I think I was still in elementary school when I first read James Herriot’s books. With titles like “All Things Bright and Beautiful” and “All Creatures Great and Small” they followed his adventures as a country vet, up and down the narrow roads of the Yorkshire Dales. Years later, binge-watching the series on Netflix, I was astonished that the countryside appeared to be as magical as I had imagined. Well, I have finally experienced the Yorkshire Dales, and it is magical indeed.
On our way back from a trip to Scotland (more about that soon), settling down in a country cottage for a few days seemed like a good way to wind things down. Thank you, Airbnb! The farmhouse annex was a picture-perfect cottage complete with kitchen.
We had rented a car, and by this point in the trip Marc was adept at driving a stick-shift right-hand drive on narrow single track roads with two-way traffic and sheep wandering everywhere. It’s a bit of a dance when you meet another vehicle! This was good preparation for the steep, winding, narrow roads in Yorkshire.
The Yorkshire Dales is actually a National Park, peppered with villages, farms, and 5,000 miles of dry stone walls. They are everywhere, and some of them seem to run for miles. These are built without mortar and although many have been reinforced with wire fencing they are clearly very old.
We were fortunate to have arrived during some of the best weather of the year; several people told us not to expect this every time (or, perhaps, ever again)! It was very humid (85%+) but sunny. All my research mentioned Malham and Hawes, which seem to be slightly larger towns but we quickly decided to avoid them and simply explore the area around our cottage.
Walking is a national pastime in England and every book or outdoor store has shelves loaded with books and maps detailing walks in every area. A system of rights of way allows walkers to cross the countryside, and gates and stiles ensure easy passage across fences and walls. In some cases there are markers, in others you have to know where to turn; because the Dales are a national park it seemed to be quite well signposted. You’re expected to be respectful of the land and the livestock, although dogs are generally not required to be on leash except in certain situations like during lambing season. It’s a beautiful arrangement.
- Arncliffe is a tiny village with just a handful of houses but it has a pub, and a famous one at that! The perfect place for lunch. We chatted with a father and his daughter who were on a walking tour… they live in our daughter’s neighbourhood in Toronto and the two girls both work in advertising. What a strange coincidence!
On day two, we selected a (slightly shorter) circular walk from a guide in the drawer at the cottage, and drove a few miles to Kettlewell to the starting point.
We awoke to a rainy Saturday morning, in time to head to Leeds to drop off the car and catch the train back to London. But on the way…
We’ll have time for a bit more traveling before our year in London is over, but now I’m weighing every option against returning to Yorkshire. A little slice of heaven!