When I moved to England four years ago, I’d say I knew more about English football than anything else and that’s saying a lot as my knowledge about Premier League and the sorts was limited to a few FC’s and the aging Norwegian footballers who were decent enough to play on the British Isle around the turn of the millennium. Oh, and David Beckham. Of course.
In fact, when I moved to Lancaster I hadn’t even been to London, except for the underground at Leicester Square and King’s Cross train station. I was excited to move to a new country, but I have to admit that the thrill soon wore off and I was left feeling awfully underwhelmed by England. For the better of nearly three years I loathed the fact that I was stuck here, chained to a university I didn’t like and a town that was genuinely impossible to make feel like home. I couldn’t wait for graduation and a new future away from England.
Then I discovered London and it was love instantly. I adore London, it is the most amazing city in the world and I cannot wait to make it my home. For a long time the capital was the only good thing about the UK, but at some point during my last year in Lancaster I began to see England in a new light. I came to the realization that it wasn’t really the country I didn’t like, but my situation and the trotting on of an everyday life that I did not enjoy.
I am a bit embarrassed that it took me so long, but when I finally opened my eyes and my heart the love for the UK just kept growing at every new discovery. First, it was the encounter with the Lake District, then the Yorkshire Dales, Snowdonia, the Scottish Highlands, Edinburgh, York and now recently I was astounded by the North Yorkshire Moors that became the final piece of proof that removed any doubt about the beauty of the British Isles. It’s time to really embrace everything this wonderful country has to offer, from its stunning national parks and beautiful shores to its extraordinary capital and most amazing little villages.
Tea, Toast + Post, cute café in Robin Hood’s Bay
The trip to the North Yorkshire Moors National Park left me wondering why it had taken me so long to visit such a beautiful part of England and why exploring the UK had never tickled my fancy. Moreover, why had I never even heard of these places? I think the answer lies predominantly in the perception of the UK as a destination. As long as I can remember, England has first and foremost always been about football. Thousands of Norwegians travel to the UK every year, but most of them are driven by their love for the game and see not much more than the inside of a stadium and the bottom of a pint. Throw in a weekend in London or Edinburgh for some shopping and you’ll have about the only reasons we are told to book a flight to the UK. I dare say that this is the perception of a majority of Norwegians, maybe even Scandinavians, so why on earth would I grow up thinking any differently? It took me some time and persuasion, but I’ve realised that the UK is far more than football and London.
Hadleys Fish & Chips in Whitby
Robin Hood’s Bay from the beach
I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Yorkshire, but never really explored the area much. Maybe its due to the reason above, but also because I’ve been fed stories about the North fading in comparison to the South of England, like Cornwall and the Cotswolds. And maybe that’s why I was taken aback by the absolutely stunning Yorkshire coast last week; I had never expected to find such a remarkable piece of land, not to mention adorable villages and the most friendly people I’ve met in a long time. Although I still have yet to visit Cornwall, which truly looks spectacular, it’ll get good competition from The North Yorkshire Moors as one of my favourite destinations in England.
Whalebone arch from the West Cliff above Whitby
The North Yorkshire Moors is a National Park covering large areas of moorlan and forests that stretch out towards the east coast of England, ending its territory on steep cliffs that plunge into the North Sea. Moors might sound like a dull landscape in November, but its eerie, misty allure became a beautiful scenery mixed with the colours of autumn. The dark and mysterious atmosphere around the Moors has inspired people for centuries. I’m sure you’ve heard of Dracula and associates him with vampires, coffins and fangs. More rare is the true story of what inspired the birth of this famous fictional character; namely its creator’s visit to the North Yorkshire Moors and one of its most beloved seaside towns; Whitby. Bram Stoker wrote his most renowned novel Dracula after a stay here in the 1890s and the town became the backdrop of his masterpiece. The world famous explorer and navigator, James Cook was born in Marton near Middlesborough, but it was during his time in Whitby, as a trainee for a shipping company, that he learned his profession that later would make him the first European to reach the east coast of Australia and Hawaii. Today, the Captain Cook Memorial Museum is located in Grape Lane in Whitby were James Cook lodged with his master.
In more recent time Whitby has flourished as a cultural centre. Like the owner of Marie Antoinette told us: it’s not usually this quiet in Whitby, every weekend there’s something going on. I like that, it keeps the place alive. From Folk weekend and Christmas markets, if you find yourself in Whitby during the end of the week, you can be sure there’s something going on. However, maybe most famous is the biannual Whitby Goth Weekend. Since 1994, thousands of Goths and people of alternative lifestyles have arrived in Whitby to enjoy dance, music and each other company. Unfortunately we missed this year’s last Gothic event by a week, but the pictures looked amazing. I can’t think of a better example of celebrating the alternative or what we might call another normal.
Swing Bridge in the centre of Whitby
In mid November, the cobbled streets were peaceful and nearly empty of people admiring the characteristic old houses home to beautiful shops, cafes and Inns. More than once, I was tempted to trail off the main street and into alleys that hid gorgeous backyards with delicately decorated gardens and beautiful details.
Incredibly tasty fudge at Justin’s
Cute garden hidden away in a backyard on Church Street
We left early Monday morning for the drive up to Whitby. Views of rolling hills and moors were occasionally disrupted by patches of trees that added colour to a earthy scene of browns and reds. It was a beautiful sight. The North Yorkshire Moors is great for hiking, especially famous for the Cleveland Way, one of England’s 18 national trails, that stretches 109 miles through the national park, the latter half consisting of a beautiful coastal walk from Saltburn by the Sea in the North to Filey in the South.
Views across the North Yorkshire Moors
If you have a weekend to spare, Whitby is the ideal spot to explore parts of the Cleveland Way. From here you can use half a day walking the 6 1/2 miles along the coast to the cute village of Robin Hood’s Bay before continuing the next day along the cliffs to the holiday hotspot Scarborough. We stayed at the lovely Whitby YHA, a grade 1 mansion, on top of the East Cliff.
From the hostel grounds you have amazing views down to Whitby town centre. Adjacent to the hostel is the ruins of the iconic Whitby Abbey, a Benedictine abbey first constructed in 657 AD by King Oswy of Northumbria. Together with the graveyard of Saint Mary’s Church, it conjures a haunting and mysterious atmosphere that would undoubtably suit count Dracula…
We decided to spend our two nights in Whitby while walking the coastal route down to Scarborough. It is easily done possible by a well connected bus service between the three destinations. The other option is to stay a night at YHA Boggle Hole about 15 minutes walk from Robin Hood’s Bay. As it was mid November we started our walk early morning to make sure we had enough daylight to arrive in Robin Hood’s Bay to have a look around before the sun was setting just before four. Although the wind was present, the good weather made it bareable to walk in exposed areas along the cliffs’ edge. From Whitby the Cleveland trail starts just across the road from the Abbey. You shouldn’t be afraid to get dirty on the muddy, but well marked path. We arrived in Robin Hood’s Bay three hours after setting off from Whitby, including a break to refuel and many short stops to document the beautiful coast.
As we got the Bay into view, the path left the grassy plains and continued on among beautiful residential buildings perched on top of the cliffs on the north side of the little village. I had never even heard of Robin Hood’s Bay until a couple of days earlier and here I was, admiring small town England at its very best. Turns out this place is a little gem, something that became clear as we got closer to the town centre and the beach. Tens of B&B’s were lining the streets, testifying Robin Hood’s Bay’s position as a heaving summer destination. But that day we were among the few who were enjoying a day out in the crisp November weather. I absolutely adored Robin Hood’s Bay. The streets were narrow, the houses old and the details coiled it all together to create a incredibly charming and quirky facade.
The steep road that takes you down to Robin Hood’s old town
The very photogenic residential streets in Robin Hood’s Bay
On our second day the wind had turned icy and more ferocious, feeling like it was cutting through the bones. We decided that the eight hour walk from Robin Hood’s Bay to Scarborough along the coast was too long considering the conditions. Instead we drove to Scarborough to have a look around.
There’s no doubt that Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay have been able to maintain the feel of a quaint seaside village more successfully than Scarborough. Brimming with holiday homes in new apartment buildings and flashy lights from casinos and electrical playgrounds, the seaside resort reminds more of the extravagant, over the top Lancastrian city of Blackpool. Even in winter, its near ghostlike seafront was not able to embody the appealing atmosphere of its neighbouring towns to the north. Instead, Scarborough’s worn down appearance and miles of empty parking spaces were a testimony to my suspicions about the mayhem that goes on here during the summer months. We left after a quick look around and headed instead to Hayburn Wyke a small waterfall on the Cleveland Way.
Hayburn Wyke waterfall and the cute labrador, Holly, who showed us the way from Hayburn Wyke Inn
The rest of our time in the North Yorkshire Moors was spent enjoying Whitby. People were wonderfully friendly and we were appreciating the chats with the locals. It was obvious they were proud of their town and with good reason. Next time around I hope to visit the coastline north of Whitby, especially the seaside village Staithes, and the Dalby forest, which supposedly is ideal for stargazing. Until then, I’ll remember to never underestimate the North of England ever again!
Colourful corner shop in Whitby