Vacation update: Yorkshire Dales & Cumbria

Richmond CastleIt’s probably an American thing, but even after all these years of visiting (and living in) the UK, the history here still blows my mind.

Luke and I just got back from a long weekend in the Yorkshire Dales, which, happily, lived up to all the hype. (There has been a lot of hype on my end of things for the simple fact that I married into a family of Dalesmen who would say, with complete conviction, that Yorkshire is God’s country. Plain and simple.) I’m happy to report that the scenic countryside, the unpredictable weather, the friendliness of the people, and the history were all just as remarkable as I’d been told to expect.

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richmond castle

richmond castle garden

richmond castle garden 2

On our first (and sunniest!) day, we met up with Luke’s newlywed brother and sister-in-law in Richmond. After coffee and paninis, we explored what’s left of the 12th Century castle — surprisingly a lot considering it never saw battle in the 400 years that it was in use. I teased my Bradford-born husband that nobody wanted Yorkshire badly enough to invade. It’s a beautiful part of the world, but after getting soaked walking through fell and bog on one of our days, I can see why an competitor to the throne might decide to establish his empire on friendly terrain. We staged an embarrassing number of these goofy garden pictures, it must be admitted.easby abbey

(the 14th century abbey ruins)

easby abbey 2

easby abbey photos easby climbing Then there was Easby Abbey, a pleasant mile and a bit walk along the river from the castle. For climbing enthusiasts like Luke and his brother, Easby is the best expression of a dilapidated historical monument in England: no admissions fee, no unwelcoming gate or “Private property” signs, not even a single CAUTION sign to keep adventurous children (ahem, or adults) from climbing its crumbling walls. In short, a climber’s heaven.  Also, we decided, fresh as we were off of a wedding week, a romantic spot for taking engagement/wedding photos.
pendragon castleFinally, we did a walk to another 12th Century Norman castle in Cumbria, believed by some to be built on the same spot where King Arthur resided five centuries earlier, though sadly there is no evidence of a Saxon stronghold. In any case, Pendragon Castle’s most famous resident was Sir Hugh de Moreville, one of the four knights who murdered St. Thomas Beckett in 1170. Legend has it that Moreville was later haunted by Beckett’s image in the hills surrounding Pendragon.pendragon walk IMG_3462All this history has me wanting to read a good historical fiction set in medieval England. I used to be really into Sharon Kay Penman; loved her Justin de Quincy mysteries as much as her heftier novels based on the lives of Eleanor of Aquitane and Henry II, Llewelyn the Great of Wales, Richard the Lionheart, and the dastardly King John. It may be time for a revisit.

Do you have any recommendations? I’d love to hear!

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