After Leeds, we ventured further in Yorkshire visiting York, Harrogate, Grassington and Saltaire. All this was done over a weekend and a bit of a weekday. We picked up a rental car in the form of the Hyundai i30 (a frugal runabout that packed five people comfortably into its frame) for York, Harrogate and Grassington while we went by rail for the Saltaire visit. Long country roads and narrow lanes greet the adventurous driver. At the end of it all, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking scenery and great ale 🙂 I have to say though that York left the biggest impression on me simply because there was this ‘nude’ bicycle ride through the town!
With our trusty silver steed well filled with petrol, we drove to York. A ‘walled’ city with a rich heritage, York sits on the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Foss in North Yorkshire. The bit of history that I gathered about York over the internet is that it was founded by the Romans and in the Middle Ages, grew to become a major wool trading centre (well, the countryside is peppered with loads of sheep). In addition, it became the ‘northern ecclesiastical province of the Church of England, a role it has retained’ (from Wikipedia). We parked the car and had a good walkabout so as to absorb the history of the place. Here’s a picture of the River Ouse (taken from Lendel Bridge) and the lovely converted warehouses along its embankment as well as an example of the ‘wall’ that has been cleverly intertwined with buildings.
Winding through the old, narrow lanes, there is a discovery to be made at every turn. Quaint shops with unusual displays, antiques, knick knacks and tea rooms line ‘The Shambles’ only to give way to a large market square. Perhaps it was because it was a Saturday but I’d like to think that York is always a ‘buzzy’ place. To gain respite from the hive of activity, duck into any of the tea rooms or cosy cafes and indulge in British staples such as Coronation Chicken, Bangers & Mash or just a spot of tea and scones for a pick-me-up before diving back into the activity mayhem (sounds like a duck in a pond!).
What added to the carnival atmosphere on our visit was the good weather. We were blessed with blue skies and sunshine that made people feel like walking about and taking in the sights of the market itself, weddings, buskers, stall holders, caricature artists as well as hen parties and a ‘nude’ fund raising bicycle ride! Certainly a city of contrasts.
We next moved off to Grassington. A short motor drive away from York, Grassington is a beautiful little village with some of the most romantic scenery. It reminds me so much of the books about James Herriott, the Yorkshire country vet – vast expanse of countryside with little pubs and inns in the centre of town.
The locals in Grassington are extremely warm and friendly. We were welcomed instantly in the pub we stopped for a pint in. Rita, the proprietress of The Forester Arms, made sure we were amply supplied with tea, ale and pork crackling! Who cares if crackling is high in cholestrol – it goes well with ale. By the way, doggies are welcomed also 🙂 I was certainly happy to see so many pub regulars bringing their well behaved pets out with them. Pity this isn’t a regular feature in Asia. Apart from Japan who seem to welcome pets, I’d like to see more restos in Asia open to a pet friendly policy.
By the way, if you’re on an extended stay in Grassington, The Foresters Arms as well as a number of pretty inns have comfortable rooms to let. Check out the local British tourist websites or Tripadvisor to get a list of inns for your stay. This will allow you to explore the area further – good fresh air and long walks to enjoy! Well, it’s been a bit of a long post. I’ll leave Harrogate, the Spa town and Saltaire to part 3!