Yorkshire Dales

Yorkshire Journal

Friday, April 21, 2000 - Settle, Yorkshire

Well, I made it. I first thought I would get here at about 5 or 6 (in the evening) then, just south of Leicester on the motorway, I called the Bed & Breakfast and let them know that I thought I would be in at about 8, then around about 9 o'clock I reached Leeds so I was going to be late - a lot later than I would have liked. When I made the reservation over the phone the lady (it is a husband and wife that run the B & B) said that she did not like it when people showed up late…I made every effort though. Now it is about 9:45, I arrived about 20 minutes ago. I did apologize. I hate being late…

The day was very busy anyway. Really to be expected. A friend that I have not seen in about 4 years was passing through London on the way around the world (next stop: Australia) so I put him up at my flat for a few days (yesterday he visited Paris). I really like having visitors, living by myself things can get a bit dull. Having said that, I have had an abundance recently with my mother having visited for three weeks, only leaving a week ago. Anyway, today was really the only good amount of time I had to actually see him and talk to him since I have been working when he has been here. So, I took him into London for lunch and showed him around a bit. I eventually left him at Westminster (near Big Ben), picking up the car in Wimbledon (quite a way from Westmister really) and started driving, making my way through the city a bit, passing through the busy Kingston and Hampton Court areas on my way to the M25, the motorway that encircles the greater London area.

I had planned really to take my time to get up here to Yorkshire but because of my friend's visit that plan really went out the window. I would have prefered to not take the motorway because it is just a bit highway with (normally) not a lot to see but I was suprised on the M1 heading north out of London that there was a fair amount to see. The sun came out for quite of the way as well, a suprise since it has been raining pretty much every day for the past two weeks. This allowed me to be able to see a lot of the area that I was driving (quickly) through.

I did stop briefly at a service area to call the B & B, as I mentioned earlier, and grabed a bit to eat – not that there is great quality food at these “chain” service areas (Burger King and KFC, at this one) – at least it was filling and gave me a bit more energy to continue.

Always find it incongruous to see nuclear reactor cooling towers in the middle of the countryside and that is exactly what I saw in a small town just off the motorway – about 8 of them sticking out like a sore thumb in the midland's bright green fields (steam slowly escaping from the top…).

I had a bit of trouble getting through Leeds since the road to Settle is not a direct exit from the motorway so I ended up “winging it” a bit to find the road. The trip from Leeds to Settle was very nice, with winding roads and, what little I saw through the dim light of dusk, great scenery. Quite suprising really, I expect a lot of rolling hills but these are quite significant “hills” with a lot of sheep, stone walls and farms. Should be great when I can see it in the bright light of day (perhaps there will be a break in the rain).

You might be thinking why I would want to visit Yorkshire and I guess this is somewhat due to the writing of James Harriot in his vet books (and the BBC television series) but it is also due to my seeing the border of the dales area when I passed by on my way to London from Scotland in my initial visit quite a few years ago. I never stopped and, from what I could see, it looked like it deserved a visit. The long Easter weekend is a great excuse to visit also.

A good chance to also take it easy and think about things, and, hopefully, a great place to do it in (very pretty; very quiet).

I have brought my bike along and I hope to be able to use it to see some of the countryside, though I also hope to see some of the towns also here (like York).

The B & B is a charming place, right on the main street (not much other than a main street in Settle – though, having said that, I have not really seen too much of it) beside a farm (literally). Made of stone and purched about 10-12 feet above the street, I am told it has wonderful views of the hills in the distance. All I can see right now is the car dealership opposite, lit up like a Christmas tree.

Saturday, April 22, 2000 - Settle, Yorkshire

A relatively quiet day but with a lot of travelling.

The day started early as I got up to have a shower before everyone else in the wanted to use the bathroom (though a boy was waiting outside of the door by the time I left). The proprietors of the B & B were right about the view from my room – it is quite something, looking out over a few large hills with sheep dotted all over the surface.

Breakfast was served, after I dropped off to sleep for a few minutes, in the back room. I was suprised to see that they remembered what I had asked them for from the night before and the time at which I said I would be down. I must say though that the breakfast was a bit heavy including the traditional “fried slice” (bread toasted by frying it in the fat from bacon – also included in the meal). I made an early start and headed out right after eating.

Things look a lot different here during the light. I did not see a lot last night, never mind the fact that I was so tired I don't know if I could have seen anything anyway…just road signs (…turn right…turn left…go straight…). I did take the oportunity to walk a bit into town here to see that the Tourist Information office was only open at 10 (it was 9) and that Settle is indeed very small.

I managed to get my car out of the small car park to the side of the B & B (beside the farm house), which is no mean feat since it is tilted at quite an angle and I was forced to park in front of some other cars, facing downhill (at about 30 degrees, thank goodness for hand brakes).

The trip to York was quite interesting, retracing my steps for a little while along the south of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and then heading away along the landscape as it flattened out eventually, passing Harrogate as I continued on. At York I choose to use their park and ride facility to park the car and take a bus into the town. The lady at the B & B had agreed that this would be a good idea since she was sure that today would be busy, being a bank holiday weekend.

York Minster from the City Walls

The weather was supposed to not be all that good today with occasional showers and this forecast turned out to be true for the day, validating my decision to wear a rain coat.

The bus dropped us off just down the road from York Minster (the cathedral) and I walked around the corner to pick up information from the Tourist Information place. Using the map I was given on the bus, I took the steps up to the path along the top of the city wall. York was, at one point, surrounded by a wall with a series of gates allowing access to the town centre. Now three sections of the wall remain which allow you to walk along, providing a great view of the town from all sides. The rain did make it a bit more miserable.

I headed south after leaving the first wall section at Goodramgate, walking south into the Shambles and just around the corner where there was a market (which I had seen in a flyer I had picked up at the Tourist Information). I wandered around the market which turned out to spread pretty much throughout the whole core area.

I ended up heading south and eventually made my way into the Museum area (so called because it has the York Castle Museum in it) and saw this old tower, which turned out to be a turret from a castle that once stood there. I climbed up the steps to the top (paid the modest fee to get in) and enjoyed the views from the top of the town (the turret is very high). I was suprised to learn that the tower was actually the scene a very ugly incident in the past where, during a period where there was great resentment towards jewish people (who tended to be money lenders since strict Christian doctorine prohibited making money from lending) and in York a merchant put all the jewish people in the tower, ostensibly to protect them from the populace who promptly hammered on the door. Eventually, after the merchant left and the jewish people did not let him in, he sought an injunction to get back in. Eventually, as the end neared, many of the jewish people killed themselves and the few that escaped were masacred by the populace. Not very nice. I actually did not realize there were such anti-semetic feelings in those days…

York City Wall (Southwest)

From the tower I noted the line at the York Castle Museum and chose to take another segment of the wall which wound it's way along the southwest corner up to the north and back to where the bus had let me off earlier. I had a bit of time so I also went back to the market and wandered slowly through the food stalls, sampling some of the local cheese (wharfdale, wensleydale, etc). To get warm and out of the rain I also wandered around a book store for a bit (picking up a London newspaper while I was there - always read a paper on Saturday…no Times though…). Managed to also visit a local bakery and picked up food which I am sure should last me a few days (pasties, sausage rolls, etc).

I returned once again to just in front of an Art Gallery opposite the Tourism place and managed to catch a tour. There are a number of tour operators in the town offering tours by bus but this is a tour run by the town itself (volunteers) that is FREE that offers to show you around on foot for 2 hours. Well, ours was quite good and lasted more than 2 1/2 hours.

She first took us to a site in the Museum Gardens area to show us how subsequent peoples had built on the construction of the previous. Roman, Dark Ages, Anglo-Saxxon, etc. In one area they have set it up so you can see the levels of soil on the inside of the wall where different peoples had set them. Very striking. Our guide was very good and talked a lot about how the history of York fit into what was also happening in Europe, evening giving a overview of English history (in general) as well. She showed us the ruins of an Abbey that was once in the area that is now used for performances of plays in the summer that used to include animals and children (suprisingly, it seems that children are not allowed to perform INSIDE in plays, this is illegal for some reason – perhaps this is specific to the type or nature of the play…).

After this we headed off to walk along the segment of the wall that I had walked earlier. Along the way we learned that McDonalds, when it was applying to put a store in the town, had to conform to a series of demands from the local council and so, when finally built, has a small sign and is very elegant (on the outside).

She took us down via a gatehouse where the steps were extremely narrow, the space not very tall and very dark. She said that this was because of the defensive nature of such a space where the defenders at the top of the stairs could more easily despatch the enemy one at a time in a confined place. She digressed to mention that this is also why many of the doorways in medieval houses are so low – since when someone enters such a door they have to bow down and are therefore vulnerable – it was a defensive notion (!).

She took us back to the Shambles (where I had been earlier) and explained that the Shambles was the area where the butchers plied their trade (using “shams” to hold up their meat-laden ledges in their windows). The butchers would throw the off-cuts and offal into the street so that is where the term “shambles” comes from – meaning a mess. She showed us that inside some of the shops you can still see the hooks in the ceiling where the meat hung from. Of course, now there are only a few butchers left but there is still a guild in the town for them.

Eventually she stopped talking and we departed but not after a round of applause for her efforts (there were only five of us in the group). A few minutes later, as I was walking back to catch the bus back to the car park, it REALLY started to rain. I find it amusing to see the way that people behave when the rain comes down. Even in our tour group as soon their was the slightest hint of rain they all got out their umbrellas as if the rain would melt them or something. I just shrugged it off (what is that about the wise man knows when to come in from the rain? – Can't be too wise then…) and returned to the bus stop to see quite a line forming. The trip back to the car park was arduous with a lot of traffic as people struggled to escape the city (for two reasons 1) rain and 2) everything was closing since it was 5 o'clock).

Eventually we made it to the car park and I headed back out onto the road to return to Settle. Of course, this is the time that the sun choose to come out and the clouds departed. I was still pretty wet from the rain so had the heat on pretty high all the way back.

I stopped a few times to take pictures of the wonderful scenery along the way: large hills with no trees, sheep and the winding tendrils of rock walls crossing their surface). I noticed also that just before Settle, outside of Skipton, there is a canal that has been made that is used by pleasure boats (like the ones used on the Wey Canal in Guildford, in Surrey where I live) that also has a water level significantly higher than the surrounding landscape, with large earthen banks holding the water in. Quite a feat of engineering.

A relatively early evening then for me, arriving back at the B & B around about (one of) the time(s) that I was supposed to arrive yesterday (oh well!).

Hope tomorrow the weather is a bit better…

Easter Sunday, April 23, 2000 - Settle, Yorkshire

A very productive day, but, again, a lot of driving.

Starting out, though, it did take a bit of time to get my morning shower, other people beat me to it. Breakfast was good, as normal, with a suprise chocolate egg (Cadbury's) hidden under my tea cup (they had to point it out to me since I do not drink tea or coffee…).

The weather started very well, with a lot of sun so I decided to get out onto the road and take a trip with the bicycle. The B & B I am staying at also rents bicycles but I had brought mine with me, but they also have information on where to bike in the area so I got a few directions from them and set out.

Just Outside Settle on Back Road

I headed north out of Settle, taking a back road that wound it's way through a number of farmer's fields (with many sheep). I got exhausted very quickly with the number of hills, though gradual, where quite a few in number. I passed a famer who was going about his sheparding on an ATV (or a “quad” as they are also known). Quite a good way of getting about, as I puffed past him. It was very quiet along the road with only the ocasional car. At one point, about three miles out of town I seriously considered turning back, but I perservered and continued.

The scenery was absolutely wonderful and silence quite extraordinary, with the exception of my puffing and the clink of the bike. As I made my way through Austwick and on to Clapham (both EXTREMELY small) I had a lot of oportunity to look around. This area has a large number of large, low hills lined with the rock fencing that is used here (very few, if any, hedges or hedgerows), with the deep green of the fields and the spotted white of sheep. There are many lambs out this time of year and they are by FAR the cleanest. If you have never seen sheep close-up (the sheep in FIELDS not shows) you will know that they tend to be extremely dirty and bedragled looking. It was amusing to see the way they flock to the fences as you pass by, thinking you are the farmer bringing food, that is, when you can see them since the fences are so high. Most of the time you HEAR them…

I finally arrived at Clapham and took the oportunity to pick up a few drinks (I had foolishly forgotten to put any water into my water bottle) and relax for a few minutes (checking the map to be sure about where I was headed to next). Then, I crossed across the main highway that goes by Settle (to the south) and wound my way once again back to Settle. The thing about the hills that you have to climb you also have to eventually come down the far side and I must say, coming down some of the hills was quite exhillerating, reaching quite a speed and having to bank the bicycle around the (rather sharp) corners, using the whole of the road (ok, it is ONLY a single track…) to quickly return down.

Biking Outside Settle

Some people might wonder why I would even consider riding a bike in England, what with the roads, the traffic, and the drivers but actually it is quite a good experience because the drivers (even elsewhere in the country) tend to give a wide berth to bicycles.

Returning to Settle

After the 14 some-odd miles, I returned back in Settle, suprising the gentleman that runs the B & B who had earlier suggest I would be returning about 4 o'clock (it was noon when I returned) though he seemed a bit disappointed that I had not continued on to another town (Ingleton) further down the road from Clapham. Oh well. I was exhausted but realized I should continue to take advantage of the weather and headed north through the park (the Yorkshire Dales National Park).

The road is extremely winding and the scenery just continues to be wonderful. I passed through Hawes which seemed to be having some sort of meeting for motorcycles as they were jamming up the main street there (I continued to see a lot of motorcycles travelling VERY fast along the roads for many hours).

Ribblehead Viaduct

I continued on along various valleys to Brough where I managed to catch site of a castle ruin which I stopped to take a picture of as I started to climb out of the town towards top of a series of hills much more barren than the Dales, with few fences (still the same number of sheep) but climbing much higher (even saw a T-bar ski lift at the top of one hill which also had SNOW at the top!). The grass was also a lot more brown and sparten.

County Durham

As I proceeded north past Aliston, the road returned to lower levels and the trees returned, lining the road as it wound even more furiously through small farms (with much smaller fields) and along streams. A few corners were literally hairpin turns and, considering the speed limit was the national limit (at that point, 60 mph) it was quite exciting indeed. Eventually I arrived at the Haydon Bridge area, just south of Hadrian's Wall which was really my goal. There are a few highways that run along the 75-mile length of the wall and I follwed it for only a few miles before I saw a sign to an archeological dig that was being held at a place called “Vindolanda” right near the wall, so I followed the signs and ended up passing along a single track road (even MORE single track than others, but at least it had “passing places”) crossing through a field to end up at a car park.


I found out that I had to pay to get in (consolation in the fact that the admission prices are helping to subsidise the dig. The park was actually quite good with the stones outlining a small roman town, fort, and garisson. It was said that Hadrian actually stayed here in a temporary wooden structure found beside the town (outside the garisson). The exhibit was done quite well with, over the side of the hill, a path leading down to a small reconstructed village (complete with a small structure used for houses by local farmers in after the romans had left) and a small museum. It was quite well done and certainly worth the visit (though the re-constructed fort was not as well done).

Hadrian's Wall

I was suprised to learn that the wall is a World Heritage Site (and, therefore, protected), the whole length. I have always wanted to see the wall since I first passed through it when coming down to England from Scotland and did not notice it. I eventually did see the wall after I left Vindolanda (which is about a mile south of the wall itself) and found a National Trust site called “Cawfields” which is the site of a tower on the wall itself and which has quite a length of wall intact at this place. Evidently you can walk for a few miles at this point along the wall actually there. They are also talking about opening a trail to go alongside the whole wall from coast to coast (with a few missing miles, as they note).

Considering the wall is so old, it is remarkable how much can actually be seen (albeit with a little help from the archeologists who excavated it and concreted the rocks together). They are still quite confused as to the actual purpose of the wall though there are a few good theories. What is known is that it delineated the northern most part of the Roman empire and that it most likely was used to keep out the scots (who were not the scots at the time, of course). Vindolanda also emphasised the civilization that the Romans brought to the country and, after they left, lawlessness soon broke out and people returned to pre-Roman behaviour, not to return once again to stone houses and paved roads until many years (100s) later.

After my visit to the wall, I continued west on to Carlistle where I stopped only briefly for petrol (gas) and provisions (ok, a chocolate bar and two soft drinks).

I then headed south, avoiding the motorway and passing along the edge of the Lake District National Park. After passing Penrith the road climbed quite high (could see quite a ways) and the rain started to come down, culminating in a rather severe hail storm which I weathered stopped at the side of the road (to take a picture – actually I have been taking quite a large number of pictures as the scenery has been so interesting, though pictures never really do it justice…).

I passed through many towns all day and I always find it amusing to see a town described as “An Historical Market Town” which seems to be the same for just about every town you pass through that can afford a big enough sign to put the saying on! The towns are really quite something and all have a few things in common: a pub and a newsagent, and, if they are special, a petrol station (though this should not be assumed). A few towns had names but did not even bother to drop the speed limit as I passed through (not worth slowing down for?).

I continued back to Settle, passing through Kendal and once again across the south of the Dales back to Settle (taking time to measure the distance from where I had biked this morning to Settle).

All day it was suprising to see the differences in landscape and it certainly seems that one area really does quickly disappear to be replaced by another, which is extremely different. The Dales are SO different from Cumbria (near Hadrian's wall) and the Lake District. They look different in terms of their natural beauty and are used different by the people that live there. It is really quite startling, within the space of a few miles to have things change so much…This point was really made clear when I was almost back at Settle when I saw the landscape from this morning – low rolling hills and many small winding roads – opposed to even in Settle where the hills are much bigger and a lot fewer roads.

All in all, a very productive day. A lot of driving though, I think it was about 6 hours. It was worth it though, I saw a lot of the country that I have never seen before (nor thought I would ever see it).

Easter Monday, April 24, 2000 - Woking, Surrey

The day started well with my last meal at the B & B (minus the “fried slice” which is, I'm afraid, a bit much…). I paid my bill and headed out, wishing the owners the very best. They were very good to me while I was there, recommending things to go and see (and ways to do it).

I decided to start what would become a long day with a trip to Ingleton just down the road. I had been noticing a fair amount of publicity regarding the “Ingleton Waterfalls Walk” so I decided to give it a go. I was agast to have to pay 5 pounds to park the car at the walk area itself, which left from the centre of the “town”. I found out that this was the price for the car with however many passengers. If I had been able to walk in, I would have only paid 1 1/2 pounds (but all local town parking you had to pay for, similar prices). After leaving the car park I headed out on the 4 1/2 mile hike. The walk wound its way along paths over rocks very close to the water (and, of course, the waterfalls) which was a bit disconcerting. The path followed a stream (they call it a river) in a valley all the way up to the top of a hill (“dale”) and then across the top of the hill, through a farmer's field (literally) then down the other side in another valley, another stream.

Ingleton Waterfalls Walk

There were a few people on the walk but I often was by myself, alone with the rain that came down when I reached the furthest point from the car park (wouldn't you know it!), on the top of the hill. The views were certainly something, the waterfalls were not as spectacularly large as some I have seen, but quite nice looking and somewhat impressive. The path was a bit difficult in the rain, being a bit slippery. I did manage to finish off another roll of film in the camera, despite the rain, without a replacement…This has been my lot in life over the past few days, I continually run out of film…

Ingleton Waterfalls Walk (First Pecca Falls)

Ingleton Waterfalls Walk (Pecca Twin Falls)

The farm was quite an unusual part of the walk as you follow the well- worn (and marked) trail, all of a sudden you are on a farmer's dirt road and passing through their front gate (be sure to re-secure it behind you to keep the sheep in) and directly past the front door of their house. I guess they put up with it though as they were selling soft drinks out of a pail (at a substantial mark up!).

The trail continues on into the second valley, but this section is not as spectacular (pretty nonetheless) and continues back into the far side of the town (from the car park). I noticed that they do mine quite close to here, this is the second mine I have seen after the one I saw just outside of Settle the other day on my bike. Quite noticable since these are pit mines digging for, I believe, slate. I managed to pick up some film and visit the Tourist Information Centre (the first I have been able to visit since I arrived since I am never near one when they are open - 10 am) before returning to the car.

The day was not looking terribly good so I decided to visit a local cave system I had heard about, the White Scar Caves, which was billed as the longest show cave in Britain. It certainly lived up to it's bill. There were a lot of people at the caves because of the weather and, of course, the fact that it is a public holiday so I was in a group of about 20 people where they normally take around groups of about 3. It was difficult to hear what was said because of the cramped conditions but we made our way through. Many of the places in the cave were extremely low. Not low, EXTREMELY low where you had to bend completely over in order (at the waist) to pass through the area, and even at that, continually bumping your head against the ceiling. This is quite a difficult situation when you have to pass through more than 50 meters like that, with people going slowly in front of you…We stopped only a few times for the guide to show us some of the more notable formations but most of the time we just followed along or waited for another group to pass. The formations were quite good, if not as spectacular as those I have seen in Texas, but there has been a lot of damage made by the many tourists which have passed through, all seeming to want to touch the formations (therefore causing damage due to the oil in their hands), turning them black and causing them to stop forming (“die”). The space was so cramped in many places this could not really be entirely helped.

The final space at the (far) end of the tour was a massive cavern with many “straw stalactites” clinging from the ceiling. It was explained to us that the other tunnels did not have them because they constantly flood and the main cavern does not since it is no longer on the water's path. They used to end the tour well before the cavern until it was discovered only 10 years ago so they drilled a further tunnel to extend the tour. After the cavern we walked straight back the 1/2 mile to the entrance to end the tour. A good hour of a tour.

I like looking around in caves, it is always so fascinating and different than any other type of natural formation, always so unusual. It is not often that you can actually tour them so I do try to take advantage when I can. After the discussion in the cave I visited in Texas about how to preserve the formations in caves and how to ensure they are undamaged, I am always sensitive to see damage that I saw here. Oh well…

The next stop was quite a drive to the Lake District where I wanted to see Lake Windermere. I had seen a bit of the area the other day driving down from Carlisle so I wanted to get a bit of a closer look before heading south on the arduous journey back to Woking (home).

I wound my way from Yorkshire into the Lake District and it was obvious the differences between the two areas with the Lake District having a lot of smaller, but much steeper, hills (and, dare I say it, mountains?) meaning a lot of extremely winding and narrow roads. I was hoping to be able to take my bike for a bit of a ride but with the number of people on the road and the narrowness (never mind the steepness) I decided against it. There were a LOT of caravans on the road here as well, it seems that the Lake District is really for those that like to “camp” whereas the Dales are for those that like to hike and enjoy landscape (of course, this is a SWEEPING generalization but generally true).

I gave up on taking the ferry across the lake (it is only a few hundred meters anyway – only about 10 miles around the lake) because of the massive queue waiting to cross (even I, who had never been there before, knew that this queue was LONG). I managed to console myself with a few pictures before heading out of the park once again. I will have to come back to visit in more detail in the future.

I decided to head back along a back road, avoiding the motorways for as long as I could, but this pretty quickly turned into a series of little traffic jams as other people thought the same thing…So at Preston I joined the motorway for the trip home, along with the rest of England.

The drive was pretty tedious with rain, traffic and construction. At one point I was nearly run off the road by a French bus driver (the bus had a french number plate on it) who seemed not to take kindly to me actually going the speed limit through a construction area and wanted to go through me (hovering, I swear, only about a foot from my back bumper – at 50 mph) then eventually swerved around me and cutting back into my lane, forcing me to quickly break to avoid hitting him. This incident did frighten me quite a bit but otherwise the drive was uneventful.

I arrived home at 10:30 after leaving Windermere at about 4:30. Quite a drive. Don't really want to do much driving for quite a while…All told, about 1,000 miles on the car on this trip. My back hurts.

All during the trip, though, I never listened to the radio or CD player in the car, preferring to instead look around and just think. It really helped calm me down and made the trip far more relaxing. Ok, I did a lot, filling most of my days with lengthly drives, but I saw a lot of this country that I have never seen before, but I hope I will see again.

Let's see, next weekend is ANOTHER bank holiday…

I stayed at the Yorkshire Rose Guest House in Settle. Duke Street, Settle, North Yorkshire BD24 9AW, phone: (01729) 822 032 (e-mail: yorkshirerose@tinyonline.co.uk).

From their brochure:

  • Family run guest house set in a Grade 2 listed Georgian building. A warm Yorkshire welcome awaits all. Our hearty English breakfast will set you up for the day. Close to the train station and plenty of good walks.