Dilly-Dallying in the Dales

My cousin and his fiancé got married at the beautiful Jervaulx Abbey during the August bank holiday weekend, so Rob and I decided we’d make a holiday out of it. The Saturday would be spent at the wedding, and the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday (we took an extra day holiday – one of the benefits of being self employed) would be spent wandering around the Yorkshire Dales. That was about as much as we’d planned.

The wedding was utterly gorgeous; the ceremony and reception were both outdoors and to everyones astonishment the weather was glorious, not a single rain drop (and more than a little sunburn)! Jervaulx Abbey itself is such a peaceful place, located amongst stunning countryside, complete with rolling hills and grazing sheep. Perfection.

The following day we made our way to Aysgarth. My mum, dad and little sister were waiting for us at the disused railway station, having a cuppa outside “Anne”, the converted railway carriage-come-cafe. Inside was a huge selection of the most delicious looking homemade cakes, and a photo history of the restoration of the station – it seems the station fell into a pretty sorry state after it’s closure in 1954 (having been open since 1878), and the team who restored it did a marvelous job! The goods shed has been turned into a lovely little museum, with old signs, and maps and other railway memorabilia; you can have a little play with the levers in the signal box; take some photos by a pile of vintage luggage; and check out the OO gauge model railway, depicting the station in it’s 1930’s heyday, in the old waiting room (just remember to leave a donation). The station building itself has been converted into a holiday cottage.

The falls are just a short stroll away, and with it being a hot summer’s day there were lots of families picnicking and paddling in the water – every man and his dog seemed to be there. It brought back so many happy memories of when we used to visit as children… I suppose it wouldn’t have been long after they filmed the infamous (…well, infamous to me anyway) fight between Robin Hood and Little John in ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’ (1991).

It was the next day, in Hawes, that we saw the front page of the newspaper saying that Aysgarth station is possibly going to be sold to a private buyer, a railway enthusiast who plans to restore the line and run it privately, though the proposal has proved quite controversial and received some opposition. By all accounts, it’s fate will be sealed by an AGM vote on the 9th September.

Hawes also has a disused railway station (also opened in 1878, but kept open a little longer than Aysgarth, finally closing to passengers in 1959, and to goods in 1964) so we headed there after having a potter around the shops in the lovely little market town.

From there we headed to Tan Hill Inn for a drink, packet of crisps, and a game of Snakes and Ladders in Britain’s highest pub. I remember having a group family photo taken in front of the pub sign with my cousins and sisters as we froze in the gale force winds, I must have been about 8, then heading inside to the warmth and lively chatter of the pub. It hadn’t changed a bit (though the 90’s pop music added a certain unexpected vibe).

Our final day came and it was time to head back in the direction of Manchester. We took the scenic route (it would be a crime not to) via Ribblehead Viaduct. I couldn’t help but gasp as the viaduct came into view. WOW! Commanding the landscape, this majestic structure, built between 1870 and 1874 by 1,000 navvies (of which 100 died during construction), spans the valley floor in the most breathtaking way. We parked up, got our sandwiches and fold-up chairs out of the boot, and headed to the arches (the tallest of which is 32m above the valley floor) to eat our lunch. It was blustery, and cold, and wonderful. We chatted about all the train journeys we dreamed of doing, and Rob got extremely excited when a train finally crossed over the viaduct, “I’m starting to catch your railway bug!” he confessed.

After lunch we headed up to Ribblehead station and had a look around the small exhibition they have there in the station building, then it was time to hit the road again. We more or less drove alongside the railway line on our way south, out of the Dales, though unfortunately no trains passed us by. It was the perfect bank holiday weekend, a proper getaway in one of the most beautiful places on earth, which we will definitely do again… though next time we plan to go by train.


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