It’s not difficult to be inspired by Yorkshire – the stunning countryside, the fabulous people and the delicious food make it very, very easy. My books all have Yorkshire settings, and I’ve combined fictional locations with real towns, cities and villages to give a real sense of place. Here, I’m sharing some photographs of the destinations I’ve visited which have played some part in my stories – whether they’ve been mentioned directly, or whether they’ve simply been the inspiration for “similar” fictional locations. I’m also sharing places I visited to carry out research, or just enjoy some tasty food!
Bramblewick wasn’t particularly inspired by one moorland village, but by several that I’ve visited over the years. I took little bits from Goathland and some from Thornton-le-Dale, which sits on the southern edge of the national park, as well as a few others, and created my ideal little village nestling on the Moors. I loved the idea of the main row of shops, the pub at the end of the row, and sheep wandering around, which I found in Goathland. From Thornton-le-Dale I borrowed the beck running through the village, and the little stone bridge that crosses it, plus the village green. There are so many beautiful villages in and around the North York Moors, so it’s well worth a visit!
I use Whitby as the anchor in most of my books. It gives a sense of a real location if my villages and towns are near a factual place, and Whitby is the perfect place. Several of my characters visit Whitby in the books, and it’s mentioned many times. I visit Whitby as often as I can, having first set foot there when I was fourteen and falling immediately in love with it.
View of the sea from the 199 steps up to Whitby Abbey.
THE YORKSHIRE MOORS
The setting for my Moorland Heroes series. Both Resisting Mr Rochester and Saving Mr Scrooge were set in Moorland locations. There is a crossover in my books, so locations from one series may well be mentioned in another. For instance, in Saving Mr Scrooge one of the main characters lives in Farthingdale, the neighbouring village to Kearton Bay, and the other lives in Moreton Cross, a village which is frequently mentioned in the Kearton Bay books. The flagship store owned by Mr Rochester is located in York, and York is also visited by characters in one of my Bramblewick books. I like this sense of creating a whole fictional world, rather than just one village that exists in isolation, and of using real places like Whitby and York to anchor them to an area.
Unlike my other books, Skimmerdale is set over in the Yorkshire Dales. I based Skimmerdale on the real Swaledale, and the village of Beckthwaite is Thwaite in real life, with Muker becoming Camacker and Kirkby Skimmer loosely based on Richmond. Instead of a castle, however, I gave the market town a ruined abbey instead, and I imagined this one standing there – beautiful Rievaulx Abbey, which is one of the loveliest places I’ve visited. (Although, confusingly, it’s actually close to Helmsley in real life and nowhere near the Dales!)
Most readers know by now that Kearton Bay is inspired by the beautiful Robin Hood’s Bay, a few miles south of Whitby. Many don’t know, however, that Kearton Hall was inspired by a stunning stately home in East Yorkshire – Burton Agnes Hall. I visited the hall on several occasions to get a real feel for Kearton Hall, and I totally fell in love with this house. I have to keep reminding myself, every time I go, that I’m not going to bump into Will and Lexi! My Kearton Bay characters often visit Helmston/Helmsley, Scarborough and Whitby, and there are frequent mentions of Farthingdale, Moreton Cross, Bramblewick and Thornley Beck. Many of these villages and towns feature in other books, too.
York is mentioned in many of my books – particularly in Saving Mr Scrooge and Resisting Mr Rochester, where Ethan Rochester has his flagship department store in the city, and in the third Bramblewick book, Fresh Starts at Folly Farm, where Rachel and Xander spend a day wandering around York, visiting the York Castle Museum and exploring The Shambles. I seem to spend a lot of time in York lately, so it’s not surprising I use it extensively. Plus, it’s such a beautiful city. You can’t fail to be inspired.
JOHN BULL’S FACTORY, BRIDLINGTON
Writing Saving Mr Scrooge about a confectionery business, I decided to pay a visit to a nearby factory. John Bull has been making rock and all manner of delicious sweet treats for years, and the factory is open at certain times of the year for people to tour. I watched the rock making process and even had a go at making my own rock! I had a taste of some of the biscuits made on the premises, too, and then treated myself to some rose creams and violet creams from the shop. The chocolates are to die for, and I was very inspired to write about Carroll’s Confectionary – the factory that Marley and Kit are determined to save, no matter how much they disagree on how to do it! Find out more about John Bull’s confectionery here.
BRONTE PARSONAGE, HAWORTH
I couldn’t write Resisting Mr Rochester without visiting the Bronte Parsonage. Well, that was my excuse anyway, despite having visited it previously! I had a lovely afternoon strolling around the museum, which is a place that – if you’re a Bronte fan – is an absolute must-see. I warn you, it can make you quite emotional! I had goosebumps at times, and the sight of some of the more poignant exhibits moved me to tears. If you’d like to visit the Parsonage for yourself, click here for more details.
Helmston gets a LOT of mentions in my books – with the exception of the Skimmerdale series. In the Kearton Bay books, it’s the home of the Castle Street Practice where Gabriel and Flynn previously worked, and in the Bramblewick books it’s the place where Riley used to practice, until he moved to the branch surgery in the village. Helmston is the market town where Flynn’s friend Maurice lives, it’s where Marley and Kit meet up again after years apart in Saving Mr Scrooge, and it’s the place where Cara heads to find a party dress in Resisting Mr Rochester. Helmston is based on the pretty little town of Helmsley in the North York Moors, but in reality it’s a lot further away from Robin Hood’s Bay than Helmston is from Kearton Bay. I did use a bit of artistic licence! It’s a delightful place, and well worth a visit!
KNARESBOROUGH (CASTLE CLAIR)
Knaresborough is one of the loveliest places I’ve ever visited, and we try to go there at least once a year as it really is the most picturesque little town. Knaresborough is the birth place of Eliza in the Kearton Bay books, and it’s the place where she grew up, with her mother, grandparents and uncle Joe. It’s very close to Harrogate, too, which gets an honourable mention in many of my books. Recently, Knaresborough was my inspiration for Castle Clair, the setting of my new series The Witches of Castle Clair. When Sky St Clair, in Belle, Book and Christmas Candle, returns to her home town by train, she looks down from the viaduct at the river and the beautiful buildings, and sees Clair Castle opposite her. I was picturing Knaresborough the whole time. I replaced the legend of Mother Shipton with one of the St Clair Brothers, and I was even inspired by the Oldest Chemist Shoppe in the town, using it as a basis for the family magical supplies shop, The Broom Closet.