With everything that’s happened to my parents during COVID lockdown and beyond, I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever experience a normal moment again. ‘New normal’ is the phrase I hear at least once a day. I’m not sure I want a new normal. I was perfectly happy with the old one, thank you very much. Oooo – don’t I sound like a grumpy old woman?!
This weekend Mr D and I attempted to find a little normality – on our own. With the hotels and pubs now open in the UK we booked a last minute two night stay in a country inn, out on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. They have a wonderful beer garden to offer maximum room to keep away from any potential virus bombs, and plenty of room inside to eat without being anywhere near other diners. If it hadn’t been our silver wedding anniversary at the beginning of this week, I doubt we would have booked a short break at all.
It was a far cry from our plans at the beginning of the year, before COVID was even a whisper on the international news. We planned a break in Barcelona, taking in the wonderful Gaudi architecture and eating our fill of fresh seafood. Instead we found ourselves visiting parts of the Dales we’d passed en route to somewhere else but never had the time to stop and visit.
Day one – a short hike from Helmsely to Rievaux Abbey and back. Normally we would stop at the café in the visitors centre, but like so many English Heritage and National Trust properties, it was closed. Just as well we brought a picnic with us. Everyone we met on the path was gracious enough to give each person a wide berth. The same could not be said for people in the queue for ice cream back in Helmsley! With pointed staring I managed to get them to BACK OFF! Literally, all they needed to do was take two steps backwards. You’d think I was asking for the moon on a stick!
Onwards to the middle of nowhere and the country inn. Ah! Hardly a soul around. We breathed a sigh of relief as we sank the first pint of refreshing IPA in the garden. The joy continued when we checked into our room. A bottle of bubbly on ice courtesy of the MiL and Bro-in-Law. Nice! Our room looked out over unspoiled countryside, a slipper bath in the alcove. Needless to say, we made good use of the facilities. It would have been rude not to! The food was outstanding and the service safe and impeccable.
Day two – jam-packed with visits to Middleham Castle, Aysgarth Falls and the Forbidden Corner. Middleham Castle was the childhood home of Richard III… largely in ruins now, but great fun to wander around. Middleham itself seems to be the epicentre of all things racehorsey! Sitting outside having a coffee we saw various stables empty their finest horses out towards the gallops. We must have watched several million pounds worth of four-legged fiends head off for exercises.
As we were still stuffed from breakfast we didn’t require lunch.., just a stroll beside the falls in Aysgarth, a few miles away from Middleham. For a Monday it was busy, but people were keen to keep their distance, thankfully. What a beautiful area. We will return in the Autumn when the summer crowds have disappeared. I can imagine the autumn colours decorating the surrounding trees while we sit quietly and listen to the roar of the falls.
Our final destination for the day was the Forbidden Corner. It was a private folly, now open to the public and suitable for children of all ages. From the first step through the entrance tunnel to the last step out of the 4 acre site, Mr D and I let loose our inner kiddos. We got lost in the maze for over an hour. We weren’t alone in this. From the other side of the hedging we could hear other people muttering about going round in circles and haven’t we been this way already, interspersed with shrieks of surprise as one of the hidden water jets caught countless victims. We could have spent longer in there, trying to locate every folly, but time was marching on and the call of ice-cold beer was getting louder.
Day three was our actual anniversary and began with a glass of bubbly and exchanging presents before heading for our last gargantuan breakfast. Our hosts wished us a wonderful day as we set off east towards Whitby. Our experience of Helmsley on Sunday deterred us from stopping in Whitby. Much as I love it, I don’t love crowds at the moment. So we headed further round the coastto Robin Hood’s Bay. We’ve never been but will definitely be going back again. It’s my idea of what a classic smugglers cove should look like. Steep narrow streets wind down to the sea and tiny alleyways criss-cross the streets. Oh and not too many people either.
So there you have it. Not Barcelona but a wonderful tour round our Yorkshire, discovering new places within the restrictions of new normal, while escaping reality for a couple of days.