North Yorkshire God’s own Country

in Features/Travel

What does North Yorkshire conjure up for you? Maybe it is the rolling landscape of the valleys and the vast expanses of heather-covered moors together with beautiful areas of unspoiled wilderness. Maybe it is the image of times gone by with the cotton mills and its rich textile heritage. 

Whatever you think about North Yorkshire, the largest county in England, it is definitely a beautiful location that is often referred to as “God’s Own Country,” which is no wonder seeing that it incorporates the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors National Parks. 

The historic city of York traces its history back some 2,000 years to AD 71 when it was founded by the Romans. The first mention of its Roman name, ‘Eboracum’ can be traced back to around AD 95 and over 200 years later, Roman emperor Constantine the Great was declared emperor here in AD 306. The Saxons followed the Romans and knew it as ‘Eoforwick’ and the Vikings, who followed them, named it ‘Jorvik’. 

With its rich history, it is strange that the city centre of York has only just gained UNESCO World Heritage Status. As you wander around the city you will notice a huge variety of ancient buildings, architecture dating back to medieval times, magnificent Georgian town houses and its Victorian railway station, as well as the longest stretch of intact city walls in England, small parts of which date back to the Romans. 

A layer of history is unpeeled at every turn, from the Norman castle to the ruined Benedictine monastery, but there are two locations that should not be missed. The first is the Gothic splendour of York Minster, one of the largest cathedrals in northern Europe, situated in the heart of the city.  Look out for the incredible stained glass Rose Window that commemorates the end of the War of the Roses and the beautiful ‘Heart of Yorkshire’ which sits in the Great West window where legend says that if you kiss your partner beneath the window you will stay together forever.

Shambles is the second must-see on any visit to York. This medieval street consists of mostly timber buildings that date back as far as the 13th Century. With its cobbled streets, overhanging buildings and maze-like alleyways it is believed to have been the inspiration behind Diagon Alley from the film adaptation of the Harry Potter series. This is the place to go to find quirky boutiques and cafes as well as gift and sweet shops. 

If you want to venture a bit further from York, head to the ancient market town of Pickering and hop on a train to Whitby on the Yorkshire coast. The North Yorkshire Moors Railway is a world-famous heritage railway that runs through the North York Moors National Park. Owned and operated by a charitable trust, the line runs for 24 miles with the whole journey taking around 1 hour 50 minutes. 

The fishing port of Whitby is situated at the mouth of the River Esk and during the Middle Ages it was the home to herring and whaling fleets, but it still has a thriving fishing industry today. Whether you’re looking for some delicious seafood or traditional fish and chips, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from along Whitby’s famous harbour. 

Captain Cook learned his trade as a seaman in Whitby and it was here that the ship that took him on his voyage of discovery to Australia, HMS Endeavour, was built. Another person of note was Bram Stoker, and it was whilst staying in Whitby that he got much of his inspiration for the novel Dracula, a rare signed copy of which can be found in Whitby Abbey.  The 13th-century Gothic Abbey, maintained by English Heritage, dominates the skyline above Whitby. There is plenty to discover, both in the Abbey grounds and in the visitor centre, located in a 17th century mansion. 

Robin Hood’s Bay is a small fishing village and bay on the coast not far from Whitby and Scarborough. Situated within the North York Moors National Park on the Cleveland Way national trail and also the end point of Wainwright’s Coast to Coast walking route, it is an ideal place to go for walking, hiking, cycling, and exploring everything that the area has to offer.  Known to the locals as ‘Bay Town’, there is no evidence that the village has ties with the Robin Hood who robbed the rich to feed the poor. Consisting of a maze of tiny streets, there is reputed to be a network of subterranean passageways linking houses and used by smugglers in the 18th century to hide their contraband.

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