Christmas in York

In 2018 and 2019 we spent Christmas away from home, staying in Haarlem where our daughter was living at the time. We’d enjoyed the experience but last year’s lockdown meant that Christmas 2000 was spent at home in the house watching the telly, reading, and eating and drinking. This year, though, we decided to get away. Despite the resurgence of the lurgy with the Omicron variant, we were all fully vaccinated and boosted and decided we’d get away, booking a rather nice apartment in Fossgate in the centre of York. Like Haarlem, it’s an old city with plenty to see (although only a couple of hours drive from home – M62 willing, of course!) while being careful to minimise the risk of picking up the virus.

Our apartment on Fossgate. The top 2 floors of an old Georgian building above a shop

We arrived late afternoon the day before Christmas Eve returning the day after Boxing Day. After a relatively trouble free drive over the Pennines, we unloaded and then set out to explore the streets of York. It was the last day of the Christmas market and we managed to catch the last few hours before it shut down.

Christmas tree on Parliament Street
The Christmas market

After a mooch around the market and town centre we returned to the apartment and settled in, adding a few Christmassy touches (I was surprised that the owners hadn’t put up a few decorations)

After a few hours relaxing we went out again, but not so far. We’d booked a table in a Polish restaurant, the Blue Barbakan, just a few doors down the street.

Afterwards we had a short stroll around the now quiet streets

The Shambles. It’s usually jammed with tourists!
Colliergate
The MInster

On Christmas Eve I was up fairly early before the rest of the family and popped out to stock up with some supplies for our traditional Christmas Eve buffet. Later when everyone one was up we set out to explore the city in the daylight. Son and daughter did there own thing but we all met up later for a coffee.

Low Petergate

West end of the MInster

St William’s College
One of the many Medieval churches
St Crux Parish Room
The Kiosk – an excellent coffee shop just across from our apartment

We returned to the apartment and spent the late afternoon watching the live stream of the service from the Minster while preparing and then eating our meal. Lots to eat and plenty of leftovers for Boxing Day!

Everyone (with one usual exception!) was up bright and early on Christmas morning. When everyone was up it was time to open our presents. A few hours later it was time to prepare our Christmas dinner. No turkey for us – we’re not fans and – but we’d bought some good quality steaks. We hadn’t been sure of what the cooking facilities would be like so had opted for a relatively easy approach. The steaks would only need frying and we’d bought mainly pre-prepared veg that only needed heating in the oven.

My Christmas dinner main course – with a smoked wild salmon stater preceding and follwed by Christmas pud

Afterwards we sat and chatted before going out for a short mooch around the quiet streets to walk off some of the carbs! Most of the evening was spent eating, drinking and watching TV. Not much different than at home but the change in surroundings made it a nice change. And later on I went out for a short walk around the quiet streets.

Tree dressed up with lights in York Castle square
The Merchant Adventurer’s Hall at night
Bootham Bar
The Minster central tower
East end of the Minster

Boxing Day was spent on more sightseeing along the walls and around the streets of the small city.

The Merchant Adventurer’s Hall

https://www.flickr.com/photos/85478582@N00/51775916585/in/album-72177720295505935/

Monk Bar
On the walls
Looking towards the Minster from the walls
Foundations of the original Roman Walls
The Merchant Taylor’s Hall

A number of the shops were open for the post Christmas sales.

We returned to the apartment and spent the evening finishing off the food and drink left over from the previous two days while watching Christmas films on TV before turning in for our last night of our short Christmas break. We’d enjoyed it – it was good to get away for a change of scenery. All being well we’ll be doing it again in 2022.

A brief visit to Knaersborough

Last week we’d been up to the North East for a few days. I had a work commitment up there so we took the opportunity to stop over a couple of nights and visit some family. On the way back home we decided to break the journey and stopped off at Knaersborough, somewhere I’d never been before.

It’s an old town, going back to Norman times, if not before, with the remnants of a Norman fortress. Although in the middle of Yorkshire it used to be part of the Duchy of Lancaster. It’s very close to Harrogate (which I have visited several times for work and pleasure) and was the main centre in the locality until mineral waters were discovered in the latter leading to it’s development of a spa resort and subsequently outgrowing it’s older neighbour in size and importance.

We only had a few hours to spare – especially with the short hours of daylight during this time of the year, but that was enough to get a flavour of the small town. We parked up in a car park on the edge of the town centre and then made our way down to the market square. It was market day, so we had a mooch around the stalls before looking for a suitable hostelry to grab a bite to eat. The small town isn’t lacking in cafes and the likes, and we decided on the Six Poor Folk a cafe bar located in a former hospital for paupers, dating back to 1480. It was quite small and could only “cater” for a small number of patients, hence its name.

It was very cosy and nicely decorated inside (with appropriate spacing and other Covid precautions)

and was even frequented by the Town Crier

We bought ourelves a tasty light lunch (I had the steak sandwich) and J treated herself to a glass of mulled wine

Well fed, we wandered over towards the ruins of the Norman castle, taking in the view over the River Nidd far below.

There were dark clouds in the sky, but some sunshine kept breaking through lighting up the keep.

The castle was held by Royalists during the Civil War but was captured by Parliamentarian troops. As with other Royalist strongholds, it was subsequently dismantled leaving the ruins we see today.

Inside the grounds there’s an impressive Tudaor building which today houses a small museum

with displays, including furniture from when it was used as a courtroom during Tudor times, and exhibits about the castle, the town and notable former residents.

After visiting the interesting little museum (entry fee only £2) we had a mooch around the small town centre. The buildings looked to be largely Georgian. I noticed that quite a few of them had tromp d’oiel paintings on their exterior.

Knaresborough used to a centre of the linen industry and there’s a number of old textile mills that have been repurposed, like the one below which is an art gallery and framing shop

The most famous person associated with Knaersborough is Ursula Sontheil, better known as Mother Shipton. Born in 1488, during the reign of Henry VII, she found renown as a prophetess, allegedly foretelling the future of several monarchs, the Great Fire of London in 1666, and the defeat of the Spanish Armada. the cave where she is supposed to have been born is a popular tourist attraction, which include a petrifying well which “turns everyday objects into stone” by the precipitation of minerals onto their surface when submerged. There’s a statue of the prophetess in the Market Square

close to a second celebrating another former resident, Jack Metcalf, better known as Blind Jack, who lost his eyesight due to smallpox at the age of six. Despite this he found fame as a musician, tourist guide, soldier (who was present at the Battle of Culloden) and road engineer.

After purchasing a couple of slices of Yorkshire curd from a local baker’s to take home with us, we headed back to the car and then set off on the journey home. It was only 4 o’cock but was already starting to go dark.

We enjoyed our brief stop in the town and may find ourselves back there again to explore further in the furture.

Chester

For many years I was a regular visitor to Chester. Our little company had its main office there and we used to hold courses in town centre hotels. So I used to have to drive over to the city every couple of weeks or so. The visits were for business purposes, but I did sometimes pop into the city centre to nosey round the shops or just have a bit of a wander. Over the years, things changed. We started using hotels on the outskirts of the city and then even started using hotels nearer to where I live. And then even relocated our office to Deeside – not far from Chester but the rent was cheaper. As a consequence of all this for 10 years or more I’ve hardly visited the city. However, earlier this year I needed to meet up with our company pensions adviser who’s based in Chester, so I took the opportunity to have a mooch around and reacquaint myself with the sites.

Chester has been around a long time, developing around a Roman fort, Deva Victrix, in 79 AD. It has the most complete city walls in England, mainly medieval but with some Anglo Saxon and Roman foundations. I’s shopping centre is dominated by the Rows – “double decked” shopping streets – and black and white building, allegedly medieval but mainly restored by the Victorians.

After my meeting, as the walls were quite close by, I decided to go for a walk around them.

The walls run alongside the River Dee to the south of old city.

Chester Castle
Passing the racecourse on the Roodee, the site of the Roman harbour. Established in 1539, It’s supposed to be the oldest racecourse still in operation in the world
approaching the Cathedral

https://greatacre.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/chester-cathedral/Saint Werburgh’s Cathedral, built in dark Cheshire sandstone, was founded in 1093 as the abbey church of a Benedictine monastery and still has many monastic features, including cloisters. These survived the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII as it had already become a cathedral. There’s been significant changes and additions over the years, particularly during the Victorian period between 1868 and 1876. The original building was Romanesque, but it was gradually changed and remodelled in the Gothic style.

To the north of the Cathedral, Abbey Square, line with attractive Georgian houses, is an oasis of peace and quiet, almost hidden away behind the busy shopping streets.

The Shropshire Union Canal flows right through the centre of the city, just outside the city walls.

Last day in Whitby

DSC00038

The weather changed on the last day of our holiday. The rain came in and the temperature dropped. So it was a day for stopping in, reading, relaxing, drinking tea and eating cake (!) and otherwise occupying ourselves. But I do get itchy feet so during the afternoon, when the rain had eased for a while, I went out for a short walk on the West Cliff and took a few shots to remind me of an enjoyable week in the historic seaside town.

The Crescent – only half of it was ever built!
DSC00035
The statue of Captain Cook looking out to sea
Looking through the Whalebone Arch – it’s hard to get a chance of this shot on a fine day as everyone wants their photo taken under the arch – not as much of a problem on a colder, wet day!
DSC00040
A neo Gothic house – a little creepy given which novel is set here
DSC00034
The Modernist style pavillion by the outdoor paddling pool

I decided to walk down to the bottom of the cliff and take a short stroll on the beach

DSC00029
A memorial bench on the path
DSC00030

Visiting Anne

The old parish church of Scarborough, St Mary’s with Holy Apostles, sits just below the castle, on the hill above the old town. Just across the road from the church, slightly closer to the castle, there’s a graveyard. It’s an attractive, peaceful setting. Most of the “residents” died in the 18th and 19th centuries but one of them is better known than most – Anne Brontë, the youngest of the three famous literary sisters. Although associated with the small textile town of Haworth, tucked away in the moors over to the west of Yorkshire, and not so far from Lancashire, she had died in Scarborough which she was visiting in hope that the sea air would relieve the symptoms of TB, which she suffered. Alas, only a few days after she arrived, she died of the disease on the 28 May 1849, aged only 29.

She’s the lesser known of the 3 sisters, although she wrote two novels, Agnes Grey, (1847) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, (1848). Like their author, they are overshadowed by her sisters works. However, in recent years her work, and importance, has begun to be re-evaluated as being more radical (in subject matter and style) compared to her sisters.

Anne “is now viewed as the most radical of the sisters, writing about tough subjects such as women’s need to maintain independence and how alcoholism can tear a family apart.”

Sally McDonald of the Brontë Society

always described as sweet and stoic, ….. I found (her) to be fierce and radical, with much to teach us about how to live.

Samantha Ellis

I have to own up to never having read anything by the Brontës, but have always been interested in the story of their lives and their achievement, as women during the Victorian era, to overcome prejeudice against their sex and become famous, well respected, literary authors.

In a book I read recently, Walking the Invisible, the author Michael Stewart writes about the lives of the sisters and describes his walks in their footsteps in a series of walking trails that he developed as part of his Brontë Stones Project. It was when reading the book that I discovered that Anne was buried in Scarborough and so while we were in the seaside town I decided to seek out her grave. It wasn’t difficult to locate in the little graveyard.

The headstone is weathered and the inscription badly damaged by the salty sea air. Commissioned by her elder sister, Charlotte it was meant to read

Here lie the remains of Anne Brontë, daughter of the Revd P. Brontë, Incumbent of Haworth, Yorkshire. She died Aged 28 May 28th 1849.

Visiting the grave 3 years after Anne died, Charlotte found that there were a number of errors and had it refaced. But one error remained – it said she was 28 when she died, but in reality she was 29.

Given the poor condition of the inscription, the Brontë Society installed a new plaque next to the grave in 2011.

I enjoyed Michael Stewart’s book very much and it’s put me in mind to visit Howarth, follow some of the routes he describes and seek out the stones, which have inscriptions of poems by Carol Anne Duffy, Jackie Kay, Jeanette Winterson and Kate Bush. Perhaps I should find time to read some of the Brontës’ novels too. What do you think?

Scarborough Castle

DSC09968

Scarborough Castle is an impressive medieval fortress in a stunning location overlooking the town from high up on the cliffs. Given it’s setting, it rather reminded me of Chinon Castle in the Loire region of France.

We walked across the town from the museum and climbed up the hill to enter through the fortified gatehouse. The castle is under the stewardship of English Heritage so we were able to enter without paying the entrance fee on the day.

There’s evidence of human habitation on the promentry from pre-historic times and the Romans were here – they built a signal station on the cliffs. The first castle on the site was built in the 12th Century. It becam a Crown property during the reign of Henry II and over time was expanded to become a major fortress. It was beseiged, and badly damaged, during the Civil War, although, due to it’s strategic position on the coast, a garrison was kept here until the 19th century. Although a ruin today, there are substantial remains to explore and it’s location presents good views over the coast and town.

The remains of the fortifications are along the south of the headland, facing the old town. During medieval times the cliffs to the north would have been pretty much impregnable.

DSC00002
A view over the Barbican towards the south bay

We walked past the Inner Bailey and bought a coffee from the kiosk next to the Master Gunner’s House – a later building. We then decided to walk along the top of the cliffsto take in the views before exploring the walls from the east side.

About half way along the cliffs there’s the site of a Roman signal station, one of a chain of structures built along the north east coast. There’s little in the way of physical remains of the Roman structure. A chapel was built on the site near a “holy” well, in about 1000 AD which was extended over the next few centuries and the visible stonework are the remains of this building.

DSC09979
DSC09980
The well
DSC09982

At the end of the headland we reached the eastern end of the castle walls. They’re still quite substantial.

DSC09987

There’s remains of several towers and rooms incorporated with the curtain walls and ruins of other structures inside the Outer Bailey.

DSC09994
DSC09988

We made our way to the Inner Bailey with it’s rectangular keep known as the Great Tower.

DSC09998

There’s a viewing platform here that provides god views over the town, harbour and south bay.

DSC09999
A view from the castle walls over the harbour
The Great Tower – it was badly damaged when beseiged during the Civil War
DSC00006
Inside the Great Tower
View over the Inner Bailey from the viewing platform
The curtain walls seen from the viewing platform
DSC09983
Looking back towards the castle on our way back to the car after our visit

A day in Scarborough

DSC09935

The Thursday of our holiday we drove over to Scarborough. As far as I can remember I’d never been there before (although I’d been to Filey and Bridlington, a little further down the course, in the distant past). But Scarborough is the largest resort on the North Yorkshire coast. It’s been a popular destination since the 17th Century, originally as a Spa resort, but it really took off after the opening of the Scarborough–York railway in 1845, which brought in workers from the Yorkshire mill towns. The town goes back much further, though, as demonstrated by the impressive remains of a medieval castle on the hill overlooking the town. The Romans were certainly here and it’s likely that the town was founded by the Vikings. It’s built around two bays, separated by the hill that’s topped by the castle. The Marine Drive now goes round the end of the cliffs, linking the 2 bays, but this hasn’t always been the case.

There’s plenty of parking – not free, mind – and we parked up on the Marine Drive on the north bay. We walked round to the south bay, the site of the original medieval old town, and the attractive harbour.

DSC09938
The Belle

After exploring the harbour we walked along hte prom on the south bay which is typical of a British seaside resort with the usual tacky amusment arcades and shops selling trinkets, with the odours of fish and chips, greasy fry ups and do-nuts constantly present. We carried on, climbing up through the gardens before the Grand Hotel, to the top road where there was a good view over the bay to the castle.

DSC09946
DSC09968
DSC09967

The Grand Hotel was opened in 1867, when it was the largest hotel and the largest brick structure in Europe. It’s a Grade II* listed building. Today it’s owned by Britannia Hotels and so, like all their other hotels, it’s best avoided.

DSC09941
The Grand Hotel – historic, but not so grand these days

We’d decided to visit the small museum so made our way past the Grand Hotel

DSC09950
Pedestrian high level walkway

walking the short distance to the Georgian Rotunda building where it’s located.

DSC09965

The mseum has small, but interesting, collection – mainly concentrating on fassils and the geology of the area.

DSC09952
DSC09962
rather a lot of ammonites!
DSC09961

The exhibits in the drum of the building are displayed in a way that probably hasn’t changed much since it was founded.

DSC09957
Some of the exhibits displayed in glass cabinets lining the walls of the drum
DSC09956
The old spiral staicase leading to the, now inaccessible, upper level in the dome.
DSC09960
Some more exhibits
DSC09954
The dome is very impressive – but it’s impossible to capture that in a photograph.
DSC09955
A frieze around the base of the dome shows the geology of the north Yorkshire coast. I zoomed in on the section showing the Whitby area

We spent about an hour in the museum and then headed across the town towards the castle – and that deserves a post of it’s own. We also wanted to visit a celebrity in the old churchyard – you’ll have to wait to see whao that is (or perhaps you can make a guess!).

There was more to see in Scarborough, but our time there was limited. I’d have liked to have walked round to the old Spa building and the funicular railway and also spent some time walking along the norrth bay. It’s certainly worth another visit if we’re over that way again.

A walk along the cliffs

DSC09885

The forecast for Tuesday predicted that after a reasonable start it would be a wet and windy afternoon. I was up early (as usual!) and decided to get out for a bracing walk along the cliffs to the south of Whitby before the weather changed. I managed to persuade my son to acompany me, be he soon lost his enthusiasm and turned back half way through the walk.

We crossed over to the East Cliff and climbed up the 199 Steps circumnavigating the graveyard with views over the sea and towards the Abbey ruins.

DSC09886

We joined the coastal path, which is part of the Cleveland Way route, and which would take us along the cliffs

DSC09889
Passing the Abbey
DSC09887

There were other people walking along the path, probably making their way to Robin Hood’s Bay. That wasn’t my plan. I’d walked from Robin Hood’s Bay back to Whitby last time we stayed here. I could have carried on walking the route in reverse this time but I’d decided to turn around at the lighthouse, which is about a third of the way to Robin Hood’s Bay and retrace my steps and get back to Whitby before the rain came in. I actually think the best views are gained walking towards Whitby.

Here’s some photos I shot from the top of the cliffs – some taken going out and some coming back.

Looking back towards the Abbey and the harbour
DSC09894
DSC09907
The cliffs are very friable and are being rapidly eroded by the North Sea. I could see several diversions of the path inland since my last walk along here.
DSC09900
Approaching the lighthouse. It’s been converted into a couple of holiday cottages – a dramatic place to stay.
DSC09902
DSC09906
Just south of the lighthouse is a foghorn
DSC09908
I don’t know whether it’s still operational but I wouldn’t want to be staying in one of the lighthouse cottages if it was.

I turned around just after the lighthouse and headed back along the path towards Whitby. On the way I decided to divert down the cliffs to Saltwick bay. The tide was receding revealling a good stretch of fine sand.

DSC09914
DSC09916

The last time we holidayed in Whitby we’d been fossiling here and without making any real effort I picked up a couple of pieces of ammonite and could see fragments of fossils in some of the larger rocks.

Returning to the cliff top path, with the tide going out remains of a wrecked boat were revealed

DSC09912
DSC09921

It didn’t take me long to get back to Whitby. I called into the bookshop (I just couldn’t help myself) and made a purchase and stopped off at a couple of shops to purchase some supplies. The cloud had been coming in during my walk and it started to rain quite heavily, but fortunately I wasn’t far from the cottage.

I spent the afternoon taking it easy and catching up on some reading, drinking tea and eating cake! But in the evening we’d booked a table in the Magpie cafe on the harbour which is renowned for it’s fish and chips and other seafood. Last time we were here it was closed as there had been a fire, but it had been renovated since then. It’s very popular and although we’d booked a few days in advance could only get a table fairly late in the evening.

We had a very enjoyable meal.

I started with a plate of oysters
My main course – hake wrapped in parma ham served with muscles
I’m afraid I couldn’t resist the banana bread and butter pudding with custard – several shots of insulin required!

After eating the rain had eased off so we walked along the harbour, climbed up to the Whale bone arch and made our way back to our cottage

Whitby east side

Monday morning during our holiday in Whitby was rather gloomy. But after breakfast, while everyone else was taking it easy in the cottage, I decided to go out for a wander over to the east side of the harbour.

After crossing the bridge I turned down Church Street and where I found myself irresistibly drawn into the rather good independent bookshop, The Whitby Bookshop. After a good browse I carried on down Church Street before turning down Henrietta Street which leads to the harbour piers. I passed the smokehouse, but decided against purchasing any kippers. I’m very fond of the smoked herring but didn’t want to stink out the cottage!

I reached the harbour and walked onto the walls

DSC09858

DSC09861

Taking care to avoid being blown off the wall by the strong wind, I snapped a few photos of the town under the moody sky.

DSC09856

DSC09854

DSC09851

I set off back towards the cottage,

Picking up a few supplies on the way.

After dinner, it had brightened up so leaving our daughter behind to catch up on some work for her course, the rest of us decided to walk over to the east side of the town to have a mooch in the shops and take a few photos under a sunnier sky

DSC09871

DSC09870

DSC09868

DSC09879

DSC09878

Whitby Abbey

DSC09809

After the walk with my son along to Sandsend and back, during the afternoon all four of us headed through Whitby, over to the East Cliff and then up the 199 steps to visit the ruins of the Abbey. Perched on top of the cliffs above the town and next to the old Parish Church, even on a fine day it has rather a “spooky” atmosphere, especially when viewed across the graveyard as in the picture above! No wonder Bram Stoker used this as a location for the early part of Dracula.

We’d all been into the abbey during our previous visit to Whitby, but it was certainly worth another visit – although you can much of the structure from outside the walls without paying the entry fee, we’re all either members of English Heritage or Cadw (the Welsh equivalent) so we got free entry and were able to get a closer view.

The current Abbey wasn’t the first one on the site. The original Anglo Saxon builing was founded St Hild when Whitby was part of the Anglo Saxon kingdom of Northumbria, way back in the 7th Century when the the town was known as Streaneshalch and is the liklely location of an important gathering of the clergy, known as the Synod of Whitby, which established the dominance of the Roman Church over the Celtic tradition in the kingdom of Northumbria. The Anglo Saxon building was destroyed following the Viking raids in the 9th Century. The site was then deserted for a couple of hundred years until after the Norman invasion when a new Romanesque Benedictine Abbey was founded in 1078. This wasreplaced by the current Gothic structure constructed over a protracted period between the 13th and 15th Centuries. The Abbey was closed by Henry VIII in 1540 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and it gradually fell into ruin – no doubt used as a “quarry” by the locals.

Here’s a few shots I took during our visit.

DSC09812
DSC09828
DSC09819
DSC09817
DSC09815