Westward Holidays in Northern England (2)

Westward Holidays in Northern England (2)

From Pablo Ruiz Picasso airport in Malaga you have daily direct low cost flights to Northern England via Leeds, Liverpool or Manchester. In 2008 I chose to land at John Lennon Liverpool airport because Liverpool was the EuropeanCity of Culture for that year.


A fascinating city indeed. Like Seville, Liverpool is the fourth most populated city in England. Already exploited as a harbour in Roman times, at the beginning of the 19th century, 40% of the world’s trade went through Liverpool. A multi-cultural city, it accommodates the most ancient Chinese and African communities in Europe.


It is said that during some time in that period, its wealth exceeded that of London and the customs office was the biggest tax payer in the country. It is also said that the first “sky scraper” ever built in the world was the one you see below. New York architects were inspired by this building to erect Manhattan.


Liverpool is known for football and for fans whenever the Beatles are mentioned. But if you dig a bit into the city’s history, you will see that over the past centuries, Liverpool as well as Northern England were closely related to the world wide phenomenon known as the Industrial Revolution that – as a matter of fact – began in Great Britain before spreading to the rest of the world.

The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes in the period from about 1760 to sometime between 1820 and 1840. This transition included going from hand production methods to machines, new chemical manufacturing and iron production processes, improved efficiency of water power, the increasing use of steam power, and the development of machine tools. It also included the change from wood and other bio-fuels to coal. Textiles were the dominant industry of the Industrial Revolution in terms of employment, value of output and capital invested. Textiles were also the first to use modern production methods…

Public Domain.

Public Domain.

Painting depicting the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railwayin 1830, the first inter-city railway in the world and which spawned Railway Mania due to its success.  (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Industrial_Revolution.)

As in many other cities of the world, Liverpool suffered from industrial decline in the seventies. But besides its renowned universities, Liverpool has converted itself into a very modern city…



…as it opened up to tourism thanks – among other things – to the Beatles’ legacy.


Tourism is indeed the direction taken by England five years after the end of Second World War, notably by the conversion of large rural areas of great natural beauty into National Parks.  The National Parks of England and Wales are areas of relatively undeveloped and scenic landscape that are designated under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. Despite their similar name, national parks in England and Wales are quite different from national parks in many other countries, which are usually owned and managed by the government as a protected community resource, and which do not usually include permanent human communities. In England and Wales, designation as a national park may include substantial settlements and human land uses which are often integral parts of the landscape, and land within a national park remains largely in private ownership. (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_parks_of_England_and_Wales ).

My Londoner friend has his summer residence in Settle on the western edge of the YorkshireDalesNational Park, located in North Yorkshire, one of the thirteen National Parks of England and Wales

The small town of Settle, our base, lies at the south western border of the Park, not far from Lancashire and Cumbria; a lovely, peaceful town with around 2,500 inhabitants boasting 24 B&B hotels and inns in addition to the many cottages you can rent for one or two weeks in the summer season. There are many websites offering cottages for rent, for example: http://www.yorkshire-cottages.info/?gclid=CKbh_L6Q48ACFVDItAod-xIACA



Settle is thought to have 7th-century Anglian origins, its name being the Angle word for settlement.  It is well served by an exquisite Victorian station. If you wish to plan your train trips in Northern England, there are two web sites to visit. The first is the official site: http://www.rail.co.uk/uk-train-travel/rail-route-map/ . The second site presents unique and interesting trips using former national rail lines that have now been taken over by private voluntary groups who run heritage train trips through very dramatic scenery. http://www.heritagerailways.com/visits_home.php





Settle also has a very well furbished tourist office showing you the many activities you can do in the area. Hiking in the hills is one of the most popular activities in the area, as well as biking and camping.



Dales means Valley. They are created by rivers and give their names to the Dale they pass through such as Wharfedale, Wensleydale and Swaledale all of which were crossed by the 2014 Tour de France in its first stage. It may sound familiar to you as on June 5th and 6th 2014 the Tour de France began its first and second stages in Yorkshire finishing on its first day in Harrogate.


We did not take the time to explore this North Yorkshire tourist destination of 150,000 people known for its therapeutic Spa waters. However, I will never ever forget Harrogate thanks to the most flabbergasting five o’clock tea I have ever had in my life at a café called Bettys. It is a Yorkshire family business selling coffee, tea, chocolate and craft bakery items as you can see in this picture. The tea room was huge yet we had to line up for about twenty minutes before being able to get a table and the next photo shows you the result of our order for “Cream Teas” for three people


Everything was absolutely delicious and exquisite: the decor, plates, but even more so for our palates: cakes, scones, sandwiches, tea, cream: unforgettable!

It is now easy to sample the delights of Betty’s by visiting their website http://www.bettys.co.uk/ where you will have the chance to feast your eyes on these “merveilles du palais”.

These cream teas are highly recommended wherever and whenever you wish to satisfy your hunger or greed and can be found in many cafes in North Yorkshire.


In England, never hesitate to enter any coffee house or tea room. You will not regret it




From Settle you can visit nearby Bolton Abbey, a ruined 12th century Augustinian Monastery destroyed by Henry VIII in 1540. It is the best way for you to feel you are moving or walking in a Constable painting


You can also make a short walk uphill to watch the sheep and cows grazing in the meadows.




In England, access to cultivated land is restricted to bridlewayspublic footpaths, and permissive paths, with most (but not all) uncultivated areas in England and Wales having right of access for walking under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_parks_of_England_and_Wales ).  As grassland is considered uncultivated, you are free to walk almost wherever you want in the Yorkshire Dales, for example among the limestone hills and scars above Settle as seen below.

After a short trip by train from Settle, you can reach the seaside town of Morecambe on the Irish Sea, once a very popular holiday resort before the Second World War but now fallen on harder times.



The train journey crosses bucolic scenes of grazing cattle and sheep.



Once in Morecambe, I daydreamed again imagining Ireland somewhere there over the sea to the west…


…while comfortably sitting at the terrace of the Midland Hotel, a 1930’s Art deco masterpiece built by Midland Railway train company.


Also, I was admiring Blackpool on the other side of the bay.


never ever imagining that my eyes could catch such beautiful vistas.


feeling again very far away from home.

Another option is to take the train to visit York in the east of Yorkshire travelling vía Leeds and, again, not believing your eyes when looking at the roofs of the street known as the Shambles, built in the Middle Ages.




or at the lollipops in the sweet shop.

York is best known for its magnificent cathedral, York Minster and for urban lovers, there’s no doubt York is a town to visit. With my apologies, I’ll skip it preferring to end this second part of what I consider to be a very exotic holiday by moving on to the Lake DistrictNational Park. Located less than one hour’s drive from Settle, in the county of Cumbria, the Park consists of soaring uplands and twelve lakes, the beauty of which has inspired poets and painters over the years and continues to do so.


Here is a lady with a life buoy around her dog as it contemplates going for a swim in the lake.




There, a glimpse of the poetic and romantic dimensions of these lakes.


There again are a few examples of the fantastic accommodation available in the area, in some cases in the converted mansions of the Victorian industrial ex moguls who were among the first to colonise this area as a holiday destination, especially on the banks of one of the largest lakes, Windermere.


Finally, there is an opportunity to dine with a sophisticated and healthy cuisine at the Drunken Duck Inn as I did and still remember it.


or to have a simple snack and enjoy a mountainous landscape.


http://drunkenduckinn.co.uk for those who would like to know more.

If you wish to see more photos of the Lake District:  http://www.lakedistrict.gov.uk/learning/freephotos

I started my first off topic article Holidays in Northern England (Eastward) by showing beautiful gardens and parks including the surprising Speke Hall close to Liverpool airport. I will end this article by the most unbelievable garden and park I have ever seen in my life which is also located in the Lake District, Cumbria: Levens Hall’s topiary garden.


The definition of topiary given by http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/topiary is plants (such as trees and bushes) that are cut or grown into decorative shapes; also : the art of shaping plants in this way. It comes from the latin topiarius, from topia ornamental iregular gardening and  from Greek topos place.



The shapes of this unique private English garden are like giant chess pieces. The history of this many centuries’ old garden is worth a detective story. Have a look at it at http://www.levenshall.co.uk/







We come to the end of this Mediterranean view of “the GardenIsland”. If my wholehearted enthusiasm convinces you, a practical reminder: don’t forget to plan your visit to Northern England in June, July or August because in winter, it often snows!