Travel,  UK

A few days in the Yorkshire Dales

I’ll be honest from the beginning, I’ve always been a York Moors girls. Living in York for 4 years, the Moors were a just on my doorstep and I got to know them pretty well. So visiting the Yorkshire Dales feels like a bit of a betrayal. Sorry Moors, we’ll be back.

This little trip is about as spontaneous as they come. On Monday morning I felt deeply sad because we were due to fly to the south of France the following day. Deeply sad.  By Monday evening we’d booked ourselves into a lovely hotel in the Yorkshire Dales, as a small way of cheering ourselves up. And it really did.

6 CUPS OF TEA LATER

We took a longer route to get up to Malham, via Ilkley and had a glorious hour in Betty’s Tearooms sipping their best tea, and munching on warm Yorkshire Curd Tart with whipped cream. The rain had followed close behind us from North Wales so we didn’t see much of Ilkley apart from the inside of a silver teapot and a quick dash to the car.

In a former life, I spent 4 years in York as a very average history student, with a very above average knowledge of the Betty’s afternoon tea menu. It was honestly my favourite thing about living in York, along with peaceful moments in the Minster, and lazy wanderings around the Shambles and Snickleways. 

FINDING BECK HALL

You’ll find Beck Hall in Malham, a pretty village very popular with walkers. It’s in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales Country Park and right next to Malham Cove. You might recognise it’s famous limestone pavement from Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 1. 

Beck Hall is the cutest hotel nestled amongst the trees and right next to a babbling brook or beck. The access over an ancient clapper bridge in a rainstorm was slightly tricky. We were more concerned over keeping our luggage above water, than taking in the view. 

Here’s what to expect –

  • a very warm welcome
  • excellent covid measures
  • friendly staff
  • a super cosy snug for drying out after long walks.

After settling in, we headed straight to the snug with it’s warm log burner, 2 large G&Ts and my autumn edition of Country Living magazine. Perfection.

DOG LOVERS ONLY

My top tip is this. If you don’t like dogs, don’t come here. If you love dogs – either bring them, or enjoy cuddling other people’s dogs. I have sneaky theory that it’s actually a Dog Hotel, and the people just come to serve the canine guests. This place takes “dog friendly” to a new level. It’s a “dog loving” hotel with every possible canine facility catered for. We loved getting to know Charlie, the King Charles and Max, the poodle, who actually hugged each other, and cried inconsolably when they had to go home. 

The original and oldest part of the hotel is where you’ll find the snug. There’s been significant extension work done over the last 5 years including the beautiful restaurant built alongside the beck with french windows opening out to patio tables and the mesmerising sound of rushing water. 

The “Secret Garden” restaurant and Afternoon Tea gardens are open to non-residents. On a sunny afternoon you’ll find the garden full of walkers recovering their tired feet with a pot of tea and a fresh cream scone. 

WHAT TO DO IN THE YORKSHIRE DALES?

1 Just drive

If you want to see what all the fuss is about the Yorkshire Dales, you can do nothing better than drive north from Malham across the tops to Grassington. It will simply take your breath away. On our 2nd day we drove south through the gorgeous Nidderdale Valley to the Cathedral city of Ripon.

2 Just walk

The well trodden circuit of Malham Cove of Malham Cove, Gordale Scar and Janet’s Foss is just a few steps from the hotel door. It’s a modest 4.5 miles and a bit of a rite of passage for Beck Hall residents. The dogs love it too.

3 Grassington

This little town is worth a visit. There’s a large pay and display carpark and visitor centre, just a stonesthrow from the lovely town square. We arrived a bit too early for the locals, who are still struggling with Covid measure – to open or not to open, that is the question. Towns like Grassington rely heavily on visitors so we stopped for a coffee and had a good mooch round.

4 Bolton Abbey

Can you believe I spent 4 years in Yorkshire studying medieval monasteries and never quite made it to this one. Bolton Abbey is quite a stunner and like National Trust Fountains Abbey, is more of an Estate than just a site. We visited on a drizzly day where waterproofs and wellies were essential, especially for the under 12s. It’s just a £10 pre booked ticket for your car and as many people as you can squeeze in. Portaloos in the carpark are becoming the new normal at visitor attractions, with enough hand sanitiser to drown in. And the “Covid-secure” tea and scones were pretty good too.

The one way route round the Estate meant that we walked further than intended – the bridge is one way! – and the famous stepping stones were completely submerged after the previous night’s heavy rain. It’s a lovely walk with just a few tricky sections especially if you’re on wheels. The far bridge brings you over to Riverside Car Park, with cafe and facilities, and then back along the river to the Abbey. The walk is just over 10,000 steps.

5 Brimham Rocks

North of Harrogate, high in the Nidderdale Valley is a strange place called Brimham Rocks. It’s just a 10 minute stroll from the National Trust carpark through heather moorland up to the giant rock formations, apparently carved out by an ancient river. You can enjoy a short walk round the site, or up to 4 hours exploring the Dancing Bear, the Gorilla, the Eagle and the Turtle. It’s a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) partly due to the 3 rare species of heather that reside here. If you’re a bird lover, bring your binoculars – there’s pied flycatchers, nuthatches and redstarts, as well as treecreeper and owls. The RSPB cares for the 70 nest boxes, recording over 1000 chicks fledged in the last 5 years.

6 Himalayan Garden & Sculpture Park

Why is there a Himalayan Garden in the middle of the Yorkshire Dales, I hear you say? Well it simply means that the 45 acre Garden has the North’s largest collection of rhododendrons, azaleas and magnolias, as well as a 20 acre arboretum. A bit like Bodnant Garden really.

When the owners purchased the properly in 1996, they found a coppiced woodland with an infestation of Japanese Knotweed. Quite a challenge! But they spotted hybrid rhododendrons along the driveway, visited Bodnant Garden for some advice and started planting rare and unusual species of our beloved spring shrub.

Amongst the planting, there are over 80 contemporary sculptures. Some of them are giants in the landscape, some tread softly and need a little searching. There are 3 small lakes are the bottom of the valley – Nessie Lake, Sunrise Lake and Magnolia Lake surrounded by woodland walks. We found a Himalayan Shelter, a Summer House, a pretty lakeside Pegoda and a Contemplation Circle.

May/June is probably the best time to visit – and you might just get to see the Himalayan Blue Poppy? Prebooking is essential. Ticket are £9 per person until 1 November. Parking is plentiful. Portaloos … again.

7 Ripon Cathedral

I haven’t visited Ripon Cathedral since my student days so it was great to be back just in time for the “A Wing and a Prayer” project. It’s running until the end of September so you’ll have to be quick. Born out of a desire to celebrate our NHS heroes, and support the great work of the Yorkshire Air Ambulance, this fabulous and ethereal installation will make you look up. Hundreds of tiny white paper angels are suspended from the rafters of the Cathedral creating a proper “angelic host” effect. You can only imagine how those first Bethlehem shepherds must have felt at the angelic announcement of the birth of Jesus.

The only appropriate thing to do after such a glorious experience is to find “Messy Buns” on Duck Hill for (more) tea and scones.

You can pack quite a lot into 2 days even in the rain. We certainly did. Have you visited the Yorkshire Dales? Where’s your favourite spot?

That’s all for now

Judith xx

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