Escape to the Dales
|The Harddraw Falls was made famous by the Kevin Costner-starrer Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves|
Flight BA 138 went through a pocket of turbulence somewhere over eastern Romania causing the Boeing 777 to shudder gently. I awoke thinking I was comfortably lying asleep in my own bed, before realising I was midway through my flight to London.
I’d dosed off with my television screen on and it was playing a travel documentary on Yorkshire. The verdant vistas and gently rolling Dales cut by twisty tarmac roads and little villages helped me to make up my mind instantly. I had been mulling over where I’d take this lovely lady for a road trip and the images flashing on the big LCD screen made up my mind for me. Yorkshire it was!
But first let me explain. I wasn’t on a honeymoon. I was going to spend two days in London watching the Olympics and then I had a date with a V8. By lovely lady I meant the Maserati GranTourismo — a gorgeous Italian sports car that would revel about on the twisty and smooth tarmac Yorkshire roads.
I drove up from London to Ampleforth, a village in the Yorkshire Moors in a six-hour drive that started off on four-lane motorways and ended on roads barely 4m wide. The Carr House Farm, my bed and breakfast for two nights, was located on a rolling farmland with fine views on all sides.
Anna Lupton, the lady of the house, bustled out to meet me followed by her solitary cat. She served me a hot cup of Yorkshire Tea (a blend of Assam and Ceylon leaves) and some Yorkshire Brack — a very yummy tea loaf that’s a regional speciality. It’s recipe includes flour, sugar and eggs and also concentrated tea and whisky or rum.
Little doubt then the Brack fortified me to set off exploring the surroundings. A mile down the road is Wass, a village which stands in the shadow of the sprawling ruins of the once grand Byland Abbey. A large part of the main facade still stands tall and there are patches of the original tiled flooring and stumps of the many pillars remaining.
The next morning I was on a train chugging from Pickering to Goathland through some incredibly pretty scenery. The vintage steam engines on this line are operated by the North Yorkshire Moors Railway and they stop at quaint villages like Levisham, Goathland and Grosmont from where there are numerous walks across the Moors.
I hopped off at Goathland — the station that played Hogsmeade Station in the Harry Potter movies — and did the two mile walk to Beck Hole, a little village with an incredibly small pub called Birch Hall Inn where time may have stood still but the food is fresh and the Black Sheep ale, straight from the cask.
|The hoary ruins of Byland Abbey stand testimony to past glory|
On my drive back to Ampleforth I stopped at the Black Swan’s Tearoom in Helmsley and treated myself to their luxurious tea experience with sandwiches, pastries, and freshly baked scones, clotted cream and homemade jam.
Next morning I pointed the Maserati’s nose west towards the Yorkshire Dales. My GPS suggested that I take the A170, the A1 and A684 — all wide highways.
But the previous evening I had met Cuthbert Riddleton, a local farmer, who had parked his muddied old Land Rover next to my GranTourismo in the parking lot of the White Swan pub and had pronounced, with solemnity, “thus meet beauty and the beast”. He suggested I toss my GPS away and wrote down a route on a paper napkin. “Laddie,” he said, “take your beast along this route to Hawes and you will bless me to kingdom come.”
I cursed him a little for implying that his battered old Land Rover was the ‘beauty’ but I also bless him to this day.
|Goathland is England’s ‘green and pleasant land’ at its best; (right) stop by and sample the entire range of Wensleydale cheese at the company’s factory|
That drive through the villages of Masham, Lofthouse, Ramsgill, Pateley Bridge, Hebdon, Grassington and Kettlewell went along quintessential British ‘B’ roads hemmed by trimmed hedges or craggy stone walls and curvaceous country lanes through some of the UK’s most gorgeous scenery.
Closer to Hawes I stopped at the Aysgarth Falls where Robin Hood had a stick fight with Little John in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Later I also visited the Harddraw Falls where Maid Marian coyly looks on as Robin of Loxley swims in the buff in the pool below the falls.
North of the falls is the Buttertubs Pass, again fun to drive with soul-satisfying views. The name comes from the fact that in days of yore (before refrigeration) farmers wives would store butter tubs in the narrow, deep and cool pits, the area’s unique geographical feature.
The next day I spent exploring Hawes, took part in a sheep auction, made a meal out of tasting the entire range of Wensleydale cheese at their factory and then walked it off with a splendid walk from Hawes to the Appersett Viaduct.
Mine was a quick trip to Yorkshire but the region deserves a week because there is so much explore and appreciate. Most international tourists rush to the nearby Lake District and give Yorkshire a miss. That is truly a pity — go to Yorkshire and you will know why.
• Getting there: British Airways has two flights a day from Delhi and Mumbai. You can also take a train to York from London King’s Cross Station. It takes about two hours.
• Where to stay: A good B&B will cost about £110 per room. For accommodation options and to see what all you can do in Yorkshire go to www.yorkshire.com