I love Yorkshire. I’ve only been twice, but each time I’ve been amazed by its beauty, variety and rich history. Now I know that I have some drops of Yorkshire blood in my veins, I hold it in an even more romantic light – it is my ancestral homeland! This past weekend I fancied some time away from the city and so I went to stay in a lovely little cottage on a farm just outside of the gorgeous spa town of Harrogate with some friends. We picked the perfect time to go – from Saturday morning until late into the evening, it snowed; big, fat, pure white flakes that transformed the green and brown landscape into a sparkling wonderland. It added a real touch of magic and as someone who grew up with grey slush rather than snow to make snowmen with, I was enchanted.
We arrived by train into Harrogate on Friday, and I was instantly surprised by both the beauty of the architecture and the freshness of the air. The streets are lined with elegant Victorian and Georgian buildings set amongst gentle hills, and there is a huge open common that makes you feel like you’re hardly in a bustling town at all. I’d love to say that I did lots of exploring and cultural things, but instead I spent three hours stuffing my face in Betty’s famous Tearoom, which is famous for a good reason. I had several lovely cups of tea, sandwiches, chips and a ‘Fat Rascal’ which is a sort of special Yorkshire fruity scone and is DELICIOUS. Having gained a stone apiece, we headed on to Knaresborough, a small town just outside of Harrogate with a ruined castle that belongs to the Queen, an incredible viaduct across the river that offers fantastic views, a cobbled marketplace and lots of traditional, independent shops, which I always like to see. We watched the sun go down while perched on the castle walls, then set off for our first night in our farm cottage. We stayed up for hours chatting over a crackling fire, and all was silent outside save for a few cows mooing. Makes a change from drunken singing, which is what I usually hear outside my flat on a Friday night!
I woke up bright and early on Saturday morning to a brilliant pink sunrise outside my window. I might be a city girl, but I lived in New York long enough to know what a pink sunrise and a leaden sky mean; snow! As predicted, by lunchtime it was falling thick and fast, and I was itching to get outside and frolic in it. So, wellies and coats on, we set off. Two of the girls dropped off early and sought refuge in the local pub; the rest of us soldiered on, in search of the village of Ripley, half an hour away. These are the girls I survived last Christmas’ blizzard with, so we laugh in the face of a snow flurry! We marched on happily, admiring the rapidly whitening fields as we went. Eventually we found the village, and I was just in raptures. Built in the gothic style in the Victorian era by the then Baronet of Ingilby who owned the village and its stately home, Ripley Castle, it is a model village and absolutely beautiful. Quaint little cottages, an amazing church (earlier than the houses) and a REAL LIVE CASTLE, slap bang in the middle of rolling fields, and framed by a soft dusting of snow? Could this holiday get more perfect?!
We wandered around the village, explored the church (which had some fascinating memorials, including a 13th century tomb of a Knight and his Lady), considered buying novelty tourist items from the general store, sampled some of Ripley’s World Famous icecream (it’s no Stewarts) and gazed in at the locked gates of the Castle (we had missed the last tour) where the Ingilby family still lives. Then we had a hot toddy in the village pub to warm our cockles before setting back off to the farm and a cosy night in around the fire with wine and roast chicken and Bridget Jones’ Diary. If we’d have had more time, day trips to Ripon (where Lady Sybil gets caught up in the political ruckus in series one of Downton Abbey!), York and Thirsk would have been in order, but they’ll have to wait for another time!