England was never actually on our travel list. We only ended up in northern Europe in 2011 because we wanted to go to the Leeds Festival. To justify the flight there, we decided to spend a few more days around the island. We didn’t have any particular expectations – and so we were positively surprised every day: by friendly people, idyllic landscape, clean roads, nice hiking trails and monumental ruins. We only had our problems with the bus connections…
Our first destination was Skipton in the Yorkshire Dales. The cozy town between the lush green hills, on which numerous sheep roam, has its very own architecture. We were particularly fascinated by the water pipes running along the outside of the house walls. If you climb the steep streets, you have a great view of the chimney landscape of the sandstone-colored houses, which are decorated with doors of every imaginable color.
But Skipton isn’t just beautiful from above. It is also worth strolling through the small streets, looking for a nice restaurant on the canal or exploring one of the lovingly designed shops: souvenirs with sheep can be found here in every shape and size. Our favorite place to spend our evenings is the Woolly Sheep Inn, where you can not only enjoy a classic burger, but also a delicious vegetarian version with mushrooms and goat cheese – and the beer is of course fantastic too.
Our first excursion into the Yorkshire Dales National Park led to Buckden, from where we walked across lonely meadows with moss-covered dry stone walls to Kettlewell. Houses overgrown with flowers, small “tea rooms” and people enjoying the sun on benches at roundabouts stuck in our memories.
Since, for once, we were traveling without a rental car, we had to rely on public transport. The bus system looked well networked on the map, but the individual lines ran infrequently and only until the early evening. A trip had to be well planned if you didn’t want to spend the evening stranded in the neighboring town but rather in a cozy pub. But even with good planning, we didn’t always reach our goal. When we tried to reach Bolton Abbey, the friendly bus driver dispelled any illusion that he would – as stated in the timetable – go to the Abbey. So we allowed ourselves to be taken as far as we could. The journey ended at a roundabout, from which we had to trudge a mile through tall grass to the ruins – there was no sidewalk.
The ruins of Bolton Abbey lie within bright green meadows. Only the walls have survived from the building, even these not completely. Unfortunately we were not allowed to enter the interior, we could only admire the walls from the outside, but that is also a great sight. The hiking trail along the river, which we then tried out, is not so worthwhile. There wasn’t much to see besides grilling people and parked cars – and trees. So we rushed to catch the early bus back. The story of how we got back to the hotel from there is a longer one – at least not in the way it was written on the bus timetable.
From the Yorkshire Dales we went to Leeds, the actual destination of our trip. Here we were not only at the festival, but also took the time to visit the “Salts Mill” in Saltaire near Bradford. The old wool factory that Titus Salt founded is definitely worth seeing. Numerous shops have settled inside: a flower shop, a bookshop, an art gallery, a bicycle shop, etc. But the building itself is particularly interesting, as is the nearby Roberts Park and the residential buildings in the area with their colorful doors and cats that hanging around in the windows.
We also liked Leeds itself. We were mainly on the way along the canal, in which the many lights of the houses on the bank are reflected in the evening and provide a beautiful play of colors. The festival unfortunately ended in a mudslinging in torrential rain – the next day’s newspapers called it ‘Mudstock’ – but as expected the music was great.
After this city experience, we went back into nature: more specifically, to the North York Moors, where we moved into our quarters in Pickering.
Taking a bus needs as much planning in the North York Moors as it does in the Yorkshire Dales, but we managed to hit a few cute spots. Take Thornton-le-Dale, for example, which has an eerily idyllic house that, according to the guidebook, is one of the most photographed in the area. Of course we did our part.
A historic steam locomotive travels from Pickering to Whitby. Don’t miss out on this great experience! Not only because the journey leads through a picturesque landscape, but also because it is great to travel like in the old days. We were even allowed to climb into the locomotive and see at close quarters how coal was added. Pretty hot!
Set amid purple moorland, you can disembark at Goathland Station, which was used as the setting for the Harry Potter films.
Our journey ended in Whitby, which unfortunately was crammed with tourists. We drifted towards the Abbey with the crowds, hoping that things would be quieter on the hill where the ruins are located. That wasn’t the case. Because not everyone took the footpath like we did; most of them let buses cart them to the entrance to the old structure. Since an event for children was taking place between the walls – something with marionettes, an ax and three disguised people – most of the tourists were drawn inside, so that we could see the ruins from the outside in peace. Impressive – still – there is no other way to say it! The view of Whitby Harbor is also worthwhile.
To say goodbye to the North York Moors, we visited Rievaulx Abbey, which is better preserved than Whitby and Bolton Abbey. The area is large, so there’s a lot to explore, and there were refreshingly few people out and about.
The last stop on our trip was York, where we were unlucky with the weather. But at least we managed to do the tour of the city wall without rain. Luckily, there’s a roofed highlight in the city: York Minster. And fortunately our hotel was just around the corner. Another bad weather option for us was of course the delicious crème brûlée in “Café Rouge”.
Addendum September 2014:
I always believed that memories are permanent. That an once beautiful moment remains forever as a positive experience in our mind. But that’s not the case.
When you hear a faint whimper, while being on a journey somewhere far away from any civilization, and you find an injured and emaciated stray dog in a hole in the ground, pull him out, dress his wounds and share most of your provisions with him, than this experience is only going to be a wonderful memory until that dog jumps in your face and, out of sheer greed and selfishness, makes off with the rest of your rations.
You can forgive this mutt. Animals act mostly instinctively and outside of our moral values. That distinguishes them from us humans.
In September 2014 I discovered Julia’s true colours. The person she was pretending to be had very little to do with her true nature.
Since then, I no longer consider this blog post as a record of my favorite memories of England, but only as a reminder to never forget that it is not important whether you share a beautiful moment with someone, but with whom.