We spent less time travelling around the UK than originally expected, and didn’t get anywhere near as far around the country as we thought we would.
We set off at the beginning of April and the weather finally beat us at the end of October. We arrived home on 23rd October, a few weeks before we were hoping.
Instead of making our way around the whole of the UK and spending a couple of months in Scotland, we explored the east coast fully, and just made it into Scotland (the furthest north we got was Dunbar, just east of Edinburgh) before we started making our way home via the Lake District and Blackpool. In this time we also had a week in Ibiza for a family wedding (and what a wonderful week it was too!), and a couple of weeks, in total, staying near home to catch up with family and friends. Meaning that our actual time on the road in the UK was 25 weeks (including a diversion to Cornwall).
Obviously we already knew rather more about the UK than about France, Spain or Portugal, but we did learn new things on our way around the country 🙂
What I’m writing about now actually happened more than a fortnight ago (meaning I am really behind here – I do have good reasons though!)
We actually stayed in the Dales for a week, and as well as all the waterfalls that I’ve already written about (click here if you’ve not read it yet), we enjoyed simply driving along the country roads (and along some of the high passes), visiting a couple of the towns and villages and discovering Fountains Abbey and Castle Bolton.
Driving down the road from the campsite we came across an escarpment at Cray that a number of people were climbing. So we stopped and went up to have a closer look 🙂
Climbers at Cray
Ready to climb at Cray
From here we continued along the road until we came to Grassington – make no mistake through several pretty villages before getting here; this was just where we decided to stop 🙂
Grassington is actually a town, albeit a small town with a population at the last census of 1,126. It’s very pretty with a history of lead mining, a country park, a folk museum and several gift shops and eateries. Well worth a visit; we enjoyed wandering around for a short while 🙂
We were actually aiming for Ripon when we set out in the morning, and once we’d left Grassington we aimed once again for this town. On the way we saw signs for How Stean Gorge which I had read about in the Rough Guide, and I thought it looked like it could be really good to visit. It took a while to get there, but we couldn’t see much. Unless we paid £7 each… Now it might well have been worth this money, but it’s only about 1000m long, and the weather wasn’t brilliant, so we decided against it.
There is however an awful lot on offer including canyoning, gorge walking, canoeing and the via ferrata (a high wire adventure), so I really think it’s worth a visit for the more adventurous among us (okay among you…!) Check out their website here if you’re interested in that sort of thing.
Back on the road again to Ripon we next came across Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden. Now I did, of course, know that this was here, but I wasn’t going to suggest stopping. But then we saw the magic words ‘World Heritage Site’, so decided to have a look after all. Being members of the National Trust we had nothing to lose – if we weren’t impressed we could just leave 🙂
We weren’t disappointed even though we didn’t actually manage to visit the church in the grounds (where Freddie Truman is apparently buried – according to my dad anyway 🙂 ) (I have just checked and Wikipedia says he’s buried in Bolton Abbey; but then again Wikipedia has been known to get it wrong…!), or the Studley Royal Gardens (which are actually the World Heritage Site). But we did see the hall (much of it now holiday & staff accommodation) and the remains of the abbey itself. These are really impressive being very extensive. You can clearly see the seats where the monks sat in the choir, visit an upstairs room (still completely intact) and a massive hall that still has it’s ceiling and arches.
There is quite a steep climb back up from the ruins – so much so that the tall church tower looks a little like a gatehouse as you’re walking towards it!
We fully intended to go back with our bikes to visit the water gardens and the deer park, but sadly never actually made it (as is so often the case).
The church at Fountains Abbey
Time was no getting on so we just drove through Ripon and headed back to the van via a Co-op in Masham (there is a distinct lack of shops in the Dales themselves!)
This we found out to our cost later that evening. We had forgotten a vital item when in the shop, but decided to wait until after our tea to go back out. Big mistake! We headed back out at 7.35pm. The garage in Aysgarth had closed at 7pm, so we decided to head for Hawes, 8 miles away, as that’s a fairly decent size – no, all that was open were pubs. And a Chinese takeaway. So then we had to come back and head for Leyburn, 8 miles in the other direction, all the way looking for shops, garages etc. There were a couple of village shops and garages, but everything was shut, except for the pubs!
Finally in Leyburn – a decent sized town, we found a choice of 2 shops. So because we forgot something we drove about 36 miles and were out for over an hour. And we complain at home because our nearest shop is a mile away!!
We headed back to Hawes another day, although we didn’t stop (this was the day that we visited Hardraw Force). We then took the Buttertubs Pass, an amazing road with wonderful views over the dales. So called because apparently farmers would leave unsold butter in the deep natural potholes along the side of the road when they left market.
We drove a 2nd pass – no name given – and at the bottom we spotted a mole running along the side of the road! Just amazing 🙂
At the top of the pass we found Muker, a busy little village with a couple of tea rooms and a pub. We were confused as to why it was quite so busy until I realised that it was on the route of a long distance walking path.
Church at Muker
We continued along the ‘back road’ to Aysgarth until we got to Castle Bolton. This is where the reception for the wedding I mentioned previously was held. It was very cold that time! This time not so much.
There was a medieval music festival being held there this weekend and we were able to access the ground floor as well as the café on the 1st floor free of charge. There was quite a lot to see!
So another couple of lovely days in the Dales were concluded. Just 1 more post on this, dealing with a visit to Richmond and Leyburn 🙂
Other posts from our time in the Yorkshire Dales:-
There is water everywhere in the Dales. Tumbling over rocks in rivers and streams that run alongside the road, flowing serenely into Tarns, ready to be enjoyed in reservoirs and thundering down falls or over escarpments.
However you experience it it’s awesome beauty cannot be ignored 🙂
We have made it our business to visit 3 areas of falls; Aysgarth, Hardraw Force and the Cauldron Falls at West Burton (not even mentioned in guidebooks!) I think we actually enjoyed the Cauldron Falls most as we were able to explore them more fully – we were almost able to walk behind them 🙂
I know I’m out of sync (I’ve not yet written about Bolsover and York, Harrogate and Knaresborough), but this can’t wait!
We arrived in the Dales on Tuesday and as we drove towards our campsite near Aysgarth my breath was quite simply taken away by the beauty all around us. I could have cried 🙂 This was even though it was raining when we arrived!
Once settled in we set off further along the B road (and deeper into the countryside) to explore a little. We were just completely blown away by what we were seeing – water rushing along beside the road, falling over rocks and dropping from height – all around us! We had to keep stopping to wonder at it all and, of course, take photos 🙂
Eventually we found ourselves stopping just past the White Lion Inn at Cray, alongside part of Buckden Pike (712m). There were stepping stones across the water and a National Trust public footpath signposted up the pike, so, naturally, we decided to follow it.
I had it in mind to follow a shorter path towards Cray Bridge (1/2 mile) but Calv had other ideas, went the other way and kept on walking…! We almost made it to the top of what we could see, but were scuppered by a drystone wall (as we had veered dramatically off the path – and didn’t we know it!) This was quite hard walking (for me anyway!) and I was really proud to have got so far. Coming back down was at least as hard as going up.
One of the disinctive stile gates on Buckden Pike
View across Buckden Pike
Calv scrabbling up Buckden Pike (I did follow him 🙂 )
We had come out without a drink (not expecting to go for a long walk of course) so decided to have a drink in the pub. Naively I was expecting a pub in the heart of the Dales to be a little cheaper. Right….!! We’ll take our own drinks out with us in future!!
There was an interesting game on the wall here though, called Bull Ook, which involved swinging a ring to be caught on the hook of the bull’s nose. It was very difficult – in fact we found it impossible!
From here we carried on along the main road for just a short while before we saw a single track lane on the right pointing towards a pub, JB Priestley’s favourite watering hole according to a sign. So we headed this way, which brought us to the tiny village of Hubberholme, the main features of which are an unusual church, a lovely stone bridge over the fast running river and a pub (that doesn’t really look like a pub) with a history.
Note the telephone number.. 🙂
Bridge over the river at Hubberholme with The George in the background
They call it the Hubberholme Parliament and, so my Rough Guide tells me, this relates to the practice of local farmers bidding to use 16 acres of church land for the year, the proceeds of which are used for the poor of the parish. A candle is lit and the auction overseen by the vicar in the dining room (The House of Lords), the farmers place their bids in the bar (The House of Commons) and the highest bid when the candle goes out is the winner! The auction is still held today – on the 1st Monday of the New Year.
The fact that the pub, having started life as a farm, was at one point the vicarage might explain why some church furniture had to be rescued from the pub where it was being used as a bar.
We continued along this back road, with no idea where we were heading! We ended up driving up and up, over cattle grids and finding ourselves in a completely empty landscape. By which I mean very few properties!
What we did see though were numerous birds of prey; sparrow hawks, kestrels and owls! Yes owls, 3 of them, in daylight! And the views!! Unfortunately we just couldn’t get any usable photos 😦
This road eventually brought us back to civilisation via Gayle, a village with some history as a mill area – there is a restored mill here which is open to the public. The road brought us out to Hawes, with a couple of museums – Dales Countryside Museum and Ropemakers as well as the Wensleydale Creamery where you can watch the cheese being made.
Tired now we headed back to the van, exhausted by taking in all the views along the way. But we couldn’t wait to get back out into the countryside the next day when we’d already decided to visit Aysgarth Falls themselves.
On the way back we found an excellent shop by Aysgarth Garage (although the fuel itself was very expensive), and also a shortcut back to the van through Thoralby village.
On the way up this lane we were held up by a herd of cattle being moved from the farmyard out to the field, at the back of which was one that clearly had a very bad hoof. I felt so sorry for her 😦
We’re also now back to feeding ourselves properly in the van, which saw me making a chicken, leek and bacon pie for tea 🙂
All in all ready for our bed! Day 2 will see me tell you about our walk to Aysgarth Falls 🙂