My Hebridean Adventure

2022-05-14 14:42:30

I’ve wanted to visit the Scottish Islands for a long time but never got round to actually organising a trip other than an abortive visit to Arran which had to be cancelled due to an impending storm. But now I’ve got more time on my hands I decided I really ought to sort something out. One of the problems was deciding where to start – which islands should I visit, where should I go and what should I do when I got there and where should I stay? To resolve these questions I took inspiration from John, the husband of Anabel the Glasgow Gallivanter, who had joined an organised cycling trip along the length of the Outer Hebrides. So I looked at the available options and booked a week’s walking holiday on Skye, Harris and Lewis with Hidden Hebrides, who specialise in small group trips. They organised everything (except my journey too and from Inverness where the group gathered to be transported to Skye) – transport, accommodation, meals and routes – which really took the stress out of the holiday and meant I could really relax and enjoy myself. The only thing they couldn’t organise, of course, was the weather and as this was the Hebrides we had a mixture of brilliant sunshine, wind and rain! There’s a lot to write up about this trip so this post will provide a quick overview.

I’ve never done a group holiday before so was a little worried about whether I’d be the odd one out and whether I’d get on with the other people in the group, but there were no problems. There were only 7 of us (the maximum on Hidden Hebrides holidays is 8) and we all had something in common – a love of walking. There were 2 Scottish couples who were close friends but this didn’t create any difficulties. The other two members of our party, were like me, solo travellers – one Dutch and one Brit who had, until recently, lived in Manchester. Everyone mixed and gelled very well.

I travelled up to Inverness by train – An Avanti Pendolino to Edinburgh where I transferred to the Scotrail train to Inverness. It was a full day journey and the second leg took longer than the first, but that was compensated by the excellent views out of the window as we made our way relatively slowly with regular stops via Perth and then through the Cairngorms.

A slight delay meant I arrived in Inverness just after 5 pm. I checked in my hotel – the Premier Inn beside the river Ness – and, as it was a beautiful evening – took a walk along the river to the Ness Islands before my evening meal.

The next day wasn’t so nice. It was a grey start with rain promised and the latter started as I made my way to the station to join our guide and the rest of the group.

After the introductions we loaded our gear into the mini-bus and set off on the road to Skye. The rain got heavier and heavier during the journey which took us along the banks of Loch Ness (no monster seen – the weather was far too miserable so it must have stayed down in the depths of the loch!) and then on to the Kyle of Lochash where we crossed over the bridge onto the island. On the way, we stopped off at Eilean Donan to take in the view of the castle which has featured in films and TV programmes including the well known Highlander film while we ate our sandwiches. It’s very picturesque, even on a miserable day

Eilean Donan castle

After returning to the mini bus it was only a short drive before we were on the Isle of Skye where the weather continued to deteriorate until we were being battered by horizontal rain and strong winds.

We drove around for a while but the rain and low cloud meant there was little we could see of the the high mountains and the conditions were not conducive for enjoying a walk. Nevertheless, we managed to get out of the van for a walk on the Coral beach when the rain eased up. It wasn’t half windy though!

The Coral Beach on Skye

It was good to get out and stretch our legs and enjoy some fresh (and it was fresh) air and the scenery was pretty good, despite the conditions.

Returning to the van we drove over to our accommodation for the first 3 nights of our break. The group was split between two B and Bs and I had a room in the really excellent Ronan House, a real 5 star stay.

After we’d had time to settle in our Guide, John, returned to pick us up and with the rest of the group we drove over to Portree, the main town on the island, where we had a superb meal at the Cuchullin Restaurant on the main square.

My main course – perfectly cooked scallops on risotto

After a good night’s sleep and an excellent breakfast, the early mist started to clear, promising a fine day – a complete change compared to when we arrived.

The view from Ronan House

John, our Guide, who decided on the walking route depending on conditions, drove north from Portree, pas the Old Man of Storr up to the Quairaing at the northern end of the Trotternish ridge. The circular walk is very popular which isn’t surprising due to the spectacular, rugged and dramatic scenery and the views, on a beautiful day, over to the Scottish mainland and the Western Isles.

After a drive round the northern coast we took a short walk to stretch our legs up the pretty, so called “Fairy Glen” near Uig.

In the evening we had another tasty meal in Dunvegan.

We were promised another good day on the Monday but it started out rather grey and chilly. We drove over to Broadford, where we picked up supplies, and then on to the Strathaird Peninsula. Our walk took us past historic Clearance villages, along a sea loch with views over to the islands of Eig and Rum, and then, just after the cloud cleared and the weather turned bright and sunny, as we turned a corner, we finally got a view of the magnificent Cuillin range of mountains.

We were back in Portree for our evening meal

Looking over to the Black Cuillins from Portree

before returning to the B and B. We had an early start the next day as we had to catch the ferry from Uig over to Tarbert on the Isle of Harris.

The next three days would be spent on Harris and Lewis. Although nominally two “islands” they are actually part of the same land mass, which constitutes the 3rd largest island in the British Isles. Harris constitutes the mountainous southern part of the island with the larger Lewis being flatter (although not exactly flat!) and dominated by peat bogs.

The ferry took just short of 2 hours to reach Tarbet where we disembarked and made straight to the Harris Tweed and Harris Gin outlets which other members of the group were keen to visit to “support the local economy”. After they’d spent their money (!) we set out to visit the renowned beaches of the western coast.

After a drive along the dramatic twisting and turning “Golden Road” on the eastern side of the island – so called because of the cost involved in its construction – and a meal in tarbert, we drove down the spine road over to Stornoway, the main town on the island, on Lewis where we settled in to our accommodation for the next three nights. Not as fancy as Ronan House, my room was well appointed and comfortable.

The next day we drove through the rain over the peat bogs to the west of the Island and the remote settlement of Uig (same name as the port on Skye) with it’s magnificent beach where the renowned Lewis Chessmen were discovered.

We parked up near the small Abhainn Dearg Distillery and then set out in the rain for a walk along the dramatic cliffs nearby. Fortunately the rain eased off early in our walk.

Returning to our starting point we left our packs in the van. We then set off for a walk across the beach while John drove over to meet us at the other end .

The weather forecast for the next day wasn’t at all promising so no long walks were planned. During the morning, one of the highlights of the tour, was a visit to Marbhig, a crofting village in the South Lochs region of Lewis. Our guide, although British and from the flat lands of Peterborough, had married a local woman and lived on a croft in the village. As we took a walk around the village he explained about the crofting system, the way of working the land, how peat was cut for fuel, the history of the Clearances and the Pairc area crofts. A real inside view.

During the afternoon we drove over to the other side of the island to visit the Neolithic Callanish Standing Stones 

We had another half day in Stornoway before catching our ferry back to te mainland. We spent it exploring the grounds of Lews Castle, a Victorian Neo-Gothic Stately Home built for James Matheson who owned the island, which overlooks the town

and then visiting the excellent little museum where there were a small number of Lewis Chessmen displayed, which are on a long term loan from the British Museum.

After a visit to the shops in town to “support the local economy” we made our way to join the minibus ready for the ferry journey over to Ullapool on the mainland.

Then we drove back to Inverness for the end of the holiday. The 4 Scots were dropped off at the station to catch their train to Edinburgh while the rest of us were taken to our respective accommodation. We were all staying close to each other so decided to meet up for a final meal.

As there were engineering works on the railway I’d booked a flight back to Manchester from Inverness. This had the advantage of allowing me to return home for the Challenge Cup semi final when we were playing our old “enemy” Saint Helens. I shared a taxi with Liz, who was booked on the same flight. Despite a message to say the flight was going to be delayed we actually left on time and arrived ahead of schedule in Manchester! I said goodbye to Liz and waited for J to pick me up and drive me home. I arrived in good time for the match which, after a nail biting second half, we won!

I’d really enjoyed the holiday. The weather had been mixed, but this was the Hebrides. (I’ve heard that it rains on Harris and Lewis 2 days out of 3!).

I hadn’t done as much walking as I’d hoped, partly due to the weather but also the preferences of the whole group had to be considered. But I had a good time, had seen some magnificent scenery, visited some historic monuments, learned about the history of the islands . I’d enjoyed having some company, making a change from my usual solo walks and trips. I’d definitely consider booking another guided small group walking holiday, probably with Hidden Hebrides (I’d certainly recommend them to anyone considering a walking trip on the Scottish Islands). I quite fancy the Shetlands next!

Well, this has been quite a long summary. Despite that, I’ve a lot more I want to write up to record my memories. So more posts to follow!

Ribblehead and Hawes

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Thursday, during our stay in Settle, was something of a grey day. I had to run a web tutorial early evening, which limited out options a little, so we decided to go out for a drive – the first time we’d used our car since we’d arrived for our break the previous Saturday.

We headed north on the B6479 up Ribblesdale, through Horton-in-Ribblesdale and on to Ribblehead where we stopped to take a look at the rather majestic Ribblehead viaduct.

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The viaduct stands below Whernside, the highest of the three peaks, and is overlooked by Ingleborough. It takes trains across the windswept moor as they make their way from Settle to Carlisle.

The line was built by the Midland Railway company, which before nationalisation of the railway network, was in competition with the London and North Western Railway (LNWR). The Midland Railway wanted to use the LNWR’s lines to run trains up to Scotland but they refused. The Settle Carlisle line was the Midland Railway’s way of getting round this. The route was surveyed in 1865 and the Midland got permission from parliament to build it. However, before work started they had second thoughts due to the cost – but the Government insisted that they go ahead. So the line was constructed, running through some dramatic countryside in the Yorkshire Dales and Westmoreland.

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Back in the 80’s, British Rail wanted to close the line. Ribblehead and other viaducts and bridges needed repairing and they saw this as an expensive luxury. However, a campaign was launched to save the line by rail enthusiasts, local authorities and residents along the route and they persuaded the government to save the line. As it turned out, the repairs were nowhere as expensive as projected and the renewed interest in the route has made it popular with tourists. Scheduled trains are run by Northern Rail (that’s one of their trains crossing the viaduct in the picture above) and special excursions are also run along the scenic route, on trains often hauled by steam engines.

We parked up the car and took a short walk up to and under the viaduct

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The viaduct overlooked by Whernside
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Looking over to Ingleborough
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The arches (24 in all) stand 104 feet (32 metres) above the moor

After inspecting the viaduct and taking in the scenery, we got back in teh car and set of down the road through Widdale towards the village of Hawes at the head of Wensleydale. The road wound through bleak, but scenic, moorland. Not that I could see much as I had to keep my eyes on the road!

It didn’t take long to reach the village and, being out of season, we didn’t have any trouble finding a parking space. There’s been a market town here since 1307 and they still hold a market every Tuesday. We had a little mooch while we looked for somewhere to eat. Everything seemed to be constructed from stone and looked very quaint and attractive. I suspect that many of them aren’t as old as they perhaps first appear – probably Victorian (but I could be wrong)

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After we’d had a good look at the viaduct we returned tot eh car. We’d decided to drive along Wensleydale to Hawes, where we hoped to get a bite to eat.

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Being something of a honeypot, there were plenty of places to eat. Peering through the window I liked the look of the White Hart Inn. Although there wasn’t a menu posted outside I had a good feeling about it and was proved right as we enjoyed a rather tasty, freshly cooked meal far better than your average, unimaginative pub food.

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We ate in a cosy lounge with a real fire in a range set in an old fireplace

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After our meal we had an hour or so before we needed to return to our cottage. Now Hawes is known for being the home of Wensleydale the favourite cheese of Wallace of Wallace and Grommit fame.

Cheese was first made in the area by monks from a nearby monastery and cheesemaking continued even after they’d left. In May 1992, Dairy Crest, Board, closed the Hawes creamery transferring production of Wensleydale cheese to the Longridge factory in Lancashire. This didn’t go down too well in Yorkshire! However, following a management buyout, production restarted in Hawes. The business has flourished – helped by the publicity to Wensleydale cheese in the Wallace and Grommit films.

We decided to visit the creamery where there’s a shop and restaurant and factory tours. Unfortunately we’d missed the last tour so had to console ourselves by purchasing some cheese in the shop.

Returning to the car we drove back along the road to Ribblehead and then back down Ribblesdale. The weather had brightened up a little and I stopped to grab a photograph of Penyghent, partially lit up by the sun.

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A week in Settle

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To help transition to my life of (hopefully) increased leisure (i.e. working part time) we decided that it would be a good idea to get away for a break. We decided to take a week’s break in Settle on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales which, although is less than 1 1/2 hours drive from home, would provide a good change of pace and scenery. We hired a former mill worker’s cottage on the edge of the small town for a week and kept our fingers crossed that the weather would be favourable and not like just a couple of weeks before when we were faced by three named storms in close succession! I’m glad to say things worked out well for us and I managed to get out for a wander from the doorstep every day only going out in the car the once, on a grey day to drive up to Ribblehead and on to Hawes . We even had a night out at a concert in the old Victoria Hall- the first time I’ve been in the audience at a show for over two years.

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The Shambles, Settle

We arrived on a bright, sunny, but cold, afternoon and parked up ready to explore the small town. It’s a small town centre, but has a number of independent shops (including a good little independent bookshop, Limestone Books) and plenty of interesting old buildings.

It’s an old town having it’s market charter granted in 1249. Historically it was a centre of the cotton industry but only on a small scale and went into decline with the growth of the industry in Lancashire. It has a railway station linking it to the industrial towns of West Yorkshire but is also the starting point for the very scenic Settle to Carlisle line. Today, with it’s proximity to the Three Peaks and some beautiful limestone country, it’s a popular tourist spot. Luckily, being out of season, it was quite quiet during or stay.

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The former Town Hall
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Georgian shop
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A grand Georgian House
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More old houses
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Quaker Meeting House
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The Folly – a large “Gentleman’s residence” built in 1649. It now houses the Museum of North Craven Life and a cafe
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Old workers’ houses in Upper Settle
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Looking over to Bridge End Mill and the weir on the Ribble which has a hydroelectric power plant generating electricity
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Kings Mill – a former cotton mill on the banks of the River Ribble – now converted into flats.
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Another view of King’s Mill – I bet those flats aren’t cheap!
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View over the churchyard towards the hills

After exploring the town and popping in to one of the local cafes for a brew, we drove over to the Booths supermarket on the edge of the town to stock up with supplies for the week. It was only a few minutes drive then over to our home for the week. We unloaded, settled in and spent an easy evening making ourselves feel at home. the weather looked promising the next day and I had a route planned out!

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.

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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 starter preceding and followed 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
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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
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

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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!
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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!
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A neo Gothic house – a little creepy given which novel is set here
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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

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A memorial bench on the path
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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

A day in Scarborough

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Pedestrian high level walkway

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

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

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

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Some of the exhibits displayed in glass cabinets lining the walls of the drum
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The old spiral staicase leading to the, now inaccessible, upper level in the dome.
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Some more exhibits
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The dome is very impressive – but it’s impossible to capture that in a photograph.
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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.