After a cooked-to-order breakfast of pancakes with lemon and strawberries and French-press coffee, I set out, ready to explore the Yorkshire Dales. I’ve worked in this area for 3 years but have never had a full, uninterrupted day to really explore – until now!
In my trusty rental car, I headed to Coldstone Cuts first. The roads in this part of the UK would put the Amalfi Coast to shame. True, the drops aren't quite as drastic, but the lanes are much more narrow, curvy, hilly and in case that wasn't enough, don’t forget to stay on the left! Thank goodness the British are polite drivers, unlike the Italians. Sorry. I digress. Back to Coldstones Cut… Designed by artist Andrew Sabin, the interactive sculpture (think David Bowie’s Labyrinth, only with better views and no Goblin King) overlooks the Coldstone Quarry on one side and sweeping views of the dales in every other direction. The quarry itself is in a curious position. It’s one of the largest quarries in the country but totally hidden from sight unless you’re inside the Coldstone Cut sculpture. As you wind your way through the high-walled labyrinth, right about the time you’re considering giving in to the urge to climb the walls to catch a glimpse of the sights beyond, the walls get lower and the sculpture gives way to breathtaking views.
On my walk back to the parking lot from the sculpture, I passed an old man and his dog. As we got closer, I smiled. He grinned, tipped his cap and gave me a big, “Cherrio!” Have I mentioned yet that I love this country?
As I drove towards my next stop, Bolton Abbey, the sun peaked out from behind the clouds and set the country side aglow. By the time I paid 6-pounds to park and then wandered my way on to the estate that houses the old Bolton priory, the sun was completely out from behind the clouds warming my cheeks and making the sights all the more beautiful. The Abbey is in the middle of 30,000 acres and sits on the banks of the River Wharfe. While the old 12th century priory is beautiful, my favorite part of the day wasn't wandering through the ruins. Oh, no! My favorite part of the day was shakily making my way across the stepping stones that stretched from one bank of the deceptively deep, deceptively swift river to the other. From the shore, it looked like child’s play. From the middle of the river, standing on a wobbly stone, realizing the next step is further away than you realized and the water is actually waist deep not ankle deep, things got a little more serious. It’s all fun and games ‘til someone falls in the river.
I’m happy to report I made it to the other side without any major incidents. I then spent the next hour camped out on the rocks, watching other unsuspecting tourists wobble their way across. Some turned back after a few stones and one little girl fell in. The sun was out and warm but it certainly wasn't warm enough for a swim! Traffic across the stepping stones seemed to be a one-way affair, so I used the bridge to head back. As I ambled my way along the river bank, listening to the trickle of the water, sun on my face, not a care in the world, I stepped right in a big ol’ pile of cow poop. Nothing could ruin the beautiful day for me though! I sighed. Then giggled. And just dragged my feet in the tall grass the whole way back to the car. I was as good as new by the time I made it back to the car park.
Settled back on the right side of the car – I meant to open the wrong door, I was just throwing my bag in the passenger seat, swear – I programmed my GPS (also known as the one item I would grab on the way out if my house was on fire) to take me to Wensleydale Creamery. Anyone who’s seen the classic British claymation show, Wallace and Gromit, should recognize that name. It’s Wallace’s cheese of choice and after sampling their many varieties (they had cheese with pineapple! cheese with jalapenos! cheese with caramelized onions! cheese with cranberries!) I can see why. Of all the cheeses I tried, my favorite was the traditional Wensleydale with ginger.
The Creamery has an interesting history, having been saved from the brink of closing twice – once in 1930’s by local legend Kit Calvert and again in the 1990’s. In the 90’s the Creamery actually did shut down for about 6 months, resulting in 59 lost jobs (20% of the entire town’s population). A few of the old employees banded together though, bought out the big corporate owners and re-opened. Today, their cheese business seems to be thriving with more than 200 employees and lots and lots of very happy, very full customers… and the cheese lovers all lived happily ever after.
Having crossed everything off the ‘must-see’ list for the day, I started off back towards the hotel. About an hour in to the drive, it started drizzling a bit. Nothing major, just enough to make a faint rainbow. A few minutes before 6pm, I realized a couple of things. First, that the setting sun was blinding me, making the odds of my running in to a sheep or off the side of the road that much higher. And second, that THE SUN WAS SETTING over the Yorkshire Dales and I was worried about hitting a sheep. I found a safe spot to pull off the road, conveniently right beside a bench. (There are walking paths all over the country side and lots of benches for the hikers to rest and just gaze at the views.) As the sun hit the horizon and started to disappear, I felt something ping off my head. I ignored it for a second until it happened again and then again and again. I ripped my gaze off the sunset and realized it was hailing. Not to be phased by ice the size of gumballs, I zipped my coat a little higher, wrapped my scarf a little tighter and gazed on. The sunset was magnificent – fiery orange and reds and pinks – and totally worth dealing with the cold hail. Quite the perfect ending to the perfect day in the Yorkshire Dales.