To coincide with a family visit to Middlesbrough, we loaded up the car with more luggage than we’d ever take on a flight and took the ferry to Holyhead.
My carefully planned road trip was underway. Driving through North Wales at 6 am, passing rolling hills and flat calm waters against a backdrop of cloudless blue sky was the perfect start.
First stop – Pendle Hill in Lancashire
Most famous for the Pendle Witch Trials in 1612, this steep climb is not for the faint-hearted. The summit is 557m above sea-level, and there are some pretty steep steps. Views from the top and the many resting stops along the way up are stunning in every direction. Boy, it was hot. These sheep had the right idea resting in the shade of the trees.
Next - Knaresborough on the River Nidd, just outside of Harrogate, North Yorkshire
The steep gorge spanned by the impressive 19th-century viaduct, the warren of medieval streets and stone staircases on the sides of the gorge give this olde-worlde town bags of character. There were more witchy goings-on with a visit to England’s oldest attraction, Mother Shipton’s Cave.
The prophecies of Mother Shipton, born in 1488, became known throughout the country. History says that she foretold the defeat of the Spanish Armada and the Great Fire of London. The petrifying well here is quite a phenomenon, turning things to stone in a matter of weeks (there are plenty of examples of this in the museum). It’s an interesting place to visit but has a quite a hefty entrance fee at £9 each.
Next stop – Thornton-Le-Dale
We stumbled upon this gorgeous little North Yorkshire village when we decided to forgo a trip to Eden Camp WW11 museum (a planned visit if the weather was its usual gloomy self). Sticking to outside activities in the sunshine, we ate delicious pork pies by the babbling stream. Afterwards, we mooched around the vintage car auction rooms; where for just £1 (donated to charity) you can take a trip down memory lane, inspecting the cars and motorbikes up for auction. I picked out a lovely Morris Minor, white with red leather interior and red soft-top... one day!
On to Grosmont, just in time to see the steam train pass by in a fog of steam, before meeting an old friend for dinner in Egton Bridge.
The sun was still shining when we reached Robin Hood’s Bay
This coastal fishing village, once awash with smugglers, is where some of my ancestors were born. The plan today - to walk the 6.5 miles of coastal path to Whitby. Stunning scenery that photographs cannot do justice. Passing the fog-horn and the caravan park at Saltwick Bay brought back many childhood memories of holidays and cliff-top walks to Whitby.
As much as I love Whitby, approaching down the 199 steps on the hottest day of the year, which happened to be a Saturday, was not the pleasant experience I was expecting. There is certainly no pleasure in shuffling along the narrow streets shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers. Give me the tranquil coastal paths any day!
Leaving Middlesbrough a few days later our next destination was Kirby Stephen, a small market town in Cumbria
After the non-stop activity visiting family and friends, it was nice to be back in the countryside. We took a leisurely walk through Smardale Gill Nature Reserve. I have to add that this was after a one hour drive down ridiculously narrow roads our dear Sat-Nav lady directed us down. Heart-in-mouth is an understatement! The crazy thing is we could have walked to the starting point faster from our hotel in Kirby Stephen! Oh, for the luxury of hindsight.
Next, it’s Northwich in Cheshire
Here we visited the Anderton Boat Lift, a magnificent piece of mechanical engineering (so I’m told by my other half) built in 1875 and restored in 2001. The boat trip taking up the lift was a fascinating experience, and the guides were entertaining and knowledgeable. Afterwards, walking the tow-paths, waving to the people on passing narrowboats, stopping to chat with some of them has us on our next day-dream adventure. Imagine living on a canal boat, pootling along the waterways at a leisurely pace, writing, reading, immersing yourself with nature...
And, back to North Wales – Llandudno
Disappointingly the cable car up to Great Orme has to close due to high winds at the top. Still, we were here now. We walked along the grand pier, witnessing a sneaky seagull steal an ice-cream from an unsuspecting lady (no camera at hand for that one). Walked the promenade, meeting the Mad Hatter, part of the Alice in Wonderland Trail and indulged in burgers and yummy desserts in an American Diner.
Now, back to that dream of living on a canal boat...