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Trip Report - 1-week England driving tour

Trip Report - 1-week England driving tour

Aug 21st, 2009, 02:23 PM
  #1  
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Trip Report - 1-week England driving tour

OK, mea culpa -- despite my love of making fun of the British and their institutions after three separate stints living in London, I have to say we just returned from one of the most enjoyable weeks of travel we've ever had -- in the northern English countryside! It helped that the weather was outstanding, sunny and breezy with rain only on the last day in Stratford. There is nothing prettier than the green English countryside when the sun is out.

First, I'm puzzled as to all the abuse heaped on "the North." York was a lovely city; well-preserved, amazing history, and the outstanding Minster, which rivals any of the great cathedrals of Europe. We took the train from London, a quick two hours from King's Cross, and wandered around town on Day 1. Stayed at the modern, comfortable Hilton inside the walls, directly across from Clifford's Tower, and visited the Tower, the Minster, walked the city walls, the Shambles, etc. Lots of stuff to see and 1000 years of history right in front of you.

Day 2 we visited the Jorvik Viking Center -- good for kids with the pseudo-Disney peoplemover and exhibits on Viking life -- and saved lots of time waiting in queues by booking over the phone the day before. The Castle Museums were also very interesting and informative, a great look at what ordinary life in York was like over the last 200 years. Lots of wonderful pubs scattered around the town as well. You can cover the whole town on foot. Highly recommended for a weekend getaway.

Day 3 we picked up the rental car and headed out to Eden Camp, as recommended on this board. Incredibly informative (if a bit Anglocentric) exhibition on WWII -- the kids loved it, and there was really too much information to absorb with kids along. 3-D displays with some primitive animatronics captured life at home during the war, and what it was like in the various theatres of war, starting with the rise of the Nazis through to more recent conflicts. All in an old WWII POW camp with tanks, planes and guns scattered about. Fascinating.

From there it was up through the stunning windswept scenery of the Yorkshire moors, covered in purple heather and sheep. Ended up in Whitby, the home port of Captain Cook and a typical English seaside town. Strolled around Whitby Abbey, the inspiration for Dracula, and stayed at the White Horse and Griffin, a centuries-old pub/restaurant/inn that was short on room space but long on charm. The Captain Cook museum is well worth a visit, explaining the incredible sea journeys he undertook in England's great Empire days -- discovering and mapping Australia, Tahiti, Hawaii and many other lands. Ate at a terrific fish restaurant, the Magpie Cafe -- the 20-minute wait in line was well worth it for the alleged "best fish & chips in England" (no quarrel from me, and many other seafood dishes as well).

Day 4 we drove down the coast to Robin Hood's Bay, where we discovered that a sign of a car with a red circle around it apparently means you aren't supposed to drive down an impossibly steep one-lane road with rubbish trucks coming the other way. A brief look at Scarborough then west across the bottom of the Yorkshire moors to Riveaulx Abbey, another beautiful ruin thanks to Henry VIII's antipathy to the Catholic Church. We were so impressed with it that we skipped Fountains Abbey and made a run for Haworth, home of the Brontes. As Wuthering Heights was one of my earliest serious literary endeavors, it was great to see the town and the simple parson's house where Emily and her sisters lived and wrote, and the dramatic moorlands that inspired them. Somehow navigating a series of A roads down through Sheffield and the industrial middle of the country (again, far less grim and grimy than I had imagined, possibly due to the spectacular weather and the fact that most of the coal and heavy industry here must have died out 20 years ago), we made it all the way to Bakewell in the Peak District.

Day 5 we explored Bakewell, staying at the centrally located but a bit tired Rutland Hotel, smack in the center of town. The obligatory trip to Chatsworth House was interesting, but a bit off-putting since it seemed to be all about "moneyspinning," as the Brits would say. Home of the Duke of Devonshire (despite being in Darbyshire) and the filming location of numerous film and TV shows of 18th-century Britain ("The Duchess", "Pride & Prejudice" etc.), it's an obscenely large and ostentatious country manor that makes it clear why the upper class has always been held in such disdain here. No doubt they get some credit for opening their actual home to the great unwashed, but you expect these kinds of places to be associated with historical royalty, not actual living "Dukes" who were born into this luxury but have done nothing to earn it and actually have to sell tickets to the place (L40 for a family!) to pay for it. Anyway, sorry for the socialist agitating, but I didn't think it was a highlight of the trip, other than the spectacular setting. On to Buxton, the nearby spa and waters town with some nice parks and Victorian buildings, as well as reputedly the oldest hotel in England.

Day 6 started with a beautiful 2-hour hike in the unspoiled hills and valleys near Bakewell, then back in the car down the A roads to Chipping Campden, a perfectly preserved 15-century market town with absolute nothing at all to do unless your are a middle-aged woman who loves prowling antique stores -- in which case you are in heaven. Stayed at the charming 14th-century Eight Bells Inn, a low-ceilinged pub and restaurant with nicely appointed rooms above. Had a great meal at Michael's, a Greek place on the high street. The nice thing about staying here was that it was a mere 15 minutes to...

Day 7 in Stratford. Despite my misgivings as an English major who never really liked reading Shakespeare all that much, we had fun here, helped by the fact that my wife loves WS and the kids, after two years in London, already know the Bard's canon better than me. The key was getting there early -- we easily found parking and were at the Shakespeare Center (and birthplace) by 9am. A very interesting interactive introduction to his life led you to the actual house, with docent/guides in various rooms explaining what we know about how they lived. We proceeded to several other WS sites in town, including his simple grave marker in the Trinity Church, and then back to London in time for dinner.

In all a great trip, and highly recommended for those who have done the London thing. Thanks again to the board for the good advice -- even though we kept moving, it did not feel hectic and we saw a huge chunk of this green and pleasant land. I would definitely return, especially to Yorkshire. The kids loved every bit of it.
ClarkB is offline  
Aug 21st, 2009, 03:16 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2006
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soumds like you did all the right things, though love Fountains (I work near) and like Bolton Abbet too (I live near).

Like you no idea why the North is despised still as a Southerner I find London full of Northerners trying to forget their roots.
bilboburgler is online now  
Aug 23rd, 2009, 10:44 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2009
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The North is not despised by most....only by a tiny proportion of the tiny minority who have never travelled beyond Harpenden.
khunwilko is offline  
Aug 24th, 2009, 02:03 AM
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Incredibly informative (if a bit Anglocentric)

Dear me, those crazy Brits will be claiming to have played a major part in the war next.
BTW, when people like Chummers talk about the North being grim and being full of kestrel stranglers, he is indulging in what we British call "irony".
Josser is offline  
Aug 24th, 2009, 12:16 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
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"I'm puzzled as to all the abuse heaped on "the North"

Probably got a lot to do with the abuse thats heaped on the South........By them ooooop north !!
Hooameye is offline  
Aug 24th, 2009, 12:34 PM
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Join Date: May 2003
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I'm a southerner but have been lucky enough to live in North Yorkshire (near Fountains Abbey) for some years now and you'd have to drag me kicking and screaming away from the place! It's not just the beautiful scenery though - it's the friendly people, fabulous local food etc etc.
And ok, so it is 'irony' and I have a sense of humour but to be honest I got thoroughly fed up of the constant, very unfunny 'kestrel strangler' comments! I tend to go for the red kites myself.
Morgana is offline  

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