A rail journey through Yorkshire
Yorkshire, a historic county of Northern England, is the largest in the United Kingdom. The county’s lush and unspoiled countryside, lovely villages, grand coastlines and spellbinding, rugged north moors are a unique destination. Yorkshire offers travelers the opportunity to visit remarkable castles with majestic estates that have almost vanished over the years in England, as well as explore the region’s scenic cities.
The easiest mode of transportation to scenic Yorkshire is by rail. Train travel in England is efficient and truly the best way to relax and enjoy the lush rolling hills, green pastures and small, charming hamlets that dot the countryside. BritRail offers a fabulous 4-Day FlexiPass that allows unlimited train travel within a two-month period on Great Britain’s National Rail Network. Moreover, it is just a short walk from Manchester Airport to the train station for a lovely, hour-and-a-half ride to the historic city of York.
York is a culturally rich city founded by the Romans and has one of the longest and best-preserved town walls in England, at just over two miles. The ancient wall encircles the city and affords visitors excellent views along its walkable ramparts. York’s Roman wall is just the beginning of the area’s fascinating history that chronicles the Vikings and Normans as well. Located within the city, you’ll find numerous preserved ruins, the splendid Minster Cathedral, as well as medieval buildings and famous pedestrian street, the Shambles. However, there is an abundance of attractions, museums, gardens, and activities in York, in addition to the interesting history.
The best place to start exploring York (a very walkable city) is in Old Town, located in the city center. The winding lanes, alleys and cobblestone streets with old-world buildings are partially to fully pedestrianized. Stroll along the interconnecting streets to find excellent antique shops and the most popular street in York, the Shambles. The Shambles is a medieval street that dates back some 900 years, with timber-framed buildings that overhang the narrow street from upper floors. In continuous use since the Elizabethan period, the Shambles served as a market for butchers. It is famous for the Shrine to Saint Margaret Clitherow, who was canonized for martyrdom. She provided her home for Catholic Masses and hid Roman Catholic priests during the reformation before she was executed. Today, the Shambles is a lively place for fun boutiques, the Earl Grey Tearooms and antique shops.
York is also popular for its fantastic museums; with a recorded history that stretches back to the Romans, it is no surprise. Start your museum visit with the York National Railway Museum that is fascinating for the entire family. With over 40,000 artifacts, housed in an enormous set of train buildings, you could spend days just looking through the collections. From train objects to silver and porcelain ware that were used on the trains, to public and royal carriages, the museum is a fun place to explore. The trains, located in the newly renovated Station Hall, provide an intriguing look into the past with Queen Victoria’s elaborate carriage and a view into train travel when it was the main mode of transportation other than sailing ships.
After your visit in York, hop on the train at York Station for a 17-minute rail journey to the Yorkshire Dales and one of the most beautiful luxury Castles in England, Swinton Park, located in Masham. This exquisite castle’s origins began in 1695 and combine both Regency and Victorian Gothic style architecture. The entire estate is over 20,000 acres that includes the moors, with about 200 acres of landscaped parkland on the immediate grounds surrounding the castle. In addition to the gorgeous rooms and suites, Swinton Park offers archery, hunting, fishing, biking, hiking, pony trekking, a tremendous spa and their amazing Meet and Greet the Birds of Prey with the estate’s falconer. Guests of Swinton Park are able to sign up for an array of thrilling activities with the aviary’s owls, hawks and falcons, from flying demonstrations to hunting with the birds and even wearing a falconer’s glove and feeding these enchanting birds of prey!
Patrice Raplee is an experienced travel photojournalist and editor of Travel Excursion and Seattle Spotlight for Positively Entertainment magazine. In addition, she writes a monthly travel column for the award-wining site Offbeat Travel and is a regular correspondent for travel radio shows. She is a member of North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA), International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) and the Recording Academy. Her articles and photographs have appeared in numerous international publications, as well as NW newspapers such as the Seattle Times, the Stranger and Seattle Weekly. Patrice travels the globe to cover destinations that feature fascinating culture, art, culinary, history and soft adventure.
PHOTOS BY PATRICE RAPLEE