A slice of heaven… the Yorkshire Dales

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.  
The cottage is an annex to the big house.
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. 
Just starting down the path from our cottage, we could tell we were in for a treat!
The first day, we walked an almost 10 mile loop. Just starting down the path from our cottage, we could tell we were in for a treat!  

A ewe in the Yorkshire Dales
You’re not walking on the other side of the fence–you’re walking right through the fields, and the sheep and cows watch (or ignore you) as you briefly share their space.
There are 5000 miles of dry stone walls in the Yorkshire Dales.
Everywhere there are traces of life from days long ago. Every field outlined by walls has a low farm building, sometimes still in use but often just a ruin.

Footpath openings in the walls vary, but many consist of a narrow opening and a spring-closing gate.
The village church in Arncliffe
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! 

Yep, an opening in the wall, just to let the animals through.

The Queen’s Arms in Litton, a 17th century inn

Stiles come in different forms. But when you see one, you know that’s where you’re supposed to cross the fence.
These beauties were between us and the gate… we walked slowly and talked constantly, so as not to startle them!

This little bird (a song thrush, I think) was far more cooperative than the more flamboyant but elusive pheasants I never managed to photograph properly!
On the way back, we stopped in Arncliffe again, and bought half a dozen free range eggs from a container on a wall. Take the eggs, leave the money in the box. Breakfast!
World’s worst picture of me–keep your eyes on the eggs!
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. 
Kettlewell sits in a valley (a dale) and the beginning of the walk took us up the hill for a view from above.
Another type of stile

Can you spot the trend? Lunch and an hour to sit and sketch (see above), in Starbotton.

Hubby gallantly holding the gate for me!
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…
Another perfect village
I made Marc stop the car (on the single track road) while I ran back, in the rain, for this photograph.
Bolton Abbey, the ruins of a 12th century monastery. In spite of the rain, I have enough pictures of this for a post about it alone!

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!


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1 Response

  1. Leah Wolterman says:

    Finally reading the entries I missed.

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