It’s home to the Grand Départ of the 2014 Tour de France, Roman fortresses, internationally renowned poets and authors (past and present), woodland walks, grand lakes, iconic food, red squirrels, and the occasional Northern Lights display; where else could we be talking about than glorious Northern England?
North York Moors Railway
Northern England is often overlooked when considering a getaway, but it shouldn’t be, especially when there’s so much packed into such a small area. Its quaint towns and iconic cities are full of hidden boutiques, inviting bars, delicious restaurants and tonnes of character. While beyond the cobbles and street corners, it’s also easy to make the most of the great outdoors: horse-riding, fly-fishing, clay-pigeon shooting, even foraging courses are available, not to mention the hundreds of miles of walks in the Lake District and the Yorkshire dales.
The Lake District
With so many towns and cities, lakes and moors to visit, it’s hard to know where to begin. But this summer we recommend travelling north past Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield until you reach the starting point of the second stage for the 2014 Tour de France (6 July) – and Roman Britain’s northern stronghold – York.
York has a rich heritage that has been moulded by a range of different cultures over the centuries: there are Roman-built catacombs, numerous street names ending in ‘gate’ (the Norse word for street), and the rambling medieval city walls are the longest in England. Look out for The Shambles, a tiny street dating back to the 14th century, which served as the inspiration for J.K. Rowling’s Diagon Alley. Combine a day of sightseeing with some serious indulgence at the Feversham Arms Hotel, just 25 miles north of the city. Book a treatment at its specialist Vebena spa and gorge yourself in the 3 AA rosette awarded restaurant. This place has girl’s getaway or romantic weekend written all over it!
Feversham Arms Hotel
While you’re here, take a trip to the legendary medieval coastal town of Whitby, one of England’s most famous harbour-side towns. Quaint cobbled lanes are lined with shops, pubs and restaurants that all lead to the tiny postcard-perfect (and working) port, overlooked by the iconic ruined abbey. Sit back, admire, and enjoy some of the best fish and chips the UK has to offer – although do keep one eye peeled for Dracula, as this atmospheric town featured heavily in Bram Stoker’s novel and many believe the King of Vampires is buried in cliff-top St. Mary’s Church…
For added fun, take George Stephenson’s impressive North Yorkshire Moors Railway across the sensational countryside to get here, and stop at Goathland railway station, used as Hogsmeade Station in the Harry Potter films.
Heading east, you reach the Victorian spa town of Harrogate. Filled with quintessentially English architecture and historical grandeur, it’s worth a visit for the Pump Room Museum, which was built in 1842 over what claims to be the strongest sulphur well in Europe. Take a tour before curling up in the super-stylish Royal Parade Apartments, right in the middle of town. You’re well placed to enjoy the area’s excellent cafes and restaurants, as well as some stunning green spaces. The 17-acre Valley Gardens are moments from your door, while the impressive 58-acre RHS Harlow Carr Botanical Gardens are just a short bus ride away.
Royal Parade Apartments
As Britain’s largest National Park, the spectacular Yorkshire Dales encompass mountainous peaks and moors, carved up by crumbling stone walls, and spotted with extravagant houses and eerily beautiful remains of once grand abbeys, druid’s temples and castles. To really immerse yourself in the wilderness, book into Bivouac (a cluster of yurts and shacks) or Natural Retreats (chic eco-cabins), both of which provide their own enchanting take on the English camping-style holiday. For something a little more traditional, Yorebridge House is a former headmaster’s home on the edge of Bainbridge, a small village in the heart of this dramatic landscape.
Ruins of a druid’s temple
You can’t come this far north and not visit the Lake District; its natural beauty easily rivals that of the Italian lakes and the French Alps, and the area is great for outdoor pursuits. There are walks to suit all abilities, plus a huge variety of bike trails, and the chance to go horse riding or paragliding – you can even hire row boats, canoes or kayaks. Visit some of the dozens of charming towns and villages dotted between the mountains and lakes; our favourites include Windermere, Grasmere, Ambleside and Keswick. For complete privacy, paired with views to die for, stay at breath-taking bolthole The Boathouse at Knotts End, a romantic 19th-century boathouse set on the edge of Ullswater Lake – complete with its own row boat, of course. For maximum minibreak points, make like Bridget Jones and take a book of poetry out on the water with you!
The Boathouse at Knotts End
Before you head home, stop off in Lancaster, another great northern city, and a key port town. The Maritime Museum in Custom House provides an interesting account of the port and of Morecambe’s fishy past, including 4 restored fishing vessels. Stay in handsome Georgian house The Ashton; owned and designed by the set decorator of ITV’s period drama “Lost in Austen”, it offers refined elegance with just a dash of 21st-century flair.
When to go
Northern England is beautiful at any time of year: it’s green in spring and summer, golden and coated by mist in autumn, and frosty in winter. On the other hand, it can (and will) rain at any time of year, so come prepared. School holidays prove popular, particularly over the summer months when all the local activities are in operation (bike hire, balloon flights, horse riding) and you can even swim in some the rivers, if you’re feeling brave.
North Yorkshire Moors
Our top tip
Walk with wolves in Cumbria. Or more precisely, walk with timber wolves with some Czechoslovakian wolfdog bred into them – though this is perhaps not so catchy! The Predator Experience gives over 16s the chance to see wolves as they would live in the wild, while walking with an expert handler who will guide you through their behaviour and evolution. You can also try your hand at falconry – not for the faint hearted, but definitely a memorable once-in-a-lifetime experience.
See our destination guide for more information on Northern England and other places to stay.