I have been challenged several times for neglecting to visit more places in the United Kingdom and so after many years avoiding UK travel opportunities we set off for a couple of days into neighbouring Yorkshire together with my sister Lindsay and her husband Mick .
It seemed appropriate to do so because they live in Gloucestershire in the south of England and confessed to me that they have never visited England’s largest county. After setting off we passed from Lincolnshire, the second largest county, into Yorkshire across the stunning Humber Bridge which spans the estuary of the same name and which separates the two English heavy-weight counties.
At almost one and a half miles long the Humber Suspension Bridge is the seventh largest of its type in the World. This statistic used to be even more impressive because when it was first opened in 1981, and for the next sixteen years, it was the longest single-span suspension bridge in the World and the distance by road between Hull and Grimsby was reduced by nearly fifty miles as a consequence of the construction and put the ferry company immediately out of business.
We were making our first stop at the Cathedral City of York which is somewhere that I have visited several times before. This is me in 1980, I used to really like that jacket, it was reversible, burgundy and grey and I think the sleeves zipped out but I always preferred the burgundy!
I don’t know why I keep going back to York because I would never include it in a top ten of favourite places in England. It is touristy and busy and getting in and out in a car is really, really difficult because the old medieval road layout is completely unsuitable to cope with the volume of modern day traffic and there is almost always severe congestion.
And parking is at a premium and expensive. Yes, there is Park and Ride but who wants to leave their car five miles out in a field and then crawl into the city on an overcrowded bus? We found a car park near the centre and eventually paid a whopping £11 for two and a half hours parking. If I was staying any longer I would have needed to arrange for a bank loan. I couldn’t help but notice that there was defribillator placed conveniently next to the pay station.
Kim tells me that I am getting old and grumpy and that my expectation of fees and charges has been firmly left behind in about the year 2000, maybe even 1990, but the plain fact is that I just find York expensive. The Castle Museum costs £12, the Jorvik Centre £20 and York Minster (second largest Gothic Cathedral in Northern Europe after Cologne in Germany) is £11.50. I really resent paying to visit a Cathedral, last week I went to Madrid and it was free. Lots of Cathedrals charge these days, Westminster Abbey is a massive £22 which makes Lincoln look a bargain at only £8. The most visited Cathedral in England is in Durham and that is free!
To be fair, I have to say that my favourite museum in York is the National Railway Museum which doesn’t charge an entry fee but spoils that with extortionate car parking charges. I’ll tell you about the National Railway Museum in another post.
Another thing that I don’t like about York is, and this has to be said, it isn’t especially attractive. Yes in the centre there are one or two well preserved medieval streets around The Shambles area but there is also an awful lot of ill conceived and inappropriate 1960s redevelopment from a time when town planners and architects were tearing down historic buildings and replacing them with concrete and steel. These people who were responsible should be retrospectively tracked down and sent to prison.
York is a city for tourists…
In consideration of all of this negativity you won’t be surprised that I wasn’t too disappointed to drive out of York and make our way in a North-Easterly direction towards the North Yorkshire coast at Whitby. I expect I will go back again, I always do.
North Yorkshire is a truly magnificent county and not far out of the city we were motoring through wonderful countryside, rolling hills and green fields, wild flowers and hedgerows and punctuated every so often with picturesque and delightful towns and villages.
I could stir up a hornet’s nest of debate here but I ask the question, is North Yorkshire England’s finest county in respect of scenery and countryside?
Blogging pals may disagree and offer their own nominations, Sue from Nan’s Farm would probably agree with me but Derrick would surely argue for Hampshire and the New Forest, Brian for Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds, Lois for Somerset and the West Country, Simon may make a strong case for Nottinghamshire and Sherwood Forest, my friend Richard would say Rutland and its reservoir, but no, for me, there is something wild, ragged and romantic about the North and I include here of course Northumberland and Cumbria, and it is my favourite.
My pal Dai Woosnam would have none of it and say Wales is the best (and he has a point) and Anabel would surely make a case for Scotland but I am talking here about only England.
After the Dales we crossed into the Moors, a wild and striking Emily Brontë and Kate Bush landscape of boulders, heather, peat and gorse, both remote and enchanting in equal measure. I liked it.
Eventually the North Sea came into view, surprisingly blue and sparkling brightly in the afternoon sunshine and we made our way towards the busy town of Whitby. First to the Abbey where English Heritage charge £9 to visit what can only be described as a ruin and is an admission charge which makes York Minster look reasonable. So we skipped it and enjoyed an hour or so in the traditional seaside resort port which I swear has more fish and chip shops in one place than I have ever seen before and afterwards heading out and towards our overnight accommodation just a mile or so out of the town.