On 25th June 2019, Arvind and I landed at the Heathrow Airport for a two-week holiday. As a first time visitor to England, I was looking forward to all the touristy stuff. So naturally, the majority of our time was to be spent in London – museum hopping, strolling through Hyde Park, sampling different varieties of Gin, ambling through the boroughs and riding the London Red Bus.
There was one other thing I wanted out of this trip. I had heard and read so much about the British countryside that it would have been a shame to give it a miss.
“In the quiet of this room I find that what really remains with me from this first day’s travel is not Salisbury Cathedral, nor any of the charming sights of the city, but rather the marvellous view encountered this morning of the rolling English countryside… We call this land of ours Great Britain, and there may be those who believe this a somewhat immodest practice, yet I would venture that the landscape of our country alone would justify the use of this lofty adjective.”The Remains of The Day, Kazu Ishiguro
So it was decided that we would travel outside London to satiate my appetite for the British scenery. Initially the plan was to include the white cliffs of Dover, Anfield in Liverpool, moors of Yorkshire, beaches at Brighton and a day trip to Stonehenge. But unfortunately a fortnight wasn’t enough and while we wanted to see as much as possible, we also wanted to take it easy and enjoy ourselves.
After a fair bit of planing, we decided to stick with London and York. I gave up on the stunning Dover shoreline and Arvind grudgingly agreed to forego the visit to Anfield. (He had already paid homage to Liverpool on an earlier visit, so it wasn’t too hard to convince him)
It all started back in 2002 when I was in high school. As part of our summer reading we were assigned The Hound Of The Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle. That book was my first tryst with the misty mysterious moors, followed by Wuthering Heights. As a young reader, the moors filled me with dread, yet they offered romantic possibilities and heroic moments. Now as an adult, it was finally time to relive those moments and I was not giving up the chance to experience them first hand.
Situated in the Northern England, York is rich in history, picturesque villages, quaint tearooms and gothic architecture. It is a fair bit of distance from central London (Anywhere between 2-4 hours one-way) and our trip to York was only possible because we were staying with family in Derby for a few days. Even then, we took the train out from Derby at 6AM and were in York by 8AM just in time for a quick breakfast before our pre-booked tour.
Personally, I am not a fan of guided tours. They block any scope of spontaneity and largely restrict your movement. However, given the time constraint and because Yorkshire is HUGE, we decided that in this scenario a guided tour will be our best option. A quick look through Viator and we found an amazing full day tour that not only included the Moors but also offered stops in Whitby and Goathland!
Whitby, sounds familiar?
Whitby is the place where Count Dracula lands on a shipwrecked schooner, the Demeter in Bram Stroker’s 1987 classic. Before this I was only focussing on the Moors and the countryside, but Yorkshire has so much more to offer and Whitby is one such hidden gem; a rustic, gothic town spilling with tourists.
The ruins of the Whitby Abbey towers above the town and the views from the top of the harbour out to the sea are stunning. We wandered down the 200 odd steps from the Abbey and walked through the old cobblestone streets, taking stops to check out the Dracula paraphernalia in almost all the shops and finally breaking at a local pub for fresh apple cider. We also managed to squeeze in a quick lunch at The Magpie Cafe, famous for its fish and chips.
All aboard the Hogwarts Express!
From Whitby we made our way to the beautiful Goathland Railway Station. A popular British Heritage Railway and to Harry Potter fans, better known as the fictional Hogsmeade station. We made it just in time to see other passengers arrive by steam train. Thanks to the weather conditions, we were lucky to get a chance to travel in the steam train from Goathland to Pickering. It was a comfortable 30 minute ride through beautiful countryside. At one point, it felt like I had travelled back in time.
One year later, as I reminisce about my England trip, it is not the crowded London streets or the stunning city attractions that come to my mind. Don’t get me wrong, London has a charm and I would love to go back again someday! But if the lockdown has taught me one thing, it is appreciation of nature. That day in Yorkshire stays on with me as a beautiful memory.
‘Til next time, York!