16 May Travel Guide: 48 Hours in Yorkshire, England
Way up north in England is Yorkshire, which has its own dialect and flag, and covers a stunningly beautiful area that is about half the size of Belgium. I am mesmerized by the scenery here, which looks like it came straight off the set of Downton Abbey (which is set in Yorkshire). It’s a mix of rolling green hills and moody moors and a striking coastline, not to mention Norman castles, medieval abbeys and classic English country towns. The county is also rich in Roman and Viking heritage and can tell the history of Britain from when the Roman’s arrived in 71 AD to present day. I spent two days exploring this fascinating area that is often referred to as “God’s Country.” Here is how:
My York experience begins in the picturesque Yorkshire seaside town of Whitby, which is about a two-hour drive from where I spent the previous night in England’s Lake Country (link here). First up is Whitby Abbey, which is perched high on a cliff overlooking the dramatic, angry seeming, North Sea. Now only ruins, it once served as a Benedictine monastery, and is said to have been one of the inspirations for Bram Stoker’s classic gothic tale of Dracula.
After sinking my teeth into years of history and soaking up the stunning views, I head down to the seaside village for lunch at Quayside located in the heart of Whitby’s harbor. The Fusco family has been running the restaurant in one of Whitby’s most historic buildings since 1999. It is famous for its award-winning proper Yorkshire fish and chips, which is what you should order. The chips (fries) are made from fresh peeled potatoes and the fish is fried and seasoned to perfection. The building itself has quite a history. Dating back to the 1820s it originally served as a public bathhouse, museum and library. And it is said that in the late 1890s Bram Stoker carried out research for Dracula in this library. Today that space is a cocktail bar, Bar 7, which is a fun place to hang out for a drink or two.
Sadly, I can’t linger too long, as it is about an hour drive (albeit a beautiful one) to my next destination: Castle Howard. A magnificent 18th century residence that housed 10 generations of Howards since its creation, the east wing is still a private home occupied by the Earls of Carlisle family, while the rest of the 145-room, fully furnished castle is on display for tours. Set on 1,000-acres, the grounds alone are spectacular, with formal gardens, follies, fountains and even a temple, but inside I am really wowed by the Great Hall. Here massive carved columns rise from the corners of the room, creating a truly grand impression.
I do a lot of driving today, but Yorkshire is a big county, and attractions are spread out. Of course it isn’t much of a chore, as the scenery along the way never fails to disappoint. From Castle Howard it is a one-hour drive to Leeds, which is called the “London of the North” and is home to incredible architecture, great shopping and plenty of arts and culture – it even has its own ballet. It’s also a great base from which to explore the countryside, because it takes less than 45 minutes to be out in the middle of nowhere from the city center. Sadly, I don’t have much time here, but I do manage to check out the massive Kirkaate Market, which is housed in a fantastic building.
It’s about a 1.5-hour drive to Yorebridge House in the Yorkshire Dales, which is my final destination for the evening. This part of Yorkshire is also filled with adventures all within a short distance of each other. Here you can see Aysgarth Falls, which were made famous by the movie Robin Hood. And also don’t skip a visit to Wensleydale Creamery, where all kinds of cheeses can be sampled. Beyond the traditional blue and cheddars there are also flavored cheeses including one made with caramel, which is my favorite. Yorebridge House itself is my favorite hotel on this trip, and after a long day on the road I am more than excited to just relax in my room, which is oriental themed and quite romantic and comes with a private hot tub and a shower with duel heads.
In the morning it’s back to castles. From Yorebridge House I first head to Bolton Castle to see where Mary Queen of Scots was once imprisoned. Next up is Skipton Castle, located about an hour away. More than 900-years-old, it is one of England’s most complete and best-preserved medieval castles. The castle once withstood a three-year siege, and today all corners can be explored. I enjoy poking around the banqueting hall, kitchen and bedroom, but coolest of all is climbing from the dungeon all the way up to the top story of the watchtower.
From Skipton it is a 40-minute drive to picturesque Ogden Water, which is a reservoir and nature reserve just outside of the town of Halifax. It is home to a number of woodland trails and waterside paths, including an easy 1.25-mile loop around the reservoir that includes some great views of the dramatic scenery that makes up the western part of Yorkshire and gives me an opportunity to stretch my legs. When I’m finished I head for tea and scones at the Boggart Brig Tea Room. The cute little place sits next to a reservoir and offers a range of light snacks including filled rolls and bacon sandwiches.
From here it is just a quick 10-minute drive to Holdsworth House, where I will spend the night. Located just three miles north of the town of Halifax, it is a charming Jacobean manor house dating back to 1633 and features a fantastic location with more views and beautiful gardens. Run by the same family, the Pearsons, since the 1960s, it is filled with character and includes many of its period features like mullioned windows, oak panels, wig cupboards and above the central gable, a stone Maltese cross that represents the chivalric Order of St John of Jerusalem. Each of the rooms is uniquely furnished, but antiques and tapestries feature throughout. Over the years it has hosted many celebrities, and it’s quite cool to sleep in the same hotel where John Lennon celebrated his 24th birthday. The location is also ideal, as it is about equidistant from Leeds and Manchester (which is where I head next) and makes a great base to explore the Pennines, Dales and Bronte Country.