whitby harbour

When Miranda and her mum invited me to spend a week with them in Yorkshire this summer, I couldn’t say yes fast enough. I adore everything about the county: its dramatic natural landscapes, its fantastic range of historic buildings, its quaint cathedral cities and picture postcard villages, and the warmth of its locals. I would move there in a heartbeat. We stayed in a cottage just outside Ripon, which is a gorgeous little city with a historic market square and impressive cathedral that inspired some of the details of Alice in Wonderland, as Lewis Carroll’s father was once the cathedral Dean. There are plenty of independent shops, one of which is a favourite of mine and Miranda’s, the fantastic art gallery Hornsey’s, where neither of us could resist picking up a print by a Yorkshire artist we both love, Emily Sutton. Right next to our cottage was the entrance to Fountains Abbey, which is one of the most breathtaking sights I have seen in this country. Ruined after the dissolution of the monasteries, the owner of the land in the 18th century created stunning water gardens around the Abbey, which form a fabulous backdrop to this fairytale-like place. You can walk into still roofed rooms, looking out across the surrounding parkland, and imagine what it must have been like to live and worship here hundreds of years ago. It is a truly unique experience and one I already can’t wait to repeat.

whitby abbey

fountains abbey

We thoroughly enjoyed an expedition to the lovely seaside town of Whitby, also famous for its stunning Abbey ruins that look dramatically out across the foaming sea to one side and the rolling purple moors to the other, and for its jet jewellery and associations with Dracula. Roaming amidst its cobbled streets and climbing the ancient steps up the cliffside to the Abbey feel like wandering back in time, and there is nothing better than eating fish and chips in the fresh salty air, watching boats bobbing in the harbour. We also loved visiting the smart spa town of Harrogate, which is full of Georgian splendour and boasts a large branch of our favourite Yorkshire restaurant, Betty’s, and the neighbouring RHS gardens at Harlow Carr, which are well worth stopping off to explore if you’re passing. The pretty town of Ilkley also delighted us with its independent shops, especially The Grove Bookshop, and of course, its very own branch of Betty’s.

newby hall

RHS Harlow Carr

Probably my favourite place we visited, however, was Newby Hall, a privately owned stately home designed by Robert Adam and containing some of the most exquisite furniture and interior decoration in the country. Our tour around the house was filled with fascinating details about the history of the building and its inhabitants, including the murder of a son by Greek brigands in the 1800s and an owner who brought back crates and crates of ancient sculptures from his grand tour to create his own purpose built sculpture gallery. The nicest thing about the house is that it is still fully lived in by the family who own it, and it feels very much like a home rather than a visitor attraction. The gardens are glorious, too, and there is an outstandingly good restaurant that serves proper food in lovely surroundings. It was an absolutely brilliant day out, and the jewel in the crown of a spectacular trip to God’s Own Country.

ripon market square


fountains abbey church


    1. Thanks Claire! Well, enquiring minds can be pleased to know that we both purchased I is for Icecream, which looks so much brighter and beautiful in the flesh that we couldn’t resist!!

  1. I’m from Yorkshire (near Sheffield!) and you’ve picked some truly beautiful spots to visit! Newby Hall is one of my all-time favourites!

    Great blog post! 🙂

  2. Thank you so much. I can’t tell you how much your travel notes and photos mean to someone living in the U.S. Bravo!


  3. Thank you: a trip south to Yorkshirenow on the ‘must-do’ list. And, if you haven’t been to that part of the world (the magical River Wye in Monmouthshire), Tintern Abbey, should you ever be passing, is going to be your sort of thing – and thread your way up the Golden Valley to Abbey Dore one day as well.

    1. I’m glad to hear it – there are endless things to see and do! Tintern Abbey is a place I have been meaning to get to for years, so I will be doing that trip some day soon!

      1. And of course after visiting the abbey you can climb up to the spot where Wordsworth sat that inspired him to write Lines Written Above Tintern Abbey

  4. It was a pleasure to have you Rachel! So glad you could join us and were so amenable to just muddle along with us! We have to go back one day for all the things we couldn’t squeeze in – I do agree re Newby Hall – very special!

  5. Yorkshire has been home for 40 or so years. There’s so much to see and do here but the weather could be better! Looks like you were lucky though. Love love love Newby Hall. It features very strongly in the TV film of Mansfield Park. The one with Billy Piper. Barbara

    1. Oh I didn’t know that about Mansfield Park – I shall have to watch it again to spot Newby now! How lucky that you live in Yorkshire – I am seriously considering a move. I don’t mind the cold!

  6. Sometimes I can be quite a bonehead. In 1997 I was staying with a friend in York for about 10 days. I took a little day trip to Ripon. While there I had planned on going to Fountains Abbey. As I walked along the road to get there the traffic was just a little too scary for me so I turned back. I am a big fan of English cathedrals so I did spend an enjoyable time looking at the one in Ripon. But then, when I had to catch my bus (train?) back to York I noticed a sign for a trail to Fountains Abbey. What an idiot. In my American stupidity I assumed the only way to get there was via road. Why I didn’t ask at the tourist office how to get there I don’t know.

    1. Oh Thomas! Well, pre i phones, it was hard to know how to get anywhere when on the go. Hopefully you’ll have a chance to go back and see it – it really is quite the sight!

  7. My home county! How it miss it so now I have traitorously moved down to Oxford. Beautiful and captivating as your pictures are, you’ve made me ever so nostalgic!

    Have you been over to Pickering and a wander through Dalby forest?? Definitely worth a visit, if not! As a Easterner in Yorkshire, I would really like to go up to Richmond and the very North of the county – looks so beautiful.

    Glad you enjoyed your time up t’North!

  8. If you haven’t already read it, you might enjoy Kate Atkinson’s 2010 novel “Started Early, Took My Dog”, which is set in Yorkshire and includes evocative descriptions of many of the places you visited, including Fountains Abbey – and it’s a very clever and entertaining book. A trip to Yorkshire is sounding more and more tempting…

    1. I’ve been meaning to read Kate Atkinson for ages – I didn’t realise this one was set in Yorkshire. I shall have to get hold of it, thank you! You definitely need to go on a visit…it’s unbelievably beautiful in the flesh.

  9. It’s always a pleasure to accompany you on your trips, especially if one is living in a different part of the world, like your U.S. reader said also. And I really enjoy seeing your photos!
    (And one more thing concerning an earlier trip of yours: don’t miss out on Pompeii because you expect it to be too crowded. It might be in certain seasons, but it is so incredibly huge that it doesn’t matter. I agree with you: Ercolano is “neater” and better in shape and really enough for one day, but Pompeii is just so impressive and so full of a splendid past that I would highly recommend ist. Should you happen to be in this gorgeous place on earth again…

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed the pictures, Martina! My dad actually went after I did and brought me back a guidebook from Pompeii – I do regret not going now! Next time!

  10. My home county too, although born in the more gritty part – Huddersfield. We’ve just returned from 8 weeks in Europe and England and had the last two weeks in a lovely canal side cottage in Skipton. Don’t miss that town next time, it’s gorgeous. Although it did rain every day for a fortnight but didn’t stop us enjoying it. Yorkshire IS God’s own country.

    You might be interested to know that our locally famous author, who lives in Hobart, as do I, and whose daughters I taught English, has been short listed for the Booker – Richard Flanagan.


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