It usually takes a bit of courage and a lot of mental challenge to recall what one did nearly 20 months ago. And as I started to delve into my memory cells, the visions of our holiday in Yorkshire Dales, in May 2015, flashed vividly - for it was unlike any other holiday that I have had until then, and certainly one that set the tone for the future holidays to come. We had a PLAN when going on a holiday rather than just land up at the place and figure out. You may be interested in reading my other blogs on holidays in Scotland, Switzerland and Denmark.
It was the first time we had a group holiday - family and friends - 7 people in all. This meant that we had to plan the trip and the logistics well enough and in good time, so as to let everyone have loads of fun while maintaining economy. There were a few destinations thrown in the mix to consider - but we eventually settled on Yorkshire Dales. So, we got together one Saturday evening at one of the friends' house in April' 2015 and decided on a plan.
The plan was pretty simple, find ourselves a big cottage that would accommodate all of us - primary considerations being, it had to be near enough to the Dales but not within the Dales - as this would augment the cost factor, the property should atleast have 2 bathrooms, so as to not create a bottleneck on the mornings of the excursions and should provide ample parking for atleast 2 cars. With these filters on hand, we soon discovered the ideal property - not far from the Dales and offering everything that we were looking for in a property and more. I thoroughly recommend the Mallard Cottage, in Bolton-by-Bowland - a tad North-east of Clitheroe and within a few minutes drive into the Dales.
We soon set about making an itinerary for our visit and tried to include as many places as we could after some lengthy research on the internet. Our aim was to be able to visit places that make a great visual story-telling impact. We told ourselves that it would be improbable, if not impossible, to visit all of the places identified but it was better to have something to refer to than not having a plan at all. A good plan has since become an integral part of our holidays. It helps to chart out the route, estimate travel times, identify other logistical considerations along the route - like fuel, food etc, and keep the various attractions accessible depending on the opening/ closing hours, if any.
We were warned, well in advance, that the SatNav co-ordinates to the cottage, we would be staying in, is not entirely accurate and that we were to follow other signs to get through. With about an estimated 4 - 5 hrs drive from London, and the fact that we were finishing our day's work and then starting out on the holiday meant that we reached our destination pretty late at night. We were slowed down, severely, by a couple of massive tailbacks on M40 and then on M6, but we still made good time to reach there a little past midnight. And with the SatNav unreliable, the last 30-40 minutes were spent trying to identify the "other signs" we were asked to look out for - but in the middle of the night and in near total darkness, it proved a bit of a challenge but we eventually reached our cottage to be welcomed by a team of horses, as it is a working farm!
The video below is a racy tour of the entire holiday, be sure to turn the volume up and get a good pair of earphones - but a more leisurely pursuit is in the article below:
Despite our late arrival the previous night (or early this morning) and less than desired sleep, all of us were up and about, pretty early and were keen to explore the Dales. A quick peep outside the cottage suggested that the weather-god was playing spoilsport - there was a steady drizzle - enough to soak us to our skins but not sufficient to dampen our spirits. We soon set out to put our plans into action.
Our first stop during this holiday was at Skipton Castle - a medieval castle in Skipton - a small market town. We reached there just in time before the heavens opened up and drenched the surrounding landscape. We soon found ourselves negotiating a maze of corridors through the medieval kitchen, banqueting hall, the "withdrawing" room - an archaic term for drawing room, the Lord's bedchamber, a storage room or a muniment room. We also went down into the dungeons navigating through very narrow, low-ceilinged passages with steep steps. After about an hour inside, we decided that we had absorbed enough of medieval lifestyle. We soon stepped outside and got a few pictures and headed into town for some coffee and refreshments.
We soon left Skipton behind and headed out towards Bolton Abbey, a mere 7 miles - about 10-15 mins drive. Bolton Abbey is situated on River Wharfe. As you enter the estate, you are momentarily stunned by the immaculate and vast sprawling landscape. The estate is famous for walkers of all abilities as it provides miles and miles of all-weather walking trails. The Priory Church and the ruins of the Augustinian monastery is an imposing sight in the mighty landscape.
Bolton AbbeyThe pathway to the estate and beyond. Miles of walking trails But, arguably, the most famous attraction at the estate are the Stepping Stones. There are about 60 stepping stones across the river and on the other side is a large beach ideal for picnic and to build sand-castles.
We spent about 3 to 4 hrs at Bolton Abbey and then headed out to Pateley Bridge, a charming village, for a pub lunch. The Royal Oak pub was highly recommended and we were soon eating shamelessly and downing a few beverages at the same time. When we finished about an hour later, we decided to head out to Fountains Abbey. Because of the time spent at other places, we reached just a few minutes after the gates closed - so we headed back to our cottage to retire for the day.
Having well rested and after a heavy breakfast, it was time to set out to explore another part of the Dales. We were soon on our way in pouring rain, but we kept our resolve to not be discouraged by the dismal weather.
Ingleton Falls trail is a circular walking trail starting and ending at the car park at the village of Ingleton. It is about 5 miles long and has some steep ascents. It is called a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to it's rich flora and fauna and unique geological features. The first section of the walk follows River Twiss through Swilla Glen. After passing the Manor Bridge you will soon arrive at Pecca Falls.
We soon picked up pace and went past Pecca Falls, a steep climb to Hollybush Spout, the spectacular Thornton Force where we took some rest to munch on to some goodies we carried along with us, the old Roman Road Twistelton Lane and then onto Beezley Farm down the River Doe to Beezley Falls, Baxengyhll Gorge, Snow Falls and back to Ingleton Village. In all it took us a good 4 to 5 hrs to finish the trail. We then had some picnic lunch at the village and headed on to the next place on the plan.
As we left Ingleton village to Ribblehead Viaduct, the fog rolled in and within a couple of miles, we were left with extreme low visibility. With just about 15-20 feet of visibility, we were entirely reliant on the SatNav to guide us to right spot, as we lost all kinds of references or road-markings in the fog.
The distance was only about 7 miles from Ingleton and under ideal conditions the journey should take no more than 15 minutes. But with the fog cover, we were, naturally, slow and took about 20 minutes - only to realise that the SatNav might have been incorrect. Assuming that Ribblehead Viaduct is further ahead, we drove for another 3 or 4 miles before suspicion crept. So, we parked the cars at a lay-by and waited a few minutes for the visibility to improve and then turned around and headed back in the direction we came from.
And to our utter surprise, Ribblehead Viaduct loomed right in front of us - at the original spot that the SatNav initially guided us to. We had missed it completely, the first time around, as were many others like us, in the fog.
Ribblehead Viaduct is an imposing structure on the Settle-Carlisle Railway and has 24 massive stone arches and at about 100 ft above the moors. The railway workers in those days were called navvies and many lost their lives during the construction of the line from a combination of smallpox, fights and accidents and apparently the Railway paid for the expansion of the local graveyard.
By the time we alighted from our cars, the wind had picked up and the temperature suddenly dropped by around 8 degrees within 5 minutes. We had a bit of a difficulty as we were clearly inadequately dressed for the weather. Since this holiday, whenever anyone checks with me about holidays in summer in Britain and what they should pack, I tell them to travel light and just carry a brolly and a winter coat
After spending a few minutes in utter discomfort and managing a few pictures, we were keen to get some hot coffee and then head back to the cottage to relax for the rest of the evening. The trek at Ingleton Falls had clearly sapped all the energy from us.
As with most vacations and more pertinently in the British isles, the last day of the holidays, invariably, brings out the best weather on offer. We had a beautiful sunny morning with a few fluffy cotton clouds. We checked out of our cottage and loaded the cars and as we we decided to leave - the team of horses came around as if to say goodbye. It is always a pleasure to have good "neigh"bours and these were very friendly indeed. We were soon on the road and headed in the direction of Fountains Abbey, the one we missed on the Day 1.
Fountains Abbey is a world heritage site offering a great day out with the family. It is the largest monastic ruins in the country.It is right next to River Skell in the beautiful North Yorkshire landscape. Wikipedia says "Fountains Abbey is one of the largest and best preserved ruined Cistercian monasteries in England" - raising the question that if it was that well preserved, it wouldn't have been in ruins in the first place - what an Oxymoron! Fountains AbbeyBeautiful day when plenty of picnic baskets were carried around After a brief walk we settled down at the massive lawn in front of the ruins, the group dispersed in different directions to explore the place, while I had set up my camera for the ideal time-lapse shot of the ruins with people milling about. For the next hour or so, I was all by myself lying down on the grass with a watch over the camera and absorbing the English sunshine and having a lonesome party. When everyone started to trickle back in, we took a group shot to end a memorable holiday.
It was then a race back to London, just in time to disperse and to start planning the next holiday!