Yorkshire Dales, England
The Yorkshire Dales is in the northern part of England. The area is known for small towns, stone fences, castles, and lots of sheep. There are small, narrow, winding roads, but not a lot of people. It has rolling green hills, and not a lot of trees. It’s very beautiful, and remains one of my favorite places to visit.
I come from the United States. If you are flying from here, I’ve never had any trouble with American Airlines. I usually fly into and out of the Philly airport. It’s smaller than New York, but is still a sizable airport. They have lots of food options while you wait. The flights to Europe are overnight flights. I leave myself a few hours layover in between, so that I don’t risk missing the evening flight over. If the airline fare is less than 1200 ‘round trip, then I recommend buying it. It changes year to year, but it’s rarely that cheap. Sometimes you can find it as cheap as 500 dollars, but that’s a steal! When heading specifically to the northern part of England, fly into the Manchester airport.
The flight from Philly to Manchester is about 6 hours. It usually departs around 8 or 9pm. After takeoff they’ll serve dinner—I always decline dinner in favor of trying to sleep. It will be very hard to get some sleep on the plane, but a few things can help. The first thing is to make sure you’re not too hot or too cold. I always bring a spare jacket in case I need to cover up with it. On the overnight flights they also provide a pillow and a blanket. Adjust your situation until you are feeling just right. Some people will bring ear buds to block out noise, and maybe even a face mask to cover the eyes and make it nice and dark. The next problem is trying to rest your head. This is much trickier. The pillow they provide can help a little, but not as much. If you are against a window, the pillow can help lean up against that side of the plane. The best solution I’ve found is something similar to the TRTL travel pillow you can find on amazon. It compacts down to be pretty small. When open, you wrap it around your neck. There’s a rigid section that keeps your chin supported. I can sleep a little bit with that on. It’s still very restless sleep, and by the time the plane lands in England the next morning, you will feel exhausted. Make sure you have a pen. In years past they have asked us to fill out a customs card. If you don’t fill it out on the plane, no worries—they have more and extra pens before you get into the line to clear customs. Read the customs card and fill the form out correctly. It’s specific on how to do so.
The planes usually arrive around 7:30 or 8am. Your body will feel like it is 3am (if you live on the east coast). In addition to not sleeping well the night before, this first day will be tough. You will very likely be exhausted. You’ll head to pick up your bags first, and then you’ll head to customs. You’ll hand them the card they had you fill out on the plane (this has been changing in various places—it may change here too. Just follow the instructions). When you go up to the customs agent, they’ll usually have a brief conversation—they’ll ask where you’re going, how long you’re in, where you’re from, etc. They’ll be gaging whether or not you seem like you’re lying. Just answer honestly and to the best of your ability. After you’re cleared by the agent, proceed on your way, and to an ATM. I recommend pulling out a couple hundred dollars/about one hundred and fifty pounds (depending on the exchange rate). Most places will take card, so save your cash for the places that don’t. Some won’t. After you’ve gotten some pounds, head on out of the airport.
There are rental car companies within walking distance of the airport. Make sure you do that before your flight. Once you leave the airport, just head to the rental car area. You may have to take a shuttle, and/or ask for directions. We usually go with Hertz. A word of warning: one year we had some friends traveling with us. They had booked their rental car through one of the agencies like enterprise or expedia. I don’t remember which one they used. The rental car company did not honor their booking. They told our friends that they never offer fares that cheap, and to request a refund from the intermediary they had purchased it through. They had to pay the rental car company what they were asking. It was more expensive. So be careful if you are booking through one of those sites. It’s beneficial to both groups to honor those prices, so I’m not sure what dispute the car company had with the servicer. If you book with one of those services, though, you are not guaranteed to be booked with the airline/car rental/etc.
The first thing I will recommend before you leave the parking lot of the rental car place is to check your car for any damage. Indicate it on the slip before you leave. The next thing that is going to be of vital importance to getting around is a GPS. Make sure you’ve updated the map for Europe. My friend always drives, and he never pays the fee to update the map. But they’ve changed the roads around Manchester, so it’s always a battle trying to find the interstate. It takes us a lot longer than it should. Also be aware—in England they love their roundabouts. I find them to be very confusing. There’s sometimes 6 or 7 potential exits off a roundabout, and trying to fight your way through the traffic is confusing and hectic. If you have a GPS, it’ll tell you which exit to take. So you’ll have to count as you turn (example: turn left on the rotary, 3rd exit). The steering wheel on the cars is on the right side, and they drive on the left. In the small rounds of the Yorkshire Dales it’s easier to do that than in the city where there’s more traffic. Gas is very expensive. They have a much higher gas tax there than here. Usually, filling a small to mid sized car, takes about 80 dollars. Once on the interstate, the left lane is the slow lane while the right lane is the passing lane. So while here, you stay out of the left lane except when passing, there it’s reversed. Be careful about your speed—rarely will an officer chase you down, but they will take a photo of your license plate and send it to whoever owns the car. If you get a ticket, the rental car company will charge you an extra fee. Once you’re in the Dales, it’ll be easier. The roads are very narrow up there, though. Their two way roads are a one way road in the States. Be prepared to pull off to the side of the road to yield to oncoming traffic. There’s stone fences that are all along the sides of the roads, but every so often there’s a spot to squeeze your car into to allow another car to pass. That does mean occasionally you’ll have to backup to get to it. If you get behind a farmer’s truck that’s easier—everyone yields to them. It’ll take about three or four hours to drive up to the Dales from Manchester.
On your drive up, I highly recommend stopping by Skipton first—it’s called the gateway to the Dales. There’s a Tesco in Skipton so you can get any groceries you’ll need before you head up into the Dales. It’s much harder to find one beyond that point. Hawes is a bigger town in the Dales, and will have one. But most of the smaller ones do not. While there, I also recommend checking it out. I love Skipton. Skipton Castle is my favorite castle of every one that I’ve seen so far. It’s courtyard, in the middle of the castle, is like something out of a medieval fairy tale with a giant tree surrounded by stone. I love it so much. Most of the castles have a free to enter, and Skipton is no different. It’s just a few pounds. About every other day they have market day in Skipton. I love visiting on market day. They’ll have vendors lining the streets selling food, apparel, and a lot of unique handmade items.
We often look for self-catering cottages or castles to rent instead of hotels or pubs. The cottages can be stunning. The place I loved the most was called Crooked Acres. It was more remote than some of the other places we’ve stayed, but it was right next to Bolton Castle. I love castles, so this was a big bonus. It also had an amazing outdoors patio with a view that would take anyone’s breath away. It’s only about a mile or two walk to the nearest pub to grab something to eat or drink. There’s a great hike that takes you from the cottage to Robin Hoods falls. Those are the falls they used in the filming of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, where Robin and Little John were fighting with staves. I think it’s a five mile hike? I don’t quite remember. We stopped at a pub on the way there and back, but it took a few hours.
Another place I’d recommend was a cottage in Bainbridge. I believe it was called The Old Hall. I’m having trouble finding it now, so they might have moved. There are other spots in Bainbridge that might be worth checking out. Bainbridge is connected to other places in the Dales by bus. So if you prefer not driving, you can catch a bus if you stay somewhere here. It’s a little bigger than the area where the Crooked Acres is, so it’s more connected to things. There’s a pub in the town. There’s a great hike that takes you from Bainbridge, all the way around the largest lake in the Dales, and back. This was a long hike, with not much except fields around you. We brought our lunch with us that day, and ate on the go. It took from morning until dusk to finish. It was maybe 10 miles or more. It was a great hike to go on!
The Green Dragon is my favorite pub. There’s not much in the way of food there, which is a bit of a detractor, but the history is amazing. It’s the oldest pub I’ve been in. It was built in the 1200s. They’ve added on a lot since it was first built, but the bar is nestled in the oldest section, and you can see it. There’s a bit of a slant to some of it, which just adds to its charm. For a couple of pounds you can take a two mile hike behind the pub to see Robin Hoods Falls. This is where they filmed Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves scene where Maid Marion walks down on Robin taking a bath, and Bull tells her to cover her eyes. It’s one of the tallest falls in the Dales, and just cool to see. Tan Hill Inn is also cool to see—it’s the highest pub in all of England. It’s up on the moors.
How to Order: The pubs that serve food generally have similar things. I love the chips they serve, and will often crave them when I’m back home in the States. They’re just plain fried potato wedges with no seasonings, but so good. Especially with vinegar. I had a friend who had partridge at one of the pubs there once, and her first three bites had buckshot in it. Sometimes you have to be careful to not crack your teeth in those scenarios. Lamb is very common to find in the pubs up there, and is very good, especially when paired with mint. When you go to eat at a pub, traditionally you go up to the bar to order. Check your table for a number first—you’ll need that when you tell them where you’re sitting. You order, pay for it, and then wait at the table. The food will come out when it’s done, not for the entire table at once. You can go up and order more, or order dessert. It’s very informal. What’s nice about this is because you’ve paid first, when you’re done, you get up and leave. It’s polite to stack any glasses back at the bar, but they’ll pick up the other dishes. Don’t leave a tip unless you’ve had full table service. If you go up to the bar to order, you won’t tip. A lot of pubs are pet friendly, so you’ll see cats or dogs (mostly dogs) hanging around—sometimes sheep or lambs. It’s not uncommon. Occasionally you’ll find one that bans pets, but for the most part they’re allowed in most of the pubs.
There’s so many! I’ll go over my top five recommendations for castles and abbeys to visit. Most of the abbeys are ruins now because Henry VIII changed England from Catholicism to the Church of England in the 1500s. Many of the existing abbeys were destroyed as a result.
There are so many places to hike, and incredible things to see along the way. I love getting lost in nature, but also appreciate finding ruins to explore. You can hike just about anywhere here, so I’ll do my best to narrow it down to my top five!
Hadrian’s Wall. This is a two-ish hour drive north of the Yorkshire Dales. There are roman forts you can check out, with the wall there. It’s incredible. The history is amazing. After we went to the information center and ruins of a roman fort, we went to sycamore gap. Sycamore Gap has the tree and section of the wall they used in the filming of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. There’s a pub nearby we stopped to eat lunch in before we went to the car park near Sycamore Gap. There are three hills you have to climb to get there, each with stone steps. You basically follow the wall the entire way. Half way up the first hill, the steps turn inward, and are nestled into a cliff. They are about knee height, and you can only fit your toes on them. It was quite terrifying. I affectionally referred to these steps as the Vertical Steps of Death. The way back down was far more problematic and terrifying than the climb up. I would do it again though. It was a nice little walk, and had the bonus of not only walking beside history with the wall, but being able to see the tree used in the movie. I would highly recommend! After that, we went to Carlisle castle, which was not as impressive as some of the others I’ve seen, but still worth a look if you’re nearby. You’re so far north at that point, we actually decided to go to Scotland for dinner before we drove back to our cottage.
I would highly recommend the Yorkshire Dales if you love hiking, and being outdoors. It’s a beautiful place.