Last week, I took you on a reminisce tour of Scotland. If you missed that post, click here. Not to be outdone, this week a reminder about our time in Northeast England appeared on my Facebook feed. So I dug into my photo archives for an array of photos from our stay there in May 2016.
Our first trip to England was in 2000 when The Eldest spent six months studying at Westminster University in London. My Traveling Partner and I took The Youngest out of school for one week around Easter plus another another week of spring break. This allowed two weeks to see London and maybe a look at the countryside. It was a wonderful trip. We stayed in Golders Green, a northern suburb of London where The Eldest shared an apartment with a roommate.
Golders Green was then populated primarily by Jewish families. We stayed in a small locally owned hotel that catered to Jews traveling from the continent to London to visit family. The owners were so kind to us, even making sure there was something for breakfast on Passover, the major Jewish holiday. The local restaurants and bakeries were delicious and the people friendly. Everyday we ventured out to see the sites in London, we enjoyed them all especially the National Gallery and Westminster Abbey.
For a few days during our stay, we escaped the hustle and bustle of London to the countryside. The Eldest told us: “You have to see the Yorkshire Dales.” We were up early one morning to catch the subway to King’s Cross for the train to Leeds. After about 2 and half hours we arrived in Leeds and then boarded a local train to Skipton located on the southern edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. We made the short walk from the train station into the center of town where we rented a couple of rooms above one of the pubs on High Street, the Woolly Sheep Inn. We had a wonderful stay.
The highlight of our time in Skipton was walking the trails in the National Park. The next morning we took a bus to the Park visitor center where we bought a map of the walking trails. The major portion of the national park is on privately owned land. The park has easements with farmers to allow people to walk on trails through their cow and sheep pastures. They have designated pass throughs and gates to the next part of the trail. It is unbelievably awesome how fun it is to walk along these marked trails with flocks Cheviot or Hampshire sheep grazing nearby barely lifting their heads to acknowledge our presence. It was spring and the lambs were frolicking and kicking up their heels. We were a little more cautious of the cows, most of them had horns but no calves at side.
The day was glorious, blue skies, poofy clouds, and a light breeze. The air was so fresh and clean. We had snacks and water with us so we’d step off the trail and sit on the ground while we rested and restored. At lunch time, we wandered into one of the small villages for a bite to eat. It was an adventure we never forgot. A few years later, we were saddened to learn these trails were closed due to the outbreak of Mad Cow Disease in the UK. They are now open but users are asked to follow the Countryside Code to prevent the spread of disease and protect the environment.
We returned to the UK in 2014 for a Road Scholar program on World War I. Our time was spent in Oxford and London.
Fast forward to 2016, when our Friendship Force Club was invited on an exchange to Northeast England. My Traveling Partner and I jumped at the chance. The host club was based in Darlington, Durham, Stockton-On-Tees located on or near the River Tees that flows into the North Sea. Close by was the North York Moors National Park. It was a chance to see the sister park to Yorkshire Dales.
Our home hosts were an elderly couple but don’t think that age slowed them down. In addition, to the scheduled activities they showed us around the Moors and Dales. On a Sunday afternoon they took us to one of the most scenic places in all of England. Here are two different views of the scene. These photos were taken with two different cameras, a Canon DSLR and an iPhone. Can you tell the different? The patchwork of rock fences, the bright green grass, sheep grazing, the clouds with a bit of sun showing through, I couldn’t have asked for a better view. I’ll never forget this scene.
One of our scheduled activities was to visit the seaside village of Whitby. The day was gray and chilly, we had to layer our warmest clothes to fend off the stiff cold wind blowing off the North Sea. On our way to Whitby, our host took us to the quaint little fishing village of Runswick Bay. After about five minutes of photographing the scene we popped into the white building on the left for coffee and tea. You know how the British love their tea! It was a blessing to get out of the wind.
Upon arrival in Whitby, a resort town of about 14,000 residents, some of us walked up the hill to the ruins of the Whitby Abbey. The abbey has towered over Whitby since the 1300s. Of interest, the Whitby Abbey was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.” We kept warm by walking up the many steps to the abbey and then walking down again!
Here’s a view of Whitby from the Abbey.
Boats are a big deal on the River Esk that flows through Whitby. We ended the day with a pleasant meal at Trenchers, said to be one of the best fish and chip restaurants in Yorkshire. I’ll second that! Those Brits also love their fish and chips!
One day, we boarded a bus for a one hour ride to tour the Castle Howard. The spring day was warm and pleasant and the gardens were exquisite. My Traveling Partner is an avid gardener so we spent most of our time walking through the many gardens. The spring flowers were in bloom, my it was nice to see. After tea and coffee in the small cafe attached to the Castle, we enjoyed our walk through the interior. We wondered who cleaned such a big house. We figured it out after watching the Downton Abbey series on Netflix this winter.
On another day, we traveled to the wonderful city of York. We were treated to a guided tour of the York Minster. The guide was an expert on the architecture of this magnificent building. We learned the Minster was built in the Gothic style and is one of the largest in Europe. There was a major renovation project going during our visit, expected to last ten years. It’s not to be missed if you ever find yourself in York.
The Minster has been the center of Christianity in northern England since the 700s. After several centuries of building, the current cathedral was completed in 1472. The Archbishop of York is the third ranking official in the Church of England.
Next week is Memorial Day here in the United States and a ten days later is the 78th anniversary of the June 6, 1944 D-Day Invasion. On our day in York, we met this fellow, Ken Smith. He was age 19 on June 6, 1944 when he landed on Gold Beach with units from the 50th British Infantry Division. Gold Beach is next to Omaha Beach were the Americans landed to begin the liberation of Europe from the Nazis.
Ken was one six remaining Normandy War Veterans in the York area, they were having a ceremony to honor those who died. When we showed interested, he invited us to attend. He was quite the guy, I’ve written about him and our experience at the ceremony in previous blogs. Click here to read that story. I’m sorry to report that Ken died in April 2020 at the age of 95 after a fall at home. After the war, he vowed never to pick up a gun again. He kept his promise. A true hero. I was honored to meet him.
On our last full day in Northeast England, we had some free time to explore on our own. Our host took us to Durham, a beautiful city of about 50,000 folks on the River Wear. We had enough time to take in a tour of the Durham Castle and Cathedral, both designated as World Heritage Sites. We enjoyed our short visit to Durham and vowed to return for a closer look. I especially want to check out Durham University, said to be one of the top universities in the world. Bill Bryson, the American born journalist and author was the Chancellor of Durham University. He has lived most of his adult life in England. It’s mostly a ceremonial post, he succeed British actor, Peter Ustinov. Bryson served as Chancellor for a period of six years. If you’ve read any of his many books, you’ll know that he is quite the character with a self-deprecating sense of humor. As an aspiring writer I want to see where he served, I’ve already been to Iowa where he was born!
When you go to the United Kingdom, London seems to be the obvious place to spend most of your time. Just know that you are missing a whole lot of the countryside where the scenery, villages, towns, and people can’t be beat. Thanks for coming along.
Until next week, happy travels!