It’s hard to describe how much our lives have changed since we came home – but one example is this week’s “staycation.” (By the way, I hate that word as much as you probably do, but it’s such a perfect descriptor that I can’t seem to help myself). A few years ago, Phil and I were walking through Philadelphia with our friend John as he described the concept of a staycation to me. ‘It’s when you take a holiday from work,’ he said, ‘but then you don’t travel anywhere. You just stay around your own area and maybe have a few day trips.’
“Oh, I see,” I said. “we have those too … only without the ‘cation’ part.” A man passing by burst out laughing in recognition, but it wasn’t really funny to think how long we went without any kind of break. How long so many people in America go without real breaks.
They’re better at taking holidays here in the UK. In fact they’ve mastered the art of it. They get much more time off work than we do, and even self-employed people have no problem telling clients that they’ll be away for 2 weeks and answering emails/calls when they return.
And I guess our mindset must have changed because when I suggested to Phil that we take a week off just to go out and see some sights, he readily agreed.
We’re in the middle of our time now, but I thought I’d post pictures one day at a time. Mainly because I have so much to tell you about and the post would go on forever if I tried to cover it all at once! So let’s start at the beginning.
Day One – North York Moors
On Sunday we headed up into the North York Moors for the day. This is Yorkshire’s second national park and covers 554 square miles. According to Wikipedia, it’s one of the largest expanses of heather moorland in the country and when you’re up there, you can believe it.
But it’s not all moorland – there are quaint villages, green valleys and heavily wooded areas.
It’s not an area of the county that I know well, but it’s one I’ve been looking forward to exploring.
We started out in Thirsk which is a busy market town and the real home town of the famous vet James Herriott (‘All Creatures Great and Small’). The TV show was actually filmed in a different town, but this is the house where he actually lived and worked.
(disclaimer – I didn’t take this picture and I don’t know who it belongs to as it came up in a random Google search).
We were surprised and thrilled with Thirsk. It’s a bustling town with a really pretty market square, narrow winding streets, a river, and a great atmosphere. Of course, the weather (which has been glorious every day) helped, but even in the rain I think Thirsk would be pretty.
We’ll definitely be back to explore further. In the meantime, we were headed for a ruined abbey up in the national park, so off we went. As we wound our way up into the hills, we suddenly came upon one of Yorkshire’s most recognizable landmarks – the White Horse of Kilburn. There are several white horses painted into hillsides throughout England – this one was created in 1857. I have no idea why they exist, but I’m glad they do – this one is striking to say the least.
After stopping for photos and to admire the view, we reached Byland Abbey.
The Abbey, home for hundreds of years to an order of Cistercian monks, was apparently founded in 1135. It was dissolved in 1538 when Henry VIII decided he wanted a divorce. When the pope wouldn’t grant him one, he decided to break with the Catholic church, start his own religion (which conveniently would have no problem with him getting a divorce), get rid of his wife, and then close down all the monasteries that had refused to go along with his perfectly reasonable idea. (Funny to think that if he had come up with the idea of wife-beheading earlier, the monasteries may have survived for hundreds of years longer.)
Anyway, he didn’t and they closed and all we’re left with now are crumbling, evocative ruins set in stunningly beautiful countryside. I’m not complaining!
We’ve seen a few of these abbeys over the last few months, but this is the only one to have preserved medieval tiles still in place. They literally took my breath away.
Imagine the skill and hard work that went into designing and making those tiles back in those days. Remarkable!
We joined English Heritage while we were there. For £82 a year, we both get free entry into any of their properties across the UK (so expect a lot more castle/stately home/abbey photos in the future!).
Next we started to head home, but decided to take the scenic route. As you can see, this involved roads barely wider than a farm track.
We stopped in a little village called Easingwold on the way home and ate a late lunch overlooking the village green. There may also have been a quick stop in the pub for a pint of shandy in the beer garden, but I can’t possible confirm or deny this.
All in all, a really lovely first day full of surprises and blessed with glorious sunshine.