previously emailed me a very detailed itinerary of the places we would go each day of our visit. It was most impressive and looked wonderful; but I wasn’t sure we could do it all. We had been concerned about the Yorkshire weather, since it had snowed there the previous week and Paul is always complaining about how cold and wet it is there. Well, for this day we had really lucked out. The forecast was for a beautiful sunny day. Unfortunately, the forecast didn’t look too good for the next several days with rain projected for parts of each day.
After dropping off our luggage at Paul and Gail’s lovely home in Leeds, the first place on the itinerary was the lovely town of Harrogate. We were familiar with it in that it is where the original Bettys Restaurant is located; plus, one of our favorite British TV shows, Last Tango in Halifax, was partly filmed there.
When we arrived in Harrogate, we took a short stroll around the lovely central part of the town. The Victorian style buildings and gorgeous flowers displayed everywhere make this a wonderful tourist town. Polls have voted Harrogate to be “the happiest place to live” in Britain. We got a kick out of the huge picture frame set up for photo opps; and immediately took advantage of it.
It was rather convenient that Bettys was right behind us and in the photo. It must have been time for lunch. Bettys started in Harrogate in 1919 and is located in a large Victorian building. We couldn’t wait to try it. Since Bettys is quite a popular place, we were very pleased that there wasn’t a long line waiting to get in for lunch. In fact, there weren’t many people waiting to sit down to eat, so I took a quick photo and we got in the queue of just two couples ahead of us.
They had room for us to eat downstairs immediately; but we preferred to wait for a table on the main floor, since it has more atmosphere and Carol does not do stairs well. Apparently all the main floor tables were full and it would take a while before we would be seated. As we waited a long line built up outside also. A few people did go downstairs; but it took much longer than we expected to be seated, a half hour. But it was worth it. Based on Gail’s recommendation, we all ordered Bettys Yorkshire Rarebit. Just too delicious!
For dessert, we had to get a Fat Rascal. A yummy treat indeed! Unfortunately, my Fat Rascal was missing an almond in the middle of what is supposed to look like a smile on the Fat Rascal face. I think that Carol snitched it. It was still quite delicious.
After lunch we continued our tour. We walked past the Harrogate Cenotaph, where the names of 1,191 people who perished in World War’s 1 & 2 are listed.
The streets were lined with cute little shops with all sorts of interesting merchandise for sale. They were quite enticing; but we resisted. Having luggage weight restrictions on airlines does prevent buying much while on vacation. Of course, Carol always points out that jewelry does not weigh much.
Harrogate is a spa town and has several beautiful old buildings for the baths; as well as many hotels to handle the many tourists that flock there.
We came up to an interesting building that was the Royal Pump Room. At one time it was used to pump the water from the Sulphur springs to the baths.
We were so impressed with the how many flowers were in bloom all over the town. They really made Harrogate a special place.
The Diamond Jubilee Roundabout was created to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II 50th anniversary as queen in 2012.
According to Wikipedia, in 2013 Harrogate was declared to be the third most romantic destination in the world, beating off rivals including Paris, Rome and Vienna. Having now been to all four of these towns, I have to disagree with the claim; although it is certainly a very lovely town to visit.
We still had another town to visit on the day’s itinerary, Knaresborough. It was just a short ten minute drive there from Harrogate. We were most fortunate to be visiting England while the Cherry Blossoms were blooming. They were everywhere and made driving around most enjoyable.
When we stopped, we were once again welcomed with lots of colorful flowers.
Paul wanted to show me an area at the bottom of the road where we were parked. Carol and Gail went to a café for tea and the boys walked down the road. We passed beneath a very tall bridge; but the better view would be on the other side.
It was quite a pretty area with houses built on every level where land was available to take in the view. I understood why we had walked down there, lots of photo opps.
We then walked back up to pick up the girls and drive to the main attraction in the town, Knaresborough Castle. Now this was a beautiful spot. There has been a castle there since the 12th century and the ruins of the few remaining sections are in good shape.
The gardens and the views from it are just gorgeous. The views were even better than what we had seen from below.
This was such a beautiful place to just walk around and take it all in. Especially in such perfect weather.
We headed back to the house for an early dinner, since we had lifted off from Miami about 24 hours earlier without much sleep. Gail made a delicious dinner, so we wouldn’t have to go out to eat. Very thoughtful indeed and most enjoyed and appreciated. We did stay up longer than we expected talking and discussing the plans for the next 4 days. We had been so looking forward to this visit and were looking forward to spending time with our friends; as well as seeing their part of the world.
After a great night’s sleep, we were ready to see the eastern parts of Yorkshire. As we began the drive, we passed by many fields of vivid yellow rapeseed. We had seen this sight on several previous visits to England and were thrilled to be able to experience it once again. I took so many photos through the window to try to capture the beauty of the fields, so I will put a few in here, rather than including them every time we saw these gorgeous fields. Rapeseed is grown for the production of animal feeds, edible vegetable oils and biodiesel fuel.
We passed through North York Moors National Park on the way to our first destination. Paul pulled over at a scenic viewpoint at the Hole of Horcum. It is a large 400-foot-deep hollow that stretches ¾ of a mile across. Paul had driven past this spot many times; but had never stopped to look into it. With us along, he now had a reason to check it out.
As we drove through the Moors, we saw fields covered with heather and lots of sheep.
We also got our first glimpse of another yellow plant. It is called gorse or Whin Bush. We would see much more of it during the land tour and on the cruise afterwards.
We also got to see our first baby lamb. We would see so many of these cuties during this vacation.
We passed by beautiful countryside with lots of stone walls. This had been a most enjoyable drive.
The first town we were visiting was Whitby. It is a seaside town that is known as Dracula’s birthplace. As we approached Whitby, we could see the ruins of Whitby Abbey, which was established in 657 AD.
We found a parking spot close to the center of town. We came in close to the docks, which were loaded down with fishing traps. We could also see the abbey in the background.
Linking the two sections of town is Whitby Swing Bridge that was built in 1908. It is unusual in that it swings horizontally rather than vertically, like most modern day draw bridges.
We walked over the bridge and started to explore the charming old world streets.
Once again the girls preferred to stop for tea while Paul and I headed up the street toward the abbey on top of the hill. Once we reached the steps, there was a sign warning us that there were 199 steps to the top. It just goes to show that women are the smarter of the sexes. But the views of the town while ascending and when on the top were worth seeing.
At the top was the Church of St. Mary the Virgin. According to the book, this is where a person was attacked by Dracula in the graveyard. We were glad that it was fiction.
We then walked over to the abbey next door. Since we were only interested in taking a few exterior photos, it didn’t make sense to pay the £7 or about $10 to enter the abbey. We then walked over to the side to get another angle. From the abbey we could see a beach and a rapeseed field in the distance.
We headed back down the 199 steps to meet back up with the girls. They were most relaxed and enjoying life, while Paul and I were still trying to recover from our climb.
We headed back to the other side of the bridge since we wanted to go to a well know fish & chips place called the Magpie. Paul had been wanting to go there for years; but had never been able to. On the way there, we stopped at a shop that had the famous Whitby Lucky Ducks. We had never heard of them, but they are well known in England. We bought a couple, since luck is a good thing.
We passed by an interesting corridor. I wasn’t sure what the Arguments Yard was for; but we weren’t interested in finding out. In doing this review, I found out that Argument was a family name; so it wasn’t a yard for arguing in.
Further down the street we came to the Magpie. It was a much nicer looking building than I was expecting for a fish & chips place. We went in and were thrilled that we would be able to sit down right away; but it was on the third floor. There was no way that Carol would be able to climb up that many stairs. To our surprise, the restaurant had an elevator she could use. We were thrilled.
The menu had both haddock and cod for their fish. We all ordered the haddock; but there was some question as to the portion size. They had small, regular and extra-large size portions to choose from. We looked around at other tables and all the portions looked large to us. The waitress recommended the small size for lunch. It was more than adequate as you can see below. It was also so very delicious. I will say it is the best fish & chips we have ever had. I am sure that the location and company helped to make it even better.
Walking back to the car after lunch, I got a better photo of the swing bridge and a great idea for a flower box.
Our next destination was to the town of Scarborough. On the way there, Paul pulled over to a spot along the North Bay to show us the waterfront. There were castle ruins on top of the hill in the distance.
There was also an interesting statue there called Freddie Gilroy and the Belsen Stragglers. Freddie was a miner who was one of the first soldiers to enter the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. The statue represents ordinary people pulled out of ordinary lives because of war, who involuntarily experienced extraordinary things and whose lives were profoundly affected as a consequence. The statue itself is quite large; but until Paul jumped up on the bench, it wasn’t quite as obvious.
Further down the road we passed by a cliff with a lot of white spots on it. They were thousands of birds.
When we pulled into Scarborough, it was a bit of a challenge to find a parking spot. People were enjoying the off season at Scarborough since the weather was nicer than normal. I can’t imagine what it would be like during season, since there really weren’t that many people around. The town itself is very touristy and much like Coney Island. They even have a place named Coney Island.
I took a photo of Carol in front of a large anchor that was raised from the ocean near Scarborough.
I walked out onto the beach to get a photo of the Grand Hotel. When it opened in 1867, it was the largest hotel and brick structure in Europe.
Even though it is quite touristy, Scarborough still feels like a British seaside village with the lighthouse and Old English architecture.
Before leaving, Gail took a photo of us to remember our visit there.
We returned home to another delicious home cooked meal. It was even more special, because we would be having dinner with Paul and Gail’s daughter and their precious granddaughter. She is just a doll. I took so many photos of her; but I will just put in this one for the review.
The plan for the day was to visit Yorkshire Dales National Park and some of the towns located there. The weather forecast had not looked too good; but we had been lucky so far. As we were driving northwest to the Dales, we did have some haze in the distance; but it turned out to be another gorgeous sunny day in Yorkshire. Paul pulled over so that I could get some photos of the rock walls and some sheep. As I was doing my thing, all of the sheep charged toward me. They were all yelling at me, or I guess the proper term is bleating; but it sounded like they were yelling at me. It was so funny, I was laughing out loud. They were coming from both sides. It was just hilarious. I guess they thought I was going to feed them. I am sure they weren’t happy with me just taking their photos.
We entered the national park and I couldn’t get over how many rock walls there were. They were everywhere and it made the area look even prettier than it already was.
There were so many sheep too; but we were partial to the baby lambs.
The first stop we made was in the town of Hawes. We were going to visit the Wensleydale Creamery (www.wensleydale.co.uk). I wasn’t sure why we were stopping there until we entered the shop. I have never seen so many different types of cheese on display and there were samples of most of them available to try. I thought that Costco had good food samples to try; but this place beats Costco big time.
I did find quite a few cheeses that I would have loved to take home; but it wouldn’t be real practical. We really enjoyed this place and could have stayed there for a very long time, especially since they also had a restaurant. But after trying so many types of cheeses, we weren’t hungry. We saw some bottles of rapeseed oil for sale also. It is supposed to be quite popular due to its healthful qualities; but it is much more expensive than other food oils.
After leaving the creamery, we went into downtown Hawes to walk around. The first place we came to was a lovely little waterfall right in the center of town.
It was such a pretty and clean town. Walking around Hawes, there was no doubt that we were visiting an English village. We just loved the town.
I did get a kick out of a sign I saw in a shop window. Just too cute since we were in sheep country.
We passed by more lovely buildings and even got to see the stream further down from the little waterfall where we first entered town.
Continuing on our trek, we were enjoying the beautiful rolling green countryside.
We passed through some small towns on the way and eventually decided to stop for lunch at a small pub called the Fox and Hounds.
The interior looked like British pub should look. I found a local beer called Butter Tubs to try, which was most refreshing.
Everyone wanted me to get behind the beer pumps for a photo. I do like the way the bartenders actually pump the beer rather than using pressurized tanks like we have at home.
We had a nice lunch and continued on our way through the beautiful Yorkshire Dales.
I had been seeing the moss on the rocks and wanted to get a close up look at it and a photo, so Paul pulled over.
Close by we came to a steep cliff. As we approached it, we saw that there were several groups of climbers moving their way up the cliff.
Our next stop would be the town of Grassington. The town only has a population of 1,126 residents; but the tourist crowd makes it much larger.
I was attracted to this orange flowered bush.
It was such a quaint town. I was thoroughly enjoying this stop too.
There were several shops selling interesting homemade crafts.
Several months before this vacation, I had seen an episode of the British TV series Doc Martin, where the main characters went on a picnic. One of the items they had for lunch was called a Scotch Egg. Having never heard of it, I looked it up and it sounded like it might be worth trying. It is a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, coated in bread crumbs and baked or deep-fried. I mentioned to Gail that if we saw a store that had them while we were visiting them to let me know so I could try one. Well, a shop in Grassington had some. It looked pretty much like the photos I had seen; but unfortunately the taste was not what I had hoped for. Oh well, at least I got Scotch Eggs scratched off my bucket list.
After my not so good snack, we stopped at a place for some tea. We sat outside; but I must say it was actually rather warm in the sun for us. But our British friends were in heaven with the sunshine.
When we got back to the car, a sheep and its lamb were grazing. They weren’t too happy that we were there. But the little fellow was kind of curious about us.
Continuing our drive, we saw more beautiful countryside.
We stopped to take a photo of the ruins of Barden Tower, which was built in the 15th century. It wasn’t much to look at; but we later found out that we were looking at the back side of it.
Further down the road was the ruins of the 12th century Bolton Abbey. We weren’t able to get into the parking lot, so Paul dropped me off and I ran closer to get a photo of it.
Our next stop was at Ilkley Moor. The moor rises 1,319 feet above sea level, so it is most impressive. It really seems out of place amongst all the rolling green hills. Many people climb to the top; but there was no interest from anyone in our car to join them.
As we were getting close to home, I had to take a photo of the lovely trees along the road. It was a most enjoyable end to a wonderful day’s touring. And capped off with a delicious Italian meal at one of Paul and Gail’s favorite restaurants.
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