Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Travel: Yorkshire Dales, England

During our holiday in England in May, not only did we visit the Yorkshire Coast but we also visited the heart of Yorkshire: the Yorkshire Dales. A visit to this beautiful county would not be complete without a drive through the rolling hills and valleys of the Dales and a visit to at least some of the traditional old villages.

We spent a day in Grassington; a tiny village with just 2 roads running up from the cobbled main square to the top of the hill on which the village is built. The stone cottages that make up the village have been there for well over a hundred years and there were flowers spilling out of window boxes and over garden walls everywhere we looked. As with the majority of these villages, most of the cottages are now tea rooms, souvenir shops or pubs / cafes. As the streets are so narrow, the cottages open directly onto the road but I presume they have back gardens. Luckily we were able to find a pub with outside seating for our lunch and we later got an ice-cream and sat on a bench under a tree in the main square. There's not a lot to do in the village except take a leisurely stroll, have lunch and admire the 'old-world' feel of the place. Grassington has an amazing Dickensian Christmas Fair which we hope to visit on our next winter trip to England. Sadly I just realised that I don't have any photos of Grassington to include here!

Nevertheless, on previous visits to Yorkshire we have visited Grassington's neighbouring village of Linton. Linton is quite a bit bigger but the style of buildings is similar (see above photo) and it has just as much character, although the fact that it has a small stream running through it makes it even more picturesque. From any of the villages in the Dales you can go on fantastic walks through the Dales themselves. There are walks to suit all levels of fitness so there's no excuse to avoid it! Walking rather than driving really gives you that connection with nature. Especially coming from Dubai, walking through green fields, being surrounded by huge ancient trees, crossing rushing brooks of ice-cold water, seeing sheep and lambs (depending on the time of year) gamboling along and breathing in pure fresh air...Bliss. Even if it's drizzling, that just adds to the charm.

There are bigger towns and cities to visit in the Dales as well. We spent a day in Leeds, but unless you want to shop (you'll find all the top brands in the city centre) I would advise you not to bother going. There are no major historic buildings of interest, no river to walk along and no real parks. I picked up a tourist information guide and all the places of interest listed required you to drive outside of Leeds. Outside Leeds city centre you'll find Roundhay Park which is a massive park housing the Tropical World butterfly house, cricket pitches, children's play areas and huge open spaces. On the day we visited, there were hundreds of people in the park with disposable BBQs having picnics and enjoying the sun. At certain times of the year you can be swarmed with butterflies inside Tropical World but luckily not in May (since I don't like things flapping around me) - we saw all sorts of tropical animals and plants but not a single butterfly.
We were staying in Bingley and whilst I wouldn't recommend you make a big detour to go there, if you're nearby there are some really interesting things to see. There is a river that passes through Bingley and the old part of town with cobbled streets and a huge old church, is built along the river. Bingely is also home to the Five Rise Locks which are one of the largest series of locks in the UK. As the area is so hilly, in order for boats to be able to get up the hills it was necessary to build what is quite simply an elevator. Click here for an explanation of how locks work. At the top of the locks is a canal with permanent houseboats moored up - it is a nice walk but isn't particularly scenic.

If you have a week to spare then 3 days or so in the Dales and 3 days or so on the Coast could be just what you need to feel completely refreshed and rejuvenated!


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