Making a Break For It
As some of you will have seen from social media, I’ve just got back from a short break in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales, and when I say beautiful, I mean bee-oo-tiful! Wowsers, there’s some stunning scenery to behold. Quite takes your breath away, and that’s a fact. No, really, it does. Have you any idea how steep some of those steps are? Talk about wheezing, and that’s just in the hotel! 🙂
We (when I say ‘we’ I mean DH and I, for future reference) often visit the Yorkshire Dales. Sometimes we just go for the day, other times we stay for a week. This time we’d decided to be truly radical and booked a short break of three nights. Go us! It had been a pretty stressful few weeks for both of us, for one reason or another, and we decided over Christmas that we needed to go away, get some peace and quiet and put everything behind us. Where better to do that than the Yorkshire Dales?
Anyway, normally we head to the eastern or northern Dales, but we decided we’d go further away – somewhere it wouldn’t be so easy to visit in a day. Being unfamiliar with the west and south of the Yorkshire Dales, we decided to choose one of those. We duly booked a hotel and headed there on Sunday afternoon. Actually, we left at twelve noon and couldn’t stop congratulating ourselves on getting away at exactly the time we’d meant to, because usually we say we’ll leave the house at a certain time and it’s two hours later before we get round to it. To be honest, I’m still amazed we did it, as we didn’t even get the suitcase down until ten-thirty and it was gone eleven before I thought I ought to go upstairs and see what I wanted to pack.
Years ago, when we had five children to pack for as well as ourselves, holidays were run like military operations, with suitcases packed at least forty-eight hours before travel. Now we just shrug and say, ‘We’ll do it in a minute. Let’s have a cup of tea first.’
The one thing I didn’t forget to take was tea bags, because – unbelievably – some hotels don’t stock Yorkshire Tea. I know! So a whole bundle of those went in the suitcase and it was a good job because they had some other teabags in our room and we were supposed to be having a good time, for goodness’ sake!
Get the Kettle On!
Anyway, we arrived at the hotel and it was raining and bleak and a bit grim, to be honest. I mean the weather, not the hotel, I hasten to add! The hotel was lovely and the receptionist was really kind and welcoming and smiling, and just what you want to see on such a dreary day. We found our room, although I think we must’ve clocked up ten thousand steps walking to it, and settled in, and it was all very nice and cosy and warm, and the kettle went STRAIGHT on, and the teabags were hastily unpacked, and we sat down and breathed a sigh of relief and tried not to look out of the window. The receptionist had assured us we had a lovely view and I’m sure we did, but it was hard to tell, what with the rain. Never mind. We were there for two more days. All would be well.
I’m not sure if we really believed what we were saying, but it turns out we weren’t wrong. The rain stopped, the skies cleared and we had two lovely days out and about. The first day we headed down to Hebden Bridge, because I’ve never been there and I really wanted to see what it was like. We had a smashing afternoon there, walking round the town, making friends with the ducks by the waterside and treating ourselves to lunch at a local pub.
Eeh, bah gum!
West Yorkshire is exactly how I imagine people who’ve never visited Yorkshire before would picture it. I’m not familiar with the area at all. I live in East Yorkshire and have always spent lots of holidays, weekends and days away in North Yorkshire, ever since I can remember. I’ve only visited West Yorkshire a handful of times, if that. It’s got a very different feel to it, somehow.
The buildings seem squarer, with darker stone that just screams Yorkshire, and the landscape ..! I mean, that landscape is incredible. The sheer size of the hills and the vast skies and the endless moors. It’s so easy to see where the Brontes got their inspiration. I think we’re very lucky that all four parts of Yorkshire are different and each has its own unique qualities. It did bring home to us how huge the county is, though. You could travel for weeks and not cover it all. There’s always something new to see. When we left Hebden Bridge we headed over to Ilkley, just to say that we’d been, and so we could sing “On Ilkla Moor Baht ‘at” at the tops of our voices as we drove along. To the uninitiated that means, On Ilkley Moor without a hat, which, for all I know, might be a law in those parts. Since DH was wearing a flat cap at the time I fully expected him to be arrested at any moment.
The following day we decided to go to Hawes, which is a market town we’ve driven through before but never actually explored. On the way there, we passed the iconic Ribblehead Viaduct, so we stopped to take lots of pictures of it. It was – shall we say – a bit breezy up there. The car door almost flew off when I opened it, and DH nearly lost his cap, which would have been a catastrophe, obviously. Luckily, we managed to remain upright and managed to snap lots of photos. We finally reached Hawes and I’m really glad we stopped there this time, because it’s charming. It’s the home of the Wensleydale Creamery, where you can watch cheese being made and taste some of the delicious Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese. We didn’t visit this time but, having read up on the place, we’ll definitely go another time. You can find out more about the Wensleydale Creamery here.
There are some lovely little shops in Hawes, and we stopped to gaze in the windows at several. I found a smashing little art shop and a shop that displayed gift-boxed Yorkshire parkin and reminded me of Mrs Greenwood in my Castle Clair series. I was so tempted to go inside and buy some!
An intriguing find
The shop that really made me stop and stare, though, was an antique shop. I was drawn to it by an old post box in the window that was for sale. Bright red, bearing the initials GR, I was entranced by it. I love old post boxes, though it was a bit out of my price range considering I’d have nowhere to put it. But right by the post box was something else. Clogs. Children’s clogs. A pair of very battered, old children’s clogs, with a label bearing the words, “Child’s clogs, well worn. £30.”
It may be because it reminded me of that famous flash fiction piece, ‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn.’ It may just be that they looked so flipping uncomfortable and I couldn’t imagine my own children wearing anything like that. It may be because they were extremely worn, but honestly, they tugged at my heart strings. I was fascinated by them and kept imagining a string of various tousle-headed children who might have owned them, and wondering what had happened to them. I really wish I’d bought them now!
We spent a few minutes watching Hawes Falls, a small waterfall that you can watch from the bridge which carries the main street over the beck, then we took a slow walk back to the car and headed out to our comfort place, Masham. There, we wandered around the church yard and sat on a bench and stared at the blue skies and listened to the birds singing and all was well with the world. I was delighted to see hundreds of snowdrops scattered around and wondered what the little yellow flowers beside them were. Using an app on my phone I discovered that they were called Winter aconite, and were also known as Choirboys, which I thought very apt for a church yard!
Bonnie and Clyde
Feeling thoroughly chilled and at peace with the world, we headed back to the hotel and decided to book breakfast for the following morning. We hadn’t used the restaurant at all, as we’d eaten out, so this would be our first and last visit there.
As it turned out, I’m quite glad it was! When we arrived in the morning, feeling very organised and virtuous since we’d already packed the car, cleared the room, and handed our keys back to the receptionist, we discovered that we weren’t booked in for breakfast.
‘Never mind,’ said the waiter, giving us a half-reassuring smile, ‘I’ll sort it. Take your seat. Nothing’s more important than your breakfast.’
Easy for him to say! We left our coats on our seats, and headed through to the adjoining room to get drinks and toast, feeling like hardened criminals and wondering what had gone wrong. I was just pouring juice when the waiter appeared at my side, fixed smile on his face. ‘Sorry, have you got your receipt?’ he enquired. I sure did, and I handed it to him.
‘That’s great,’ he said. ‘Just enjoy your breakfast. That’s the main thing.’
I carried the juice over to DH and started collecting butter and jam for the toast he’d just made. I became aware that our friendly waiter had returned.
‘Sorry, but this receipt says you paid for breakfast yesterday.’
I nodded. ‘I did. Yesterday evening, around half past five when we got back to the hotel.’
‘No,’ he said, looking thoroughly confused. ‘It says you paid for the breakfast yesterday evening, but it was for the breakfast yesterday morning.’
I stared at him, bewildered. ‘We didn’t have breakfast yesterday morning,’ I pointed out. ‘We’ve never had breakfast here before.’
‘I’m sure it’s fine,’ he assured us. ‘Just eat your breakfasts. That’s the main thing.’
Well, you’d think so, wouldn’t you? But by now we felt like we were under suspicion, and our appetites had quite vanished which – when our cooked English breakfast finally arrived – was probably a good thing. We spent the entire time muttering to each other that it was ridiculous. How could we have paid for a breakfast in the evening that we’d already supposed to have eaten in the morning? And, surely, if we had been booked in for yesterday’s breakfast, we’d be on their list for that day? I couldn’t believe that our determined waiter hadn’t considered either of those facts.
Halfway through my chipolata sized sausage the waiter returned. ‘Er, when you leave here you need to go back to reception and speak to the manager,’ he informed us.
‘Fine,’ I said, feeling thoroughly fed up by now. ‘I’ll do that.’
‘Enjoy your breakfast,’ he said brightly.
Hardly likely now, actually.
We finished our breakfasts and got up. Waiter hovered close by and gave us a big smile. He opened his mouth to speak. Afraid he was going to ask us if we’d enjoyed our breakfasts and all too aware of what my husband’s reply would be, I hastily asked, ‘So where do we go? Just to reception?’
‘That’s right,’ he said. ‘Ask for the manager. I’m sure there’s an explanation and it will be sorted in no time.’
‘Ey up, she’s got her dander up!
Now, I’m a pretty easy-going person and I’m NEVER rude to staff, but I WAS geared up for an argument. I’d already paid for two breakfasts and, given that we’d been too embarrassed to enjoy a single mouthful of it, and given how many times we’d been interrupted – in front of other guests I might add – there was no way that I was going to pay twice.
‘You go back to the car,’ I told DH. ‘I’ll deal with this.’
He looked surprised, but went to the car and I marched into reception, ready to fight my corner.
The receptionist smiled. ‘Can I help you?’
‘Yes,’ I said politely. ‘I’ve got to see the manager about a problem with the breakfast booking.’
She waved her hand dismissively and shook her head. ‘Oh no, don’t worry about that. It’s all sorted.’
I slumped on the counter. ‘It is?’
‘Yes,’ she said, showing me my crumpled receipt. ‘It’s pretty obvious what happened. The receptionist last night accidentally booked you in for breakfast on the wrong date, that’s all. I told him on the phone it was no problem and all sorted.’
I stared at her in disbelief. ‘But he’s just told me I have to come over here and speak to you.’
She looked surprised at that. ‘No,’ she repeated. ‘I told him there wasn’t a problem.’ She gave me an apologetic smile. ‘Sorry about that. Get yourself off and have a safe journey home.’
‘Er, thank you,’ I replied, feeling a bit nonplussed to be honest. It’s the first time I can remember when I’ve ever felt so annoyed that I’ve psyched myself up for an argument, so I’d been determined to stand my ground. I don’t do arguments, and hate confrontation of any kind, so you can tell it was bad if I’d got my dander up. Now all that adrenaline had been told to stand down and it was hanging around, making me feel edgy and a bit fed up, to be honest.
We had to be home fairly early as DH was back at work later that day, but we’d decided to stop off at Knaresborough on the way home, as it’s on our route. The thought of being back in my beloved “Castle Clair” cheered me up instantly. Unfortunately, what we’d both forgotten is that Wednesday is market day. Every car park we tried was packed. We drove round and round and we were both getting more and more agitated. After the breakfast debacle and knowing DH had to be back at work, it was too much. We gave up and went straight home.
So, not a great final day in the Yorkshire Dales, but we had two absolutely fantastic ones before that and we’re hanging on to those memories. If you fancy a trip to the Yorkshire Dales yourself, check out this website.
Now, after all that, I have news to share with you. The final Witches of Castle Clair book will be out at the end of April, and I’m happy to share with you the cover and title. It’s called, To Catch a Witch. The cover is designed by Berni Stevens, and it’s another triumph. I absolutely love it and I think it fits brilliantly with the previous two in the series. It will be going up for pre-order any day now and I’ll share the link on my Books page and social media sites as soon as I have it. Thanks to my newsletter subscribers who were shown the cover a while ago and didn’t share it, as requested!
And on that note, it’s back to the writing for me. I’ve had a lovely time in the Dales and, even though I didn’t get to Knaresborough, it won’t be long before I’m back there, I’m sure.
Have a great week!