The town and harbour of Whitby in England. Picture: Getty Images Source: Getty Images
For souvenir shopping, squeeze down the 14-century Shambles. Picture: VisitBritain Source: Supplied
A vintage steam train on its way to Pickering from Whitby through woodland in the North York Moors National Park, Yorkshire. Picture: Alamy Source: Supplied
The Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate. Picture: Alamy Source: Supplied
THE best of rolling countryside, historic cities and seaside towns.
CELTIC warlords, Roman legions, Saxon tribes, Viking marauders, Norman invaders and Civil War armies have all left their mark on the city of York, a two-hour train ride north of London. At its heart is York Minster, a Gothic masterpiece that makes some better-known continental places of worship look like sandcastles. The vaulted cathedral, with 128 stunning stained-glass windows, was surely in judges’ minds when Yorkshire was named 2013 European Destination of the Year in the World Travel Awards. Climb its 61m central tower for a great view over the city. Elsewhere, travel back to Viking days at the popular Jorvik Centre or scale Clifford’s Tower, the remains of York Castle, built by Henry III. For souvenir shopping, squeeze down the 14th-century Shambles, once voted Britain’s most picturesque street. More: yorkshire.com.
JOIN The Original Ghost Walk of York for another take on the city’s past, with tours starting at 8pm from the King’s Arms Pub. Centuries of dastardly deeds have left their spectral mark in the murky, oak-beamed cellars and dimly lit cobbled alleyways. Try to keep your wits as you learn about characters such as the lonely piper, the little lost boy and the malevolent monk. A hit with the “bairns” (children “up North”). More: theoriginalghostwalkofyork.co.uk.
IN the quirkily named village of Ramsgill-in-Nidderdale (near Harrogate, 30km west of York), The Yorke Arms, housed in an 18th-century hunting lodge, is a local favourite, though word is spreading fast. It was awarded a Michelin star in 2003 – one of several Yorkshire restaurants claiming the honour. Chef Frances Atkins serves twists on British classics using local produce such as Nidderdale mutton, Whitby crab and Wensleydale cheese. Roast beef with Yorkshire pudding takes rightful place atop the Sunday lunch menu. It’s no surprise that Elizabeth Carter, editor of The Good Food Guide, said: “I’ve called Yorkshire the foodie county of Britain in the past and it seems to be in no danger of losing this title.” More: yorke-arms.co.uk.
PERCHED beside the River Ure, near Masham in the Harrogate district, the Black Sheep Brewery is a testament to Yorkshire’s respect for tradition where it matters most: making beer. One-hour tours reveal the 200-year-old brewing techniques, with rich aromas of fermented barley, malt and hops. Taste the Black Sheep’s award-winning Best Bitter or the Riggwelter strong ale, with its “palate of coffee, bananas and licorice”. Be warned – the latter is named after a Norse term for a sheep lying on its back unable to get up. In Harrogate town centre, a big attraction is Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms, established in 1919. Check out the window display of chocolate, cream and pastry delights before choosing from 50 teas as you soak up the art-deco ambience and gaze at marquetry artworks of Yorkshire scenes. More: blacksheepbrewery.com; bettys.co.uk.
HELMSLEY, 38km northeast of Harrogate, is the embodiment of a classic Yorkshire market town, with the ruins of a Norman castle, a cobbled marketplace, twee tea shops at every turn and welcoming coaching inns. Friday is market day, when its central square is crammed with produce sellers. Hunters of Helmsley can supply pork pies, regional cheeses and deep-filled hot sandwiches, perfect for a picnic in the nearby 1.2ha Helmsley Walled Garden. More: huntersofhelmsley.com.
NEXT July the Tour de France will begin in Yorkshire and more than three billion eyes will be on its countryside. The Dales Bike Centre in Fremington, on the eastern edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, can help you experience the ride, albeit not on race day. The store provides top-notch Bianchi bikes for about $45 a half day. Test your legs on nearby Buttertubs Pass, an infamous hill even the peloton will dread. More: dalesbikecentre.co.uk.
IT’S hard to know who is more excited, the grinning kids or the adult railway enthusiasts riding the North Yorkshire Moors steam railway. Climbing out of Pickering, northeast of York, on its 38.6km journey to the coastal town of Whitby, the rhythmic clickety-clack transports passengers to another world. The line soon flattens out to reveal the lilac glow of heather-covered moors. Fans of Heartbeat or the Harry Potter movies can pause at Goathland Station, where both were filmed. Nature lovers might prefer a stop at Newtondale and a walk to the Hole of Horcum, a natural amphitheatre. More: nymr.co.uk.
IN 1746, James Cook moved to the bustling port of Whitby to learn the nautical skills that took him to Australia. His whitewashed harbourside lodgings in the narrow ginnels of the old town now house the Captain Cook Museum. It’s a treasure for sailing buffs, with original maps, portraits and ship replicas (open March to October). Whitby also has strong literary connections as Dracula’s entry point to England after his coffin-protected sea voyage from Transylvania. Scale the 199 stone steps to St Mary’s Church and the ruined Benedictine abbey for a ripping view of the eerie splendour that inspired Bram Stoker and attracts numerous black eye-liner fans for the annual goth festival. More: cookmuseumwhitby.co.uk.
BESIDE THE SEASIDE
OVERLOOKING the picturesque harbour in Scarborough, on North Yorkshire’s central coast, is The Golden Grid, a cafe specialising in fish and chips, established in 1883; tuck into haddock and chips with mushy peas and white bread and butter, served with a strong pot of tea. Nearby dessert options include Pacitto’s ice-cream parlour – try the tangy yet creamy lemon top. More: goldengrid.co.uk.
FAMOUS as Agatha Christie’s hiding place during her 11-day disappearance in 1926, The Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate brings period drama to the 21st century. Built in 1840 and now with 136 rooms, this is no trendy boutique operation; you’ll feel more like a Downton Abbey cast member. Savour breakfast in the glass-roofed restaurant then walk off the black pudding in the manicured grounds. More: classiclodges.co.uk/theoldswan.