Days Four and Five

After our day of respite we were reenergised and ready to head out once more into the ‘wilds’ of the north of England, also known as Cumbria and North Yorkshire. From Orton we headed southwest to Sedberg and then east along the Wensley Dale – infamous for hardy sheep, cheese, and Wallace & Gromit – our first stop actually being a bit before Hawes at Garsdale where we paused to marvel at the vastness of some of the moorland, its barrenness and harsh beauty so different from the leafy glades and green fields speckled with munching sheep. From on top of the moors we wound our way down into the dales and pressed on to Hawes, it was exceedingly tempting to stop for every photographic moment, every babbling brook or flower covered hillside, but we had an appointment with some cheese that would not be missed!

For years I’ve loved the Wallace and Gromit series, their absolute devotion to cheese and crackers is bar none, and of course the opportunity, when in Wensleydale, to visit ‘the’ cheese factory/creamery could not be missed! The small visitor centre and show rooms are really quite well done, in two separate buildings – one with the education side which leads to the viewing platforms in the factory itself, and the second which is the gift shop, tasting room, cafe/restaurant and the conveniences – helps the flow of pedestrian traffic through what is essentially an open factory. The first section has a small ‘cheese making’ classroom, where demonstrations take place for interested persons, then through a historical section on the cheese and the factory etc, before leading across a small driveway into the factory itself where you can watch the cheese being made that will be sold in about 4 – 6 months time, we’re talking BIG vats of milk here, thousands of liters of moo-juice! When you’ve sated your thirst for knowledge you’re then free to wander into the gift shop – there’s the usual bargains and gimmicks – and the all important bit, the tasting room! We lost count of the number of cheeses, all Wensleydale based, but would estimate approximately 20 different varieties including different ages, flavours, smoked, fruit/herb/spice etc. All incredibly tasty and you’d be relieved to hear we restrained ourselves to only four cheeses, only because there’s no physical way we could consume the other 16 in under 10 days!

From Wensleydale we continued east, a slight detour to Bolton Castle for an impromptu picnic – we had intended to visit the castle, but it had suddenly turned quite cold, wet and thoroughly nasty, so instead we had some lunch – before heading north to Richmond and our final activities for the day. Once on familiar turf at Richmond we headed for the market square to do a spot of shopping before going up to the castle, as a refresher for ourselves and a new sight for our recent company. As luck would have it the rain eased during our escapades at the castle and we were able to explore more of it than last time, ambling down to the Scollars Hall and even into the Cockpit Gardens at the rear of the site. As the sun began to sink lower on the horizon it left us barely enough time to do a sweep of the interesting shops – there’s a number of them – and back to the Black Lion for dinner again, because honestly, how could we not when the last meal there has become the benchmark?! We were rewarded well for our faith, another meal that left us all struggling to stagger out the front door and back to the car. Thankfully by the time we did finish dinner it was only a short-ish drive back to our lovely little cottage – an hour’s short, right?

This morning saw us not rising any earlier than previous, in fact I think we might have still been recovering from the night before’s dinner! With our bags repacked, the pantry bare and loaded into the car we once again set forth to our next home-away-from-home, this time in York, where we’ll be until Friday. Having travelled across the Dales yesterday, today we thought we’d scoot down the M6 and cut under the National Park, heading towards Skipton and Harrogate. Thundering along we suddenly veered right, one of our company saw a sign that we’d only mentioned in passing a day or two before, a falconry centre or rather The Yorkshire Dales Falconry Centre to be exact, came into view and we couldn’t resist dropping in to have a look. We weren’t disappointed, they have a number of owls, buzzards and hawks, all in their own enclosures and looking rather smug – given they have their humans very well trained and not the other way around. We stayed for one of the ‘shows’, watching a Bateleur, a Barn Owl and a Spotted Eagle Owl go through their routines. As the winds picked up we decided to make a break for it, and a wise decision it was too! Ten minutes later the heavens opened and down came pouring rain, we were very grateful we’d returned to the car. Driving on through the mist and rain we passed through Harrogate and crossed over the A/M1 and reached the outer roads of York, a short while later and we’d pulled into our designated car park, unloaded ‘everything’ into the flat and were happily ensconced into the well lit, warm and dry rooms, watching as the rain continued to fall.