Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Driving Through the Yorkshire Dales

(Also, these doggoned library computers won't let me edit any of my previous posts or even view them.)

I’ve probably longed to see the Yorkshire Dales since I read the books by the veterinarian, James Herriott, All creatures Great and Small and All Things Wise and Wonderful, charming stories set in the Dales. (James Herriott is a pen name; his real name was Alf Wight.)

Skeldale House, where he lived, is open for visitors, but we aren’t quite so keen on Herriott as to need to tour his house, and besides, it is in Thirsk, a bit further than a day trip could take us. (Day trips are all we can afford for the rest of this stay, our budget having been busted by the purchase of our car, the unplanned trip to Greece, the new air conditioner for Mena, etc.)

To my delight, the Dales are exactly as I had imagined them.   See a lot of images here.  They are wide-open, grassy highlands, sometimes quite craggy hills, foothills, in fact, of the Pennine Mountains, dotted with sheep and the occasional tree. There are wide, shallow, rocky rivers and streams. There are stone stiles, barns, churches, and crofts hundreds of years old, as well as the occasional castle. There are villages right out of a story book, cobbled streets and all. In summer, the Dales are a vast, wide-open, sun-drenched, clear-aired, desolate playground for hikers and bikers and other holiday-makers; in winter they must be terribly cold, though, and bleak.

Our first stop was Hornby, on the edge of the Dales, where, spotting its castle, we hoped to tour it. Unfortunately, one cannot tour it, as the family that owns it is still in residence there. We toured the quaint church instead, then went on to Ingham, and from there to Hawes, a gorgeous, scenic drive through sunshine and high hills and sheep and grass.

A nice surprise awaited us in Hawes: it turns out to be where our favorite English cheese is made. The Wensleydale Creamery is open to visitors. So we got to see how the cheese is made and to taste about 25 varieties of it.

A craft fair was in progress, and Demetrios, having been snappish to me while we were parking, couldn't regain his peace without buying me something. We settled upon a pair of beaded earrings he spent 20 minutes choosing. (If you know Demetrios....) They are lovely, peridot colored crystal; I’m wearing them as I type.

From Hawes we drove on to Leyburn, another picture-postcard village where we found a Chinese restaurant and enjoyed for supper some of the best Chinese food I’ve ever eaten.

But by then we were tired out, the sun was low in the sky, and the only thing to do was to drive home, by a partly different route. Every 15 miles in the Dales takes about half an hour to drive. (For us, at least; the Brits seem miraculously able to go faster.)

Although there isn’t much to tell you about this adventure, as most of it consisted of scenery, yet there was very, very much to enjoy. It was one of our best ever days out.  It was only a taste of the Dales; another time when we can afford it, we'd like to spend much longer there. 


Anam Cara said...

Ah, Wensleydale. You must be Wallace and Grommet fans.

When I first learned of Wensleydale cheese shortly before the turn of the century, we were living in Germany. A friend, a Brit, had some mailed to me. I was astonished that cheese could be sent between countries like that - but was thrilled as I realized how many new shopping opportunities it opened for me!

GretchenJoanna said...

My daughter just out of vet school and I toured the Dales seven years ago this summer, and loved the area in spite of the heat and humidity at the time. We hiked one of Herriot's (Smith's) favorite hikes, and stocked up on snacks at the Wensleydale Creamery store. We did tour the house and surgery at Thirsk and it was fascinating for various reasons. I love reading about your own explorations!