The European Caper

Alistair at
Mercure York Fairfield Manor,
Yorkshire, England.

Our week in Yorkshire and surrounds

Well, we've been successfully driving around Yorkshire, after a very pleasant stay in Switzerland, but I've been having difficulty finding time to write about it.

I think some brief notes are going to be all I can manage before we get home on the 4th. I'll go back and insert more details then.

We arrived a week ago, picked up a car at Manchester Airport (what an ordeal that was - I now know that "rental car village" means a shuttle bus ride to a location that is no where near the premium airport location that they charge you for), and drove ourselves (two hours after landing) to Rochdale, just north of Manchester, arriving in time for a late dinner.

The next morning our first priority was to find a laundromat, of which there were many to choose from (and only a little confusion figuring out that when I asked for a "bag wash", it was what they call a "service wash"). After that, we didn't have any plans, so on a whim, we drove over to Blackpool, to see if it really was like it was portrayed on the TV. It was in fact more-so, and our stay was pretty brief, but I'm glad we saw it. We drove back, collected our laundry, then found a big Tescos to collect dinner supplies. Tesco has a fabulous selection of ready peeled and cut fruit, pre-made salads (the morocan cus-cus salad being particularly good), sandwiches, scotch-eggs, and all manner of simple food options, to help us recover from the over-excesses of Italy. A towel on our hotel bed, for a picnic blanket, made for a more than adequate dining experience.

The next day we went to Bolton, so that Costanza could visit three fabric mills, to source material. They were all housed in historic buildings from the town's industrial heyday. Amazing buildings, although sadly in very bad repair, with many businesses based in what once would have been giant manufacturing businesses. Eleanor conveniently fell asleep in her car seat (so much easier having her strapped into a child seat, than climbing around the back seat, as she had been in Italy), so I stayed with her, while Costanza viewed samples and conducted business. We stopped at a pub for lunch (somewhat rundown and grimy, but okay), and then went back to the centre of Rochdale to do some tourist stuff around the amazing town hall (it was so ornate that we initially mistook it for a cathedral) and a church and graveyard on the hilltop. We then stopped at another church halfway back to the hotel for more architectural appreciation, before repeating our Tesco dinner experience.

With nine days scheduled for Yorkshire, we decided to split it between 3 nights' stay at 3 hotels, so the next day we drove north to a Holiday Inn on a major motorway interchange. I'd left booking late, and being a weekend, still in school holidays, there were very few options. I wasn't expecting much, but it turned out to be pretty good. On the way there we stopped off at another Mill, this time in Bradford (not a terrorist to be seen, but I did see a very anglo looking man kicking in the door of a car that was trying to escape him - landlord? dealer? No idea, we were too busy making our own rapid departure to ask). At the other end of the social spectrum, we then went to look at the huge Harewood manor house site, although rain and a late arrival restricted what we saw of the huge house and grounds, but it was all very Downton Abbey.

The next day we went to Richmond Castle and the nearby ruins of an abbey. We had breakfast at a tearoom in Richmond, and I also bought a fabulous blue-cheese tart at a farmers' market that was running in the picturesque town, in the shadow of the castle ruins.

On Sunday we drove 1.5 hours north to visit the huge gardens at Ainwick Castle (we didn't have time to see the castle itself). Prior to the gardens we had lunch at the Oaks pub in the town, which runs a well reviewed weekend carvery. I'd been vegetarian for a coupe of days in preparation, and thoroughly enjoyed a serving of turkey, pork, crackling, veg and yorkshire pudding. Costanza was equally happy with the beef and gammon. That gave us plenty of energy for walking around the extensive gardens, finishing up with a 20 minute tour of the walled-off Poison Garden (Costanza took one tour while I entertained Eleanor - or rather the various fountain displays entertained her, and I stopped her from getting too soaked - then we swapped and I did the thoroughly fascinating tour).

Our third hotel for the drive is a few miles outside York. We drove the long way, via a windswept, gorse covered national park to Whitby, where we had hoped to stop for fish and chips. I'd been to Whitby twice before, but never in peak season, and while we enjoyed the drive, we abandoned plans to stop when we saw how busy the place was (rather than fill the historic town with parking lots, they have a "park and ride" service, which makes sense, but the thought of having to find parking outside the town, then get on an overcrowded bus, turned us off). So we decided to lunch in Scarborough instead, but that was also overflowing with traffic. We did find a park, some distance from the coast, but we couldn't get the manky carpark ticket vending machine to work, and ended up taking it as a sign that it wasn't meant to be. Finally we found a roadside tearoom, where we had some sandwiches and tea.

Our hotel in York is nice, the weather cold and overcast, and we have a very pleasant looking pub just up the road...

I've managed to write more than I expected, but I'll need to come back and insert some photos and further musings later.

Looking forward to getting home in a couple of weeks and hopefully catching up with everyone soon.