I was thinking on returning from abroad recently that despite being lucky enough to have a day job globe-trotting to far-flung corners of the world, I’m also fortunate enough to spend so much down time in one of the most scenic destinations on earth – the Yorkshire Dales.
My husband hails from what is proudly referred to as ‘God’s Own Country’, a description I can only whole-heartedly agree with. After all, Yorkshire folk aren’t normally associated with over-boastful claims – their dry humour and down-to-earth attitude definitely mean a spade’s a spade round these parts.
Indeed, I’ve often heard a Yorkshireman described as a Scotsman with the generosity knocked out of him, although I couldn’t possibly comment…
What I can say is that this rural idyll is just over a four-hour drive or train journey south from Perthshire, just beyond the Lake District.
The rolling, pastoral landscape of hills and dales patch-worked by drystone walls and weathered barns is serenely beautiful.
Yet there are enough steep climbs to give the cyclists in the annual Tour de Yorkshire (begun since the county hosted the Grand Départ of the Tour de France in 2014) a run for their prize money. The drawback to this sporting success is that there are now just about as many men dressed in tight-fitting Lycra as there are sheep – at least in summertime.
But while election fever rages across the land, the bleating around here is purely from the lambs – our nearest ‘metropolis’ Skipton, the ‘Gateway to the Dales’ with its ancient castle, canals and busy street market, was formerly known as Sheep’s Town.
You can walk for miles on waymarked trails, whether enjoying the challenge of long-distance routes such as the Dales Way or Coast to Coast, or simply strolling – as we do – with our little dog Minnie to one of the many atmospheric pubs, where we’re sure of good food, a warm welcome, a bit of banter and a decent pint. Almost all inns, cafes, shops, B&B’s and even our local fine dining boutique hotel – Grassington House – are dog friendly.
Grassington is a quaint village with a cobbled main square, in the heart of the National Park above the banks of the River Wharfe. A honeypot of villages clustered round – Hebden, Burnsall, Linton and Threshfield, all have thriving cafes and inns, many with beer gardens, for when the weather warms up.
Children enjoy simple pleasures – stepping stones, petting farms, horse trekking, riverside picnics and paddling in the shallows.
The fantastical Hidden Corner near Leyburn is a hit with most ages, (pre-booking is required); welly walks at Bolton Abbey Estate are popular; there are steam train rides, canal cruises on colourful narrow boats, underground caves to explore and even walks with llamas; while Fountains Abbey, near Ripon, is one of the most visited National Trust properties.
Yet quiet as it is, don’t get the impression that we’re completely out in the sticks. There is always something happening in the home of the Calendar Girls, such as 1940s’ themed weekends and the Dickensian Markets at Christmas.
Indeed, the biggest event of the year – Grassington Festival, 15 days of music and arts over June and July, is like a miniature Edinburgh Fringe, with plays, gigs, comedy, talks, cooking demonstrations, outdoor entertainment and craft classes for all ages.
We’ve got our tickets for marquee concerts by Jools Holland and the recently reformed Bananarama all lined up!
More information at www.visityorkshire.com
Two new destinations are now available from Aberdeen International Airport this month. Low-cost airline, airBaltic (airbaltic.com), has launched its three flights per week route to Riga, the capital of Latvia; while Ryanair (ryanair.com) has begun flying twice a week to Faro, the famous beach and golfing hotspot in Portugal’s Algarve.
Cruise & Maritime Voyages is offering some bargain deals on their summer sailings, many from Dundee. Choose from Buy One Get One Free or save up to 40% on selected voyages. You can cruise from the doorstep to destinations as exotic as Iceland, St Petersburg, the Baltic and Norway’s spell-binding fjords. Visit cruiseandmaritime.com or call 0844 998 3931.
Visitors have been flocking to the National Trust for Scotland’s Drum Castle in Aberdeenshire thanks to a fascinating exhibition by celebrated Scottish photographer Harry Benson CBE. Harry Benson: Seeing America features superstars such as Dolly Parton and James Brown as well as momentous events like the civil rights movement and 9/11. It runs until December 2017 (nts.org.uk).
A week in Croatia staying at the 3-star Hotel Epidaurus in Cavtat on a half-board basis costs from £686 (a saving of up to £136 pp) flying from Edinburgh on 20th June 2017. Visit loveholidays.com or call 0203 870 6844.