April 23, 2016, Chris, Marilyn and I headed north from Dumbledykes on a cool overcast English morning. Marilyn’s excellent driving skills took us across the motorways, winding country roads and small town lanes. We arrived in the picturesque town of Knaresborough at our prescheduled lunch time to dine in at the Aragon Chippy. The classic British takeaway shop is owned and run by friends Sally and Brian Cunningham. After our tour of the back-kitchen operation, we enjoyed huge portions of yummy fish and chips with mushy peas on the side.
Many towns were decked out for the Queen’s birthday.
We couldn’t make it all the way without filling up the petrol. he he
Local art hangs on an alley wall.
We then headed to the “Spa” town of Harrogate. In the 16TH century, water containing large amounts of iron, sulphur and common salt were discovered and an influx of wealthy folks flocked to Harrogate for their healing powers. The town attracts tourists today for its spa waters, award winning gardens, designer shops and its close proximity to the Yorkshire Dales.
We checked in to the pleasant Crown Hotel then headed on foot to check out the town and quench our very large thirst. Window shopping in Harrogate is fabulous as are the small galleries and antique shops. Our first beers were consumed in the bar at Wintergarden whose design was inspired by the Crystal Palace. Its entrance and staircase have been preserved and a plaque on the building notes that Winston Churchill gave speech there in 1900 about his experience as a prisoner during the Boer War.
These paintings looked like celebrity portraits from afar and many tiny figures close up.
Our next pints were served in the oldest pub in town, Hales Bar. It was full of ambience with low ceilings, old flags, flickering gas lamps and well-worn tables whose boards have absorbed many a tale and lots of spilled ale since the mid-17th Century.
We walked in to a Chinese restaurant that was housed in one of the original spa buildings. We had no plans to eat there but were impressed with the opulence and the owner proudly showed us around. Viewing the stunning furnishings and decor was as enriching as a visiting a small museum.
We continued our town tour until darkness set in. We decided to try out Betty’s Tea Room for a late dinner. The restaurant is a classic and has an infamous sister in York where soldiers’ signatures from WWII can be read on the loo mirrors. The menu was “old school English” so we embraced tradition and had pea and mint soup, welsh rarebit, white wine and fancy pastries for dessert. The cozy setting was decorated with stunning flower arrangements and beautiful displays of teapots. A gentleman who had to be in his eighties serenaded the guests on the piano playing some golden oldies that my parents would have spun on their “Hi-Fi”. Another dining room was an art deco inspired space designed in the fashion of The Queen Mary. A stunning collection of wood marquetry panels decorated its walls. Paul Spindler created the amazing images from at least twenty different woods. Even the washrooms were lovely with classic fashion illustrations and unique oval mirrors. The sweet shop was charming and where else in the world can you buy Corgi cookies?
Tiny white Mums on the tables, so classy.
I want this clock!
Our hotel breakfast was amazing with lots of fresh fruit, breads and pastries of all sorts, mini jam jars of marmalade and black currant preserves, pots of fresh coffee and any cooked breakfast item one might fancy. After breakfast, we headed to the train station and let the railway carry us through the beautiful countryside to the famous city of York.
It was Saturday April 24, Shakespeare's 400 Year Birthday and York was full to the max. Walking along the old town wall provided a view over the city, down into the river and across the quilt of grass and daffodils that lay across the hill. The gothic towers of York Minster Cathedral can be seen from every vantage point in the city. Its interior rich decoration was resplendent in the morning sunlight. It is famous for its large amount of Medieval stained glass and Rose Window known as the Heart of Yorkshire.
A Morris Dancer festival was in full swing in York and every corner we turned down revealed another brightly costumed group, wearing shin bells, performing their rhythmic dances, shaking their scarves, sticks and swords to the musical accompaniment of flutes, accordions and fiddles. The English folk dance dates back to the late 15th Century.
We strolled across the bridges and viewed the barges and single skulls pass by on the River Ouse; checked out a few winding streets and shops and moseyed along the famous Shambles, an old cobblestone lane where timber-framed buildings overhang the street. Although it is all modern shops now, one could imagine the original sights, sounds and smells of the rows of butcher shops with carcasses hanging from the meat hooks outside and vendors shouting about their wares.
To thoroughly appreciate the architectural details, signage, lighting, shop windows and people in York you really need to spend a full couple of days walking about.
We had a delightful lunch in the petite French Rustique Restaurant of authentic French onion soup and crème caramel. The respite provided the quiet and sustenance we needed for our afternoon adventure.
The focus of our trip to York was to see the National Railway Museum. We spent about three hours there and could easily have stayed another day or two to thoroughly see everything. The Museum holds over three hundred years of history, most notably, two giant halls filled with trains and railway legends. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.
A viewing bridge allows guests to look down over the huge array of locomotives.
Chris joined the queue to view the interior of the famous Flying Scotsman.
Throughout the museum is a grand collection of train signs, maps and posters and plaques.
Ah, the dining pleasures of Victorian era train travel.
One could easily spend hours in this hall that was jammed with displays of model trains of various scales, signage, platform equipment, lights, gears, travel cases, dishes and cutlery, furniture and repair tools as well as a working model train diorama.
British Royalty is honoured on Queen Victoria’s Train
It was soon time for us to follow the signs to our own train back to Harrogate. We passed some lovely stations and views as the sun lowered on our wonderful day. Back in Harrogate we mustered enough energy to walk a few blocks to Zizzi Pizza for dinner and after a whiskey toast back at the hotel, Marilyn informed us that we had clocked 15,000 steps that day!
Nice to be out of the busy city of York.
After another delightful hotel breakfast, Marilyn drove us out of town into the bonny countryside of The Yorkshire Dales. The overcast skies created a dramatic backdrop for the iconic rolling hills, miles of stone fences, farms, daffodils, sheep and young lambs. We passed a few hearty souls biking the steep and winding roads. Signage marked the upcoming Tour de Yorkshire and streamers of British flags flapped red, white and blue for the Queen’s imminent birthday.
Walking about the picturesque town of Pateley Bridge, we stopped for coffee in the oldest building in town which was attached to the Sweet Shop, unchanged from bygone days.
Loved these cups in the coffee shop.
Boys will be boys!
We were lucky to have the sun arrive for our trip back to Harrogate.
When we were back in Canada, I found out that that Danielle new the town of Pateley Bridge well as she had ‘watched practice’ there on an equestrian farm as part of her course at the Royal Dick Vet School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh. Kismet!
Back in Harrogate, our friend Brian picked us up and drove us to his hometown of Knaresborough where we had stopped for fish and chips a couple of days earlier. We stopped at the Knairsborough Castle remains where we had a great view of the spectacular railway viaduct over the River Nidd. We then enjoyed a traditional Sunday lunch with Sally and Brian and Lily the dog, of roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, roasted veggies and fresh raspberry cheesecake. Thanks!
Following our last breakfast at the Crown Hotel, we walked around Harrogate before heading back to The Midlands.