Yorkshire – What Draws You In
At the edge of black holes there is an inescapable brink called the “event horizon” – where gravity warps time so severely that you would see the future of the universe unfold before you. That intense pull toward a place beyond the familiar would radically change your perspective for the ever you’d have left.
And then, there’s Yorkshire. Green valleys where the gravity feels stronger and your perspective is bent by a horizon you hope to never escape.
It’s a grey mid-afternoon in the Northern England countryside, and the train is pulling into Leeds. We’re here to meet our friends Graham and Cheryl. Proper hosts would have it no other way – it’s tea time at their cozy home nestled amid soft hills, sheep pastures, and Brontë family homes. A chilly walk to the pub that night and a full English breakfast in the morning, and we’re ready for proud locals to show us “God’s Own County.”
Graham drives along the left side of a winding one-lane road a few kilometers northeast of Malham. Miles of hand-built stone walls divulge a short hiking trail into a clearing, before us one of the most fantastic sights in the Yorkshire Dales. A limestone ravine swallows us whole, with cliffs 100 meters (329 feet) high and two waterfalls that echo a roaring surge that eventually feeds into the River Aire. Our first few miles are underfoot.
A bright white cliff with a sheer 80-meter (260-foot) drop, and Samantha’s toes touch the edge. Graham and I stand well behind her on one of several hundred stone steps where melting glaciers formed the 300-meter (980-foot) wide limestone cove.
Mental. Completely mental.
Perhaps best known as a film location for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, the daunting cliff is a playground for rock climbers. Graham, a retired Royal Air Force mountaineer, watches with more envy than he lets on – jealous of the ascent. It’s time to go into town.
Our time in Yorkshire running out, we’re on the departing end of the figurative “Gateway to the Dales.”
Approximately 15,000 people live in Skipton, which is known for one of the most complete and preserved medieval castles in England. More than 900 years old and a siege location in the 17th century Civil War, Skipton Castle is still a private residence that also allows tourism. It’s beautiful, but it’s also lunchtime. Graham enthusiastically assures us we’ve hiked enough to reward ourselves. And so, our first true international food onslaught begins.
Fish and chips with mushy peas on the waterfront, immediately followed by a stop at a butcher shop that crams pork pies in its small storefront display. An over-ambitious order of fist-sized flakey pockets filled with meat, grease, and delicious stick with us long after we leave this picturesque town.
At the Platform Edge
Grey skies over the lush Northern England countryside, and the train is pulling into Leeds. Samantha and I are not here to meet anyone this time. We’ve said a temporary goodbye to our incredibly gracious hosts, Graham and Cheryl – temporary because once you’ve been in Yorkshire there’s a draw so welcoming that it’s reluctant to let you leave. A green hole.
Samantha’s toes touch the platform edge. We’re traveling solo now…leaving a place that has become comfortably familiar for a city with an adventurous edge. The train speeds past sheep pastures, accelerating alongside hand-build stone walls. It’s headed to London.