I am always a firm believer that travelling starts at your front doorstep. You don’t have to fling yourself to a far flung country such as New Zealand, Japan or even Patagonia in Argentina to get your travelling kicks.
To me, travel always starts at home.
So, it was with great enthusiasm that I jumped at the chance to spend a weekend in the North York Moors with a group of friends to celebrate one of their impending nuptials (read: STAG DO!). But it wasn’t your typical stag do fuelled with large amount of drink and chaining the groom to a lamppost.
No, it was a chance to reconnect with nature, rediscover the childhood destinations my family took me, and more importantly, find even more reasons to be proud of God’s own country, Yorkshire.
I have searched far and wide across this ancient county ranging from my hometown in Hull in the East, the Yorkshire Dales in the west, Darlington in the north, teasing the Peak District in the south and yes, the epicentre of all things Yorkshireness, York. But I hadn’t explored the North York Moors in detail and that is exactly why I wanted to see for myself with other Yorkshiremen why North York Moors is the perfect place to spend a weekend and get away from the 9-5 work life.
We had a secluded place within reach of Pickering, called Cropton Cabins based within the North Riding Forest. You can’t even get any signal here so wave goodbye catching up with your friends on Facebook, finding out the latest celebrity gossip and checking if England is still easily beating Australia at the Ashes Cricket! (Although that would be a fine thing!)
But wave hello to breathing in that perfect fresh air, stretching your legs on those easy walks and chilling out in those sunset evenings in an outdoor hot tub. Wait? Did someone say hot tub? Of course, Cropton Cabins run by Forest holidays truly offers you the disconnective experience and urge you to relax in style, whether with champagne in the hot tub or just lazily cook a BBQ.
Arriving in Malton after a train journey with Virgin East Coast from London Kings Cross (this is where I am living now) changing at York, you can either take a bus to Pickering or simply drive straight to Cropton Cabins on the Friday evening and let your cares slip away with their relaxing experience or partake a cheeky local ale (Black Sheep) in Pickering.
The next morning, head within the heart of North York Moors at Goathland, its railway station acting as the scene of Hogsmeade in Harry Potter. But Goathland acts as the base village for the long-running fictional TV series called Heartbeat. You can find out where their local pub is, the garage and even the shops. It’s a great way to head back into the Sixties and yes, you can even pose next to the period’s police car and don a policeman’s helmet. You know, you want to!
But to appreciate the true beauty of North York Moors and its epic natural scenery, take the Rail Line Walk following the disused rail line from Goathland to Grosmont. It’s an easy 3 and a half mile ramble, and if you’re feeling tired after 15 minutes, there’s the smallest pub in the UK to try out their ales (I recommend the Beck Hole Watter Ale) and as a full blooded Yorkshireman, of course, you have to stop!
It’s a wonderful walk, perfectly timed to switch off my hectic London life and appreciate why Yorkshire will always be the place I will call home. People are friendly, happy to offer a cheery hello and don’t forget to peel your eyes on the horizon as the North York Moors definitely comes to life when viewed from high above.
But do you know what’s my favourite thing about the North York Moors?
Running between Pickering and Whitby and calling at various stops, this wonder from the Industrial Revolution brings an old-fashioned and retro feel to Yorkshire as you can climb aboard this beauty s you head back from Grosmont to Goathland. I confess, I was like a schoolboy in a sweet shop as I became giddy with happiness, bouncing on my heels, as I marvelled at the train that I believe everyone should have the chance to travel on. Yes, my inner rail geek truly came to the fore! Could it mean that there was a future trainspotter in me in the making? (Oh, yes please!)
Sticking your head out of the windows, you’ll hear the chugging of the engine punctuated by the sharp whistle of team. You’ll laugh heartily as smoke billows past the carriages and enveloping you, capturing a moment that you’ll forever cherish, leaving with you with sooty faces but a white pearly grin. Racing past panoramic scenery, you’ll wish that the journey will continue on even longer after the train pulls into Goathland after twenty minutes. But not to worry, race up the overhead footpath before the train leaves the station and dodge the smoke as the train races underneath before watching the steam train power through into the distance.
What a train journey. Should modern rail companies should take note that people love the experience of their train journey?
As the evening draws in, perhaps its time to relax back in the hot tub but don’t forget to wash those dirty faces first!
The next day after a sleep in listening to the dawn chorus, jump back into the car and drive further north past Thirsk to a grey stately house to spend a pleasant Sunday that is Newby Hall.
Newby Hall is the ancestral home for the current Compton family and I urge you to buy a ticket for both the Gardens and for the house including a tour of the home itself. It’s truly fantastic.
Dine in style at their Garden Restaurant first for lunch to keep you fuelled for the day ahead. Try out their homemade Tomato and Wensleydale Cheese soup and wash that down with their Newby Hall Cider, its apples picked from their own orchards. Then take a wander through the Gardens and play peekaboo with each other in their maze like sections or just take it as a great photographic opportunity to make yourselves look like a boy-band. I hope I’m the Gary Barlow guy in a Take That like band!
But the real winner of the gardens is their miniature railway that, yes, you can even ride (more train geek joy!) and discover the best of Newby Hall gardens. It’s a perfect place for children looking to while away their Sundays in the playgrounds, boating lake, miniature railway and long grassy areas to slurp ice creams on.
But don’t forget to take a tour of the Newby Hall itself, its rooms offering a grandiose experience for the discerning tourist who will be bowled over by rooms covered in tapestry, gilded marble and stories involving the Queen Mother. Their guides reveal expert knowledge to keep you entertained throughout the hour long tour and don’t be afraid to ask about the secret room…
So, after a long day at Newby Hall, what’s the best thing to do for the rest of the day on a Sunday to relax you even further when you get home?
My, you’re perfectly right! It’s back into the hot tub. Ah, bliss!
Check out more pictures from the North York Moors weekend: