Sunday 30 October 2011

Road from Hawes to Kettlewell

Day 2

The decision was to take the short route. Ever since the Drunken Duck incident in the Lakes I've always been nervous about going off the A & B roads. However Neil wasn't very well so I thought we'd risk the Hawes to Kettlewell road.

We passed the Wensleydale Museum although there wasn't a cat-in-hell's-chance of getting Neil to step over the threshold of a cheese museum as he is very cheese averse. So we zoomed on by and headed to the hills.

The road from Hawes to Kettlewell is the type of road where you end up offering prayers to your relevant God to help you get through it. Prayers hit early on for me as the road was narrow and wondered what on earth to do if someone was driving the other way, especially if they were going fast. If you had a crash on this road you'd be lucky to survive as there are hardly any motorists on this road, it is far from civilization and it would be unlikely there would be a decent mobile phone signal to make a call. Seriously you have to take this road at a sensible speed.
You also need a car with a bit of power to get over the hills. 'Lil Princess with her 1398cc engine was struggling getting up the 20% gradient hills. I must have changed gears hundreds of times to negotiate the steepness of these hills. Neil was feeling green at this point and cursing my decision to take the short route.

So the downside of choosing this road is that it can be rather narrow at times, it’s exceptionally hilly and goes through the middle of nowhere. However, and it is a big HOWEVER, this route is fantastic! Despite the grey overcast and drizzly day the views were great and on a clear day they would be fabulous. The dales are amazing - it's like a massive lumpy blanket with its hills and valleys. Up and down, bend after bend, this route was challenging and fun - it was such an absorbing drive.

The one thing you can't miss on this route is sheep. Sheep on the side of the road, in a field, on the side of very steep hills - they are everywhere. Although thankfully there was no sheep road kill to be found. These sheep will no doubt end up as someone’s Sunday dinner, but by God they did they have an idyllic life on these undulating hills.
There was the most beautiful valley with a very rocky river running through it. I spotted a farmer looking out over it at his flock of sheep. I couldn't help but think this farmer was thinking 'what a wonderful and peaceful place this is'. In this frantic world we live in it is nice to know that not too far away we can experience nature in such a beautiful place. There is no need to go off to far flung reaches of the world to find a little bit of heaven. For me this is a little piece of heaven and was my green fix for the year. Having spent most summers for the first 18 years of my life in Galway in the West of Ireland, I do appreciate the countryside, the slow pace and the quality of life.

Anyway back to the road. Yes - hills lots of. Yes - very steep at times. Yes - can't go too crazy with the speed or you DIE!
I loved this road and not too much road kill either as there is not too much traffic to squish the local critters.

We eventually picked up the B6160 and headed off on road kill graveyard to Grassington.

If you have chance to go on this road, especially on a beautiful blue sky day, take a drive on this road - it is beautiful!

Thursday 27 October 2011


Day 2

On the A6255, just after Chapel Le Dale, you get a fantastic view of the Ribblehead Viaduct which is part of the Settle to Carlisle railway.  Wow - it looks amazing set against the Yorkshire Dales and what a feat in Victorian engineering.  It is worth the drive alone to see this fantastic site.  So slack-jawed in awe we drove on to Hawes. 

We parked in the car park on the edge of town and paid our dues.  There is some on street parking available, however Hawes was rather busy with tourists and bikers that day.  The town was half open with shops as it was a Sunday.  The town is predominantly centred on the main road which runs through the town with pubs, cafes and shops, which eventually splits into two roads to accommodate the one way system.  At the edge of town there was some very literal one man and his dog style roundabout art.  It was surrounded by fencing which spoils what could be a rather surreal scene. 

Cutting through the town is a fast flowing river - it must be bloody noisy for the neighbours especially if it has been raining.  God forbid if this breaks its banks as the town would be flooded.

Outside the Little Cheese Shop we saw a surprising sight of a copper-coloured hen strutting under a picnic bench.  It was extremely calm as we took a couple of photos.  It probably felt safe being near the Little Cheese Shop - I'm sure it would have been somewhat nervous if it had been outside the butchers. 

There is a lovely home furnishing place that does bespoke wooden furniture called Bear Cottage Interiors.  The furniture was built out of solid wood and you could still see the tool marks.  It's the type of solid furniture that could last for hundreds of years.

The bikers had took residence in the Penny Garth Cafe which did two tone whippy ice cream.  Finally I didn't feel too stuffed so I indulged in the ice creams, which was fine as you can't go too wrong with whippy ice cream.

There were some stern looking old ladies stood inside the Village Hall foyer gossiping.  There was a sign saying there was a book sale inside.  I do like a book sale and inside the Village Hall we found a little bookshop wedged into a side room.  It was packed to the rafters with books.  There was barely room for people to pass the shelves.  Unfortunately, as the weather was not good, it appeared half of Hawes was browsing in the shop.  So I made a swift exit before I succumbed to claustrophobia. 

We had done Hawes and as Neil wasn't feeling too brilliant we decided to head back to Grassington.  However we had a choice to make - should we take the longer route on the A roads or the short route on a side road over yonder hills... decisions, decisions, decisions....

Sunday 23 October 2011


Day 2

Ingleton was my favourite place on our trip to the Yorkshire Dales.  Its stone viaduct and pocket sized loveliness were delightful.

First thing to note is that you can park on the street on the edge of town, thus avoiding parking charges in the local car park.

The second thing we found out was that particular weekend there was a Folk festival on and we did spot some musicians go into one of the local pubs to set up.  I like to see these country towns celebrating things, be it food, literature or the arts.  It's a great way to import a little bit of culture for the locals who often have to travel to the cities to get their culture fix.  I spotted on the notice board in Grassington there was a theatre club which did group trips to northern theatres.  Putting on these local events is a cunning way to attract tourists into the town and spend their cash.  Given how pretty Ingleton is, I didn't mind.

Thirdly, I discovered why the charity shops in the Yorkshire Dales were not that exciting - there was a vintage shop called  Fanny's Vintage Retro & Antique Home Style.  They must trawl through the local charity shops regularly to stock their lovely shop.  I found the most gorgeous tan leather vintage handbag and flower brooch.  I did manage to extract myself  from the shop without purchasing them, however I did ask myself that fateful question 'would I regret leaving these in the shop?'  The answer was 'yes' and I went straight back in and bought them.

Fourthly, quite a few of the shops were open on a Sunday, so it is worth a visit.  There was a Geology shop selling all things minerally and crystally.  Whilst the shop was definitely on the geology side of the old mystical crystal debate, there was a new age CD on in the background - so I reckon the owner was hedging his bets with his clientele.  There was also a cafe-cum-outdoor pursuits shop called Inglesports and it was packed full of bikers - I do love to see shops diversify into cafes.  There plenty of other cafes to choose from too - so whatever your tastes you'll find a place to eat.  There is a blink-and-you-will-miss tiny little cake and coffee shop called Frumenty and Fluffin.  It appeared to be selling the most lovely cakes - sadly I was still stuffed from breakfast to indulge.  So next time I'm in Ingleton I will stuff my face here.

Ingleton is a twee-fabulous place to visit!  Apparently it is a good base for all things outdoorsy like walking, cycling and caving - not that you will catch me doing such daft stuff like that.  So whatever your tastes, Ingleton has plenty to offer.

Wednesday 19 October 2011


Day 2

After Skipton and a slight detour we got to Settle. We managed to get parked on a side street and walked into the town.

The place was busy with walkers, cyclists and motor bikers. Whilst there were less shops open here than in Skipton, if you are looking for something to eat there were plenty of places from the Ye Olde Naked Man cafe and bakery, The Fisherman Chippy (which was doing brisk trade too) and the local pubs were doing Sunday lunches. Neil sampled a sweet chili chicken slice from the Ye Olde Naked Man. Whilst he said the chicken was nice, the sweet chili sauce was not as spicy as he would have liked. They did seem to have nice cakes there too, but I was still too stuffed from breakfast to indulge.  If I came back again I'd definitely pop in for lunch, as they had a little cafe too.

The quite a few of the shops were closed, but there were a few open enticing the passing tourist including an Age UK charity shop, a gift shop and a secondhand bookshop. Outside the secondhand bookshop was a gorgeous chocolate and white sheep dog. He was doing a fine job of guarding the bookshop and you almost had to step over him to get in and out of the shop. I didn't mind as he was lovely. The charity shop wasn't exciting, but at least it was open and had a few people browsing its wares. I noticed one gift shop that was closed had that yellow transparent blind over the window to prevent the sun from fading the stock. This gave me flashbacks to the 70s and Cheetham Hill where it was practically the law to have all shop windows shielded in the stuff.

The weather was a constant drizzle so we decided not to hang around. Before we left I did go to the local public toilet, which was a vandal proof affair in industrial steel. By God the designers went hell for leather on the soviet cold war steel look. Every surface was steel, even the celling if I recollect correctly. The doors weighed a ton and some of the lights were out that made the look even grimmer. It was the most oppressive public toilets I've ever been in.  If anyone from the council reads this - please replace the lights.

Settle is a nice traditional Yorkshire town, with plenty of places to get refreshments.  Although for shopping purposes, Saturday is probably a better day to go.

Sunday 16 October 2011

Skipton - Second time round

Day 2

It's not the first time we've been to Skipton and it's not the first time I've blogged about this place, yet it was the first time we had visited it on a Sunday. Sundays can be a bit hit and miss for random trips to northern towns, however we weren't disappointed with Skipton.
Stupidly I'd forgotten to pack my waterproof jacket for our trip and although Saturday was a lovely day Sunday was not - the Yorkshire Dales was drizzle central. So the priority was to purchase a cheap waterproof jacket. Thankfully Skipton had some outdoor outfitter shops to sort me out. The first one, near the canal, was very expensive and some of the coats cost as much as an iPad - so I passed on that shop. There was another shop in the town centre where I managed to pick up a cheap waterproof for £9.95 - bargain!
Anyway we had parked in the steep car park near the canal. Luckily we chanced upon a farmers market that day, which had lovely local produce on offer. After salivating round the market we headed off into the town centre. Surprisingly there were a number of shops open, including most of the charity shops - result! There was nothing of interest for Neil, but it was nice to have a browse without the madness of the Saturday shoppers.
Another good thing about Skipton on a Sunday is the distinct lack of the general market on the main street. Every Saturday there is a general market, which is always packed and located far too close to the pavements so it is awkward for pedestrians to pass. On a Sunday Skipton is a much more chilled place and actually a more pleasant place to be. We found Emma's Apothecary and Homestore which is in a shopping arcade off the main street. It is a great place to get reasonably priced Christmas gifts. I got a couple of bars of lovely scented soaps and Neil got a catnip toy for Sam the cat.

I've always found Skipton a nice place to go and on a Sunday it is very relaxed, although it's best to get there after 11.30am if you want to indulge in some shopping. Okay so you do miss out on the local butchers, the bakers and some of the mainstream shops that are closed, but if you are like myself and hate the hubbub of the Saturday shopping Sunday in Skipton is bliss...

Thursday 13 October 2011


Days 1, 2 & 3

Being in Grassington is like being on holiday abroad.  It has quite a foreign quality for a city dweller like myself.  I guess this is how foreign tourists perceive England to be - a land of country villages, stone built cottages in cobbled streets and traditional black and white pubs.  As you can see from my blog I like to visit that version of England, however it is a different England from the one I normally live in.

Grassington is first and foremost a lovely place to visit.  The cobbled square is the heart of the village with its four pubs - The Devonshire Arms, The Black Horse Hotel, The Grassington Hotel (hotel, restaurant and bar) and the Foresters Arms.  There are a couple of sweet shops selling vast amounts of fudge, a wool shop, older ladies clothes shop, a geology shop, gift shop, a Spar (but it doesn't sell newspapers by the way), a Barclays bank, a chippy, deli, paper shop, Indian restaurant / takeaway and a hidden Age UK shop you have to look down a side street to find.  It is a compact village and it takes about five minutes to get round it.

We were staying in Grassington Lodge on the next road to the square.  We had found it on Trip Advisor which rated it as the number one place to stay in Grassington.  After our two nights there we would highly recommend it too.  The room we had was compact, but it was fine for our needs.  They have different rates dependent on the room.  Ours was one of the cheaper rooms, but the facilities were fine with an en-suite with shower and Molton Brown bathroom products.  If booking you do need to watch out as one of the rooms doesn't have en-suite, although it does have a separate private bathroom.  After an experience in a Whitby B&B we are always careful to book a room with en-suite.  Anyway the room was fine and nicely decorated.  The B&B itself was immaculate with classic modern decoration.  Too many times we have stayed in places that seemed straight out of the 70s in decor.  Clearly the owners take great pride in the B&B and it shows in the way they take care of the place.  There was free pre-dinner sherry available and mint chocolates in the hallway.  The breakfasts were great with a full Yorkshire breakfast, scrambled eggs and salmon and they also did porridge which wasn't on the menu.  They did decaf tea too, which for a non-caffeine person like myself is a blessing.  I have to say it was a really pleasant stay and the owners were friendly.  Plus there was a little black cat with a spot underneath its chin lurking outside the B&B, which gained extra brownie points from me.

Both nights we stayed in Grassington we ate at the Devonshire Arms.  We were going to eat in different places, but after the first night we knew we had to come back for the Sunday Steak night.  We had a recommendation from Neil's Mum who'd been to Grassington before.  The pub had a restaurant area, but it was fully booked up.  Thankfully we could still sit in the rest of the pub and still be able to order food.  I had a steak and mushroom suet pudding which was divine.  The chips were slightly underdone, but I wasn't bothered to complain as the suet pudding was fantastic and more than filling.  Neil had the pork medallions in three pepper and brandy sauce, which he loved too.  Whilst the Devonshire Arms is an unassuming, traditional black and white pub, the food was outstanding.  On the Sunday we had two steaks and a bottle of wine for £25.  It was nice, but not as fabulous as the night before.  This time we had room for pudding - I had sticky toffee pudding and Neil had cointreau cheesecake.  They came out and looked fantastic - and tasted great too.  The food is definitely the star of this pub.

On the Saturday night after we stuffed ourselves with delicious food, we went to the Black Horse Hotel for a drink.  As it was a lovely evening we sat outside on the picnic benches watching the red crescent moon.  It's unbelievable we could do alfresco drinking in October.  Even on the Sunday night we still could sit outside despite the rainy weather that day.  This time we sat outside the Grassington Hotel with a glass of red wine.  What a beautiful place to be...

Saturday 8 October 2011

B6160 - Road from Richmond to Grassington

Day 1

Over the years I have developed a fondness for driving on challenging country roads - the type you need to really concentrate on or get killed.  Roads like the Llanberis Pass near Snowdon, the A537 Cat and Fiddle between Buxton and Macclesfield and the A814 from Tarbet to Helensburgh.  By God you need a stiff G&T at the end of these journeys.

Anyhow, I thought why not write up some of those road experiences.  So here goes - my new feature 'Life on Northern Roads'.

So we headed out of Richmond on the A6108 towards Grassington.  It's not often you see road signs warning you of learner tank drivers, but we were close to Catterick Garrison so it makes sense.  I always find it a bit spooky going past Ministry of Defense sites - maybe its all that high security fencing, military grey paint and the fact there is lots of live ammo behind those fences.  When we got to Leyburn, we picked up the A684 towards Hawes. 

I have to admit after many years of considering the speed limit as a suggestion from the Department of Transport, now I drive like a granny.  In part due to my ageing car (Lil' Princess - Nissan Almeria now 11 years old) and in part the fear of getting points on my licence. I have begun to be one of those people who drives at safe speeds especially on roads I don't know, whilst pissing off hundreds of motorists who now whizz past me.  So it was no surprise that I was soon overtaken by a red sports car and a bronze-green 70s classic car.  I don't notice or know car makes, just colours.  Despite my feminist inclinations I do correspond to the female stereotype where cars are concerned - ooh nice colour, it will go with my handbag.

I mentioned in Richmond that I had noticed lots of motorcyclists and it was on these roads I realised why they were in the Yorkshire Dales - the roads are just fab for them.  God knows how many of them passed me by during the weekend.

Anyhow back to road trip; we found our turning onto the B6160 and the first thing I noticed was a hedgehog squished on the road.  It turned out roadkill became an all too familiar feature on the B6160.  I swear over the 20 miles we travelled on this road we saw over 100 squished animals; hedgehogs, rabbits, squirrels, birds of prey, game birds, foxes and small creatures of indeterminate origin.  It did get to the stage where I began to get quite queasy at the sight of these flattened and bloodied creatures.  It was like watching a roadkill horror movie.  At one point I saw several pieces of fox strewn across a stretch of road - it was barfville.  However its brilliant if you are into eating roadkill, then it was like an amazing buffet.

Back to the road and I had a de ja vu moment looking in my rear mirror - the red sports car and a bronze-green 70s classic car were behind me again.  How I got ahead of them at my granny speed is a complete mystery to me, but sure enough, when the road allowed, they overtook and shot off into the distance.

I did notice on the journey there were lots of classic cars out on the road - really old ones that are used for weddings, phallic sports cars and those weird kit cars that look like they are made out of drain pipes.

The B6160 is quite a hilly road with quite steep hills, so you do need a powerful car to motor up them easily.  Lil' Princess doesn't exactly have the most powerful engine - 1398cc according to the manual.  So at times we did labour up the hills - pissing off the motorists behind us.  It's became quite a common theme during our road trip - pissing off the motorists behind us.

As it was a B road, the vast majority of the road was easily accessible for passing traffic.  It was only on the rare occasion that the centre markings disappeared and you had to be careful.  That was generally through the villages - Kettlewell, of Calendar Girls film fame, springs to mind.

This road takes you through the Yorkshire Dales and, as the weather was surprisingly good for October, the views were great.  There was some stony stuff jutting  out from the side of the hills (as you can guess I'm no geologist) near Grassington which looked impressive and the walkers underneath seem pretty amazed by it too.  This is the best thing about driving in the countryside - you get that fix of all things green and nature that you certainly don't get in the city.  There were tons of sheep everywhere grazing at time on the sides of very steep hills.  You have to be honest and say the next time you see these sheep they will be on your plate as roast, kebab or curry.  However you have to admit they did have a glorious start in life munching grass, overlooking wondrous Dales far from the madding crowds.

So after negotiating numerous hills and hundreds of gear changes we got to Grassington.  I have to admit I was a little frazzled by the end of the journey with having to concentrate carefully on the road, trying to avoid roadkill and having countless motorists and motorcyclists overtake me.  It's a good road to drive down, although you do need a strong stomach to cope with the gore of the roadkill.

Thursday 6 October 2011

Richmond - the North Yorkshire one

Day 1

Before planning our trip to the Yorkshire Dales I'd never heard of the town of Richmond.  Obviously I knew of the Richmond down south, but not the Yorkshire one.  So I thought I'd better have a quick look on wikipedia.  Market town - check!  Georgian history - interesting!  Fab reviews - Bingo!

So after a two hour journey from Manchester we made it to Richmond.  The journey was a bitch as we hit two sets of road works on the M62 and the A1.  Both sets of road works were doing that awful 50 mph average speed limit camera thingy.  My poor right foot developed cramp trying to keep a steady 50 mph.  It got so painful that later in the day I had to rub Nurofen gel into my foot to ease the pain.

Anyway, Richmond appeared to be built into a side of a cliff, with lots of cobbles and a mad one way system.  Getting parked was a nightmare and after 15 minutes of trying to find a parking space we nearly left.  Thankfully we spotted a local Cooperative supermarket at a mini roundabout on the edge of the town centre.  We managed to get parked and had 3 hours free parking too.

Wandering around Richmond it was a nice, solid, unpretentious Yorkshire town. The skyline was dominated by Richmond Castle, an English Heritage site.  The streets were cobbled and the town square housed a nice market selling local produce. 

There were a few charity shops for us to explore, but there was nothing exciting to report.  We also popped into the secondhand book shop and a rambling antiques shop.  Neil complained the shops were rather small, but that was down to the town's Georgian architectural heritage.

We had some fish from Barker's Fish and Chip shop.  There was a queue in the shop, but it was worth the wait as the fish was nice with lovely crispy batter.  There were quite a few locals in there which is always a good sign.  We followed this with a 99 ice cream from the market and were served by a girl who clearly didn't want to be there.

The local accent was a bit of a mix between Yorkshire and the singsong North East accent.  I suppose since Richmond is so far north in Yorkshire there will be cross border activity with the folks from County Durham.

The town itself is not too touristy and it was not overrun by high street chains.  I did notice that it seemed to attract a lot of bikers and it later became apparent why they were there.

So after a quick trip to the Cooperative supermarket (to justify using their car park), we headed off on the B6160 to Grassington.

Monday 3 October 2011

The Yorkshire Dales

Other than Emmerdale and All Creatures Great and Small, the Yorkshire Dales have always been a bit of a mystery to me.  So when Neil suggested we go away for his birthday weekend and I thought the Yorkshire Dales would be a good place to go.  Neil's Mum had been to Grassington a few times, so we thought it might be a good place to base ourselves for the weekend. 

After a couple of hours on the internet and Trip Advisor we were booked into Grassington Lodge - apparently Hayley Westenra, Phil & mad Tory Kirsty (Location, Location, Location) and the Snow's (Peter & Dan) stayed there too.  It seemed really nice, reasonably priced and came highly recommended.  I now swear by Trip Advisor these days after a few B&B and hotel disasters we've had over the years - Howden, Whitby and London are etched into my mind for all the wrong reasons. 

So for the past few weeks I've been pouring over maps planning our road trip around the Dales.  In the end we went to Richmond, Grassington, Skipton, Settle, Ingleton, Hawes and Ripon.  I'm also including special features this time with two road review - the B6160 and the Hawes to Kettlewell road.

I hope you enjoy reading the blog as well as we did doing the road trip.