Chill Out in North Yorkshire

Northeast England allows great views of miles of coastlines, towering cliffs, and majestic mountains. On top of these are some historic sites and notable figures.

Part I - Two Round of Visits Within A Day in York City Centre

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Clovery on March 9, 2006

The glare of the sun roused me from my sleep. I glanced at my watch, and it had been an hour since the train departed from Manchester Piccadilly Station. In another 30 minutes, the train would reach York Station and end its service at Middlesborough.

It was not even 8 in the morning and York was still in reposed. York Station was an old station, and one of the great buildings of Victorian England opened in 1877 by the North Eastern Railway Company within the city walls. The train station was utterly quiet, except for a few tourists waiting for city buses and Coastliner (a private coach that runs to outskirt of York), which operates after 8am. The earliest schedule for Coastliner 840 to reach York from Leeds was in a half-hour, so I decided to wander nearby.

The most prominent feature outside the train station was "The Bar Wall" of York, a medieval City Wall nearly 3 miles in length that once enclosed the centre of York. Only part of the wall was accessible the time I arrived. A signboard hung loosely from the rusty heavy iron gate: "Closed After Dusk," which conveyed the message, "Open After Late Dawn." Even though I was not standing at the culminating point of the walls, the view to York was still magnificent. In the distance, just right across Lendal Bridge, one of the bridges spanned River Ouse; York Minster was majestic! It shimmered under the morning sunlight and radiated glow in all directions to its surrounding. Traffic was light and I almost caught no glimpse of any tourist nearby; perhaps it was far too early to the opening hours of most attractions. I loitered along the wall for another moment. Down below me was River Ouse flowing seamlessly; a few boat-hired owners were setting up their stalls and preparing start of the day. The air was fresh and crisp in the morning spanking breeze, and a sense of tranquility was observed.

I studied the city map in my hand. York city centre was not big. It was categorized into three distinct parts: Castle Area, Minster Area, and Museum Area; Clifford’s Tower, York Minster, and National Railway Museum (the world’s largest railway museum) prevailed these areas respectively.

To my trepidation, my hand watch read 9am and I knew I had missed the first Coastliner 840 to Whitby, final destination of the Coastliner. The next Coastliner 840 will only reach York in another hour and a half. I do not wish to spend my whole day waiting for the coach again and again, so I decided to board on Coastliner 843 instead, which runs from Leeds to Scarborough and congregates with other Coastliners at Malton.

The trip in York was split into two parts: during crack of dawn and near dusk, when I was back at *Pickering and Whitby.

In retrospect, I did some walking near The Bar Wall and had a cup of hot coffee before I boarded Coastliner 843 to Malton. Since the day was great, I intended to change my plan to visit Whitby first, then go back to York in the late afternoon, as I had confidence to finish touring around York city centre.

The coach duration from Whitby to York took about two and a half hours. By the time I reached York, the weather was catching up. Wind start to pick up its speed, light rain spattered on me, and there were dark clouds overhead. I sprinted down to Clifford’s Tower, nearest to where I alighted. Clifford’s Tower was once the stronghold of York Castle and the site of many horrific incidents throughout history when the city’s Jewish community took shelter when faced with an angry mob. To my disappointment, it has closed for the day. But then, I had some shots of the exterior tower and clambered up the steep stairways led to the main entrance of Clifford’s. Right opposite of Clifford’s Tower was York Castle Museum. The place was isolated: parking lots were vacant and I was sure it was closed as well.

Just near to castle area, restaurants and shops were still in business. I randomly entered a few shop for souvenirs. To my awe, the shops began to roll down their gate and announce to existing customers that they would be closed in another 10 minutes. No way! It was only 5 in the evening. Then to my acknowledgement, most of the shops in York closed at 5:00 or 5:30pm on weekends.

I roamed around the street helplessly, watching the shops closed for the day and feeling depressed. I felt I was not given a chance to learn about York. And the sun was low in the horizon. No photo. No shopping spree.

I fished out the city map from my purse, still struggling on where to go; at least I need to bring some photos or some gifts from York. I hated to go back to Manchester empty-handed. Well, well, well, Minster Area could be a great place for some night shots, and I do not want to miss out on York Minster either, since it was the largest medieval Cathedral in Northern Europe. The distance from Castle Area to York Minster took about a 15-minute walk. The sky started to darken, and the evening wind was blustery. I began to feel chilly and hungry. Desperately, I searched for restaurants that were still open, just to take some hot food and rest before I proceeded.

En route to restaurants, York Minster loomed in front of my eyes right after I passed through the High Petergate arch, in conjunction with part of the city walls, which was closed. Still remember that it closes after dusk? Sometimes I wonder if it is actually open or I always come at the wrong time.

York Minster was renowned for nightspot gathering. Everybody comes here for one purpose, "The Ghost Trail of York." It was a busy scene. Lines of tourists on the curbside of the road cupped their hands over their mouths against the chill air lingering around them. Some were trembling, and the whining from the few tourists was lost over the wind. Strong wind whipped across the abbey’s patio and knocked down a few provisional signboards mounted near the entrance: "Ghost Trail started at 7:30pm every night. Adults £4.00 and Kids £2.00."

I looked up at the public clock across the road. It was only 6:40pm, and a bunch of enthusiastic ghost hunters had already form the long lines. Next, couples of weirdly dressed men and women started running towards the entrance of the minster. They were each carrying a lit candle that brightened up the place as the sunrays vanished into the horizon. The heavy bronze door creaked and inched open. One man from inside beckoned to those men and women to enter and meanwhile raise his palm and halted the crowds outside.

The scene urged me to join the ghost trail. However, my stomach was groaning and legs were shivering. I continued with my restaurant search. Just round the corner of York Minster was a Japanese restaurant that served Chinese and Thai food as well. I scurried in to dodge the blustery wind outside. When I was seated, I realized that I was more cold than hungry. All I needed that time was a cup of warm water and a place to shelter me from the rough wind.

After my dinner, it was 7:25pm, only 5 minutes away from start of the ghost trail. To both my annoyance and fear, the whole street outside York Minster was empty. Not a single person was found. Where are the rest? The door to the entrance was tightly shut. I pressed my ear against the door, no commotion or voice coming from inside.

Nothing. Absolute silence.

The street was utterly quiet. It seemed like no visitor had ever been in the place. All I heard was the howling of the wind, whipping hard and snapping against trees branches.


Maybe I was the only person outside York Minster after all. Does this qualify as being through the ghost trail?

*To know more about what I did in Pickering, read on in "Time Consciousness: Pickering’s" journal.

Part II - Time Consciousness in Pickering

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Clovery on March 9, 2006

All the way from Leeds, the three colored lines (blue, green, and red) of Coastliner operate almost the same route till Malton, where they congregate then diverge. The blue Coastliner beguiled me for its route to Whitby in North York Moors National Park, a splendid view to harbor and lush fields.

The attempt of taking blue Coastliner was wrecked as I missed the bus schedule and needing to wait for an hour and half for the next. Instead of waiting meaninglessly at York Station, I decided to hop-on the green or red Coastliner, whichever come first, then stop at Malton. In this way I could tour an additional town and capitalize the time I had.

The red Coastliner, or number 843, passed Stockton-on-the-Forest, Barton Hill, before reaching Malton. The scene was mostly rustic. Array of rough-hew stone houses on either side of the roads with its own backyards, sunlight filtered down from the clouds and dappled the glorious meadows, mile after mile of verdant farmland, rolling gentle hills in distance, large green pasture where countless livestock nibbling on them. It was like watching TV programs; the scenes keep changing through the windshields, but just without a remote.

It was around 9:50am when Coastliner 843 reached Malton, a terminal station for all the Coastliners, and all coaches will stop here for at least 15 minutes before continuing its service towards northward or eastward bound.

Malton was an open terminal station. It was chilly to wait at the bus station, especially when the wind started to blow ferociously. I shivered unconsciously in the attempt to warm myself and tucked my hands inside the side pockets of my coat. As minutes passed, my hands started to get numb and all I wished was Coastliner 840 would be there on time. There were a few bulletins mounted on the walls, enumerating schedules for each of Coastliner. I contemplated and came to realize Coastliner 840 will only arrive at 11:10am, meaning in another 2 hours.

Oh boy! I could not be possibly standing here and wait for the bus. Moreover, Malton was a small town, nothing much to see or visit. Then I studied the column next to #840–Coastliner 842 going the same direction as #840 except it ends at Thornton, which will arrive in another 10 minutes. Instead of waiting 2 hours for #840, I decided to take #842, then change to #840 at Pickering. Again, it saved time and Pickering was another town I intended to visit.

After doing a quick math on the time, I could spend an hour in Pickering and catch the ultimate coach #840 heading straight to Whitby at 11:37 am sharp.

The way to Pickering was rural and lessly populated. This was made evident from residential houses were clearly waning, expanse of green fields occasionally punctuated by a few barns or thatch huts, livestock roamed freely, mile after mile of mountains and rough terrains.

Between Barton Hill and Malton was Castle Howard, which was five miles deviated from either of them. There was not much information of the castle from the brochure I had on hand. Furthermore, I did not drive and depend on public transports intensely. In the end, I dropped the idea to Castle Howard completely.

Pickering was located before the starting route to North York Moor National Park and also the historic North York Moor Steam Railway. A small town cuddled with its local shops, restaurants, and markets. Nevertheless was Pickering Castle–a splendid example of a motte and Bailey Castle, well preserved with much of the original walls, tower and remaining. The return journey to Pickering Castle took nearly 3 miles from heart of the town. Very unfortunately, the castle was closed from Nov 1, 2005 to Mar 22, 2006, which my trip falls into this period.

But still, Pickering has a lot to offer. Ambling down the street, there were arrays of pastry shops selling mostly handmade pies, breads, marmalades, creams, dressings, and all stuffs like that. It was mouth-watering and tantalizing just leering at them through the shops’ windows. I got myself a large pork pie–the crust was fluffy and baked to perfection, stuffed with minced meat inside.

There were numerous alleys tucked around the corners. On the outside, it appeared to be quiet and deserted. After a turn, it caught you in a surprise with its flea markets, bustling shops and supermarket where the locals rely on them for daily amenities.

Along Burgate or Castlegate Street, Parish Church captured the attentions of most tourists. A tall and historic edifice rose above the ground, its four sides mounted with clocks and at the base of the church was planted with disarrays of tombs that seemed to be derelict for sometimes. But inside of the church contains 15th century wall paintings that were rediscovered under whitewash in 1851, which made so disparate from the outside.

Now is time to catch my final bus to Whitby!

To know more about what I did in Whitby, further reading in "A Unique Constellation: Whitby’" journal!

Part III - A Unique Constellation of Whitby (The Finale!!!)

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Clovery on March 9, 2006

It was mid afternoon and I begun to feel a bit of snooze, especially after boarding Coastliner where heater was replete and the seat cushion was spongy. I slouched on the seat, head slumped on my husband’s shoulder and browsed through the windows as the scene flashed across me. The sun was still high in the blue sky, adorned by a few scattered clouds and streak of sunlight mottled expanse of green fields.

Prior approaching Goatland, on either side of the green banks, salubrious fields and even near to the roadside, you could see myriads of goats grazing on the grass and soaking under the sun. Some handful ones were actually taking risk by clinging themselves onto the steep sloping mountains, nibbling on the fresher grasses. Goatland has surpassing beautiful village that was used as the setting for television’s Aidensfield.

The Hole of Horcum, bordered by highway roads, offered another spectacular view. It was a colossal depression that miraculously sunk deeply into the ground. The "hole" was so immense that one should stretch the neck and obtain at least a half-stand position to see its depth. Every passenger in the coach preened at the windows and gawked at this obtrusive hole until it momentarily vanished as Coastliner skirted round the bend.

I was uncertain how many times I had fallen asleep and awake again and was totally sober when I sensed a mass movement around me, and my husband nudging at my arm. Everyone was getting out of their seats, putting on their jackets and alighted. Then I came to realize it was the last stop of Coastliner, Whitby.

Whitby was located at the coastline of Northeast England. It put me in awe with its bustling activities as I expect Whitby to be a small and quiet town. The first image that gripped my attention was a street performer who was singing gleefully as his adept hands played the accordion of folk music. Standing right in front of him was a little puppet attached with an almost invisible string to his feet, it hops and dances as the man tapped his feet along with the music. The song was nice, his voice was deep and enthralling that ruptured the air with exuberance and added joys to the tourists.

West Cliff consists of mainly rustic red roofed houses perching high on mountaintop and opulent lodgings constructed high to obtain a better view of the estuary or mouth of the River Esk. There are two lighthouses acting as the sentinels for this inlet since 1835, with the east beacon showing red light while the west showing green light.

East Cliff held the edifice that dominated the entire town - Whitby Abbey that sat astride on top of East Cliff and rose majestically above the steep cliff. It was impossible not to set your eyes on it and possible not to look at the map on your hand to find the abbey.

Before ascending the steps of 199 to the abbey, we navigated through the crowds along Whitby old town – kind of classic and aesthetic town; cobblestone walkway trapped between array of bricked shops that have been there for years, outdoor restaurants and cafe, and particularly a shop that sells chocolate fondue with large display of the fondue, so thick, creamy and frothy. There are many alleys along this street, a turn into them will bring you to another narrower streets cuddled with more shops and Captain Cook Museum hides in one of these alleys, so if you intend to visit the museum, look meticulously for the signboard.

At the end of the walkway, just right before The Whitby Jet Heritage Centre, we came to a steep slope that funneled into the view of Whitby Harbor. The breeze came in was spanking. We met a local couple, each of them with their own pet, an enormous weird dog, bigger than I am if I lie flat on the ground. I’m not too sure of the breed, but it seems to carry the owner away. In fact, it looks like a big bad wolf to me.

My husband asked the owner, "How old is your dog?" and he replied "Five years."

Wow! From its appearance, it seems like this dog has been living for like a century. I tried to haul the dog by its leash but the strength of the dog was overpowering that I almost slipped and felt I was reeling a big fish!

As we took the challenge in trudging up the 199 steps, the weather overhead us seemed to be catching up. Scattered dark clouds across the sky and the wind speed picked up. At that time, all we hope for was no rain. The stairway was rather broad but some interval of each step was high. For someone like me that hate to work out, I had a hard time struggling at the steps. I was breathing hard and gasping when I finally got to the top. But the view from East Cliff was a real splendid and the payoff was definitely worth it.

Abut to the stairway was the notable St. Mary’s churchyard. This was the graveyard where Lucy met Dracula in the Gothic novel, where Mina described the legend of a young nun who broke her vows of chastity and a corresponding legend of a "white lady" who haunts Whitby Abbey. This was how the apparition or phantom of the abbey originated. In fact, St. Mary’s churchyard was enchanting and captivating, it was a hallowed ground mounted with disarray of tombstones with Whitby Abbey as the backdrop. Overlooking from St. Mary’s churchyard was the panoramic view of West Cliff (aka the Crescent), vista of rugged cliffs, meandering coastlines and choppy waves churning and swelling near to the estuary.

We surveyed the graveyard for a moment and then rambled to the front porch of St. Mary’s Church where view of Whitby Abbey loomed and this was when we had a closer touch and experience with the legend of Whitby Abbey…

Whitby Abbey was founded in 651 AD, a site of the Synod of Whitby in 664 AD (about 1,300 years back) when a vote was held to determine if the church should be adopted by the Celtic or Roman date for Easter. In the end, the vote was passed for the Roman and dwindled the Celtic Christianity. Few decades later, in 867 AD, the abbey was annihilated and looted in the bloody Viking raid. However, the abbey was rebuilt by a Norman knight in the late 11th century and influenced the abbey to continue as a place of monastic life until the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII. A story was propagated that Henry’s men moved the abbey bells and loaded them onto a ship. The comeuppance was realized sooner than expected – the ship was sunk not long after it left Whitby’s shore. In the olden years, young lovers would listen for the chime of the bell that was buried deep in the sea, and made believed to be a blissful sign for their future.

Subsequently, the abbey became a setting and inspiration ground for Bram Stoker’s, the author for his classic Victorian novel "Dracula" made known to millions throughout the world, which Whitby was the destination for the doomed ship Demeter that brought Dracula to England.

Outside the abbey was a lush field, a vantage point to grasp the entire Whitby Abbey and to photograph its overall - a ruin that stood in grandiose, towering high into the sky and portray in such a one dimension feature that the other view of the abbey was almost visible. To the right of the field, a few white and black goats were basking among the sea oats, laze around as the crisp air linger them.

Vision from East Cliff was a unique assemblage of historic ruins abbey, spooky graveyards, roaming livestock, mile after miles of cliffs, coastlines of rushing waves, busy harbor and palatial houses. A view could certainly retain us for hours to contemplate at its astounding beauty and ones could feel a sense of history being there. However, light rain began to work its way, small droplets then big ones spattered on us. We scurried to base of East Cliff hoping to find some shelter before the downpour.

At the bottom, we looked back at our path. It was really a historical splendid!

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