Of Yorkshire Elegance and Salty Charm

The sun was shining brightly this morning in Whitby and by 9:00 am people were already fishing or lining up for sightseeing boats. A particularly popular boat was a small pirate ship complete with a crew in costume. 

This morning we toured Castle Howard which is an elegant stone manor house built in 1699. It has remained in the Howard family since then and underwent considerable restoration in the 1960’s after a fire gutted  it in 1940. Although the family still lives in one of the wings, you can tour many of the other rooms. The Howard family has traveled extensively and their paintings and artifacts are tastefully displayed in every room. Chatty docents are stationed throughout the house to tell interesting stories about its history.

Castle Howard was featured in the popular 1981 mini series Brideshead Revisited starring Jeremy Irons and then again in the 2008 feature film. ‘See those feathers on top of the canopy bed?” said a docent disdainfully pointing them out. “They are not authentic. The BBC put them there!”

Outside on the immaculately maintained grounds, we toured the walled in rose garden. I love rose gardens. They remind me of my childhood. Our white picket fence in West Hartford was covered with roses. 

Each garden was separated with fences made of branches. In several gardens were miniature apple trees known as dog’s snout apples. They are old fashioned Yorkshire cooking apples. Huge bumblebees buzzed about. We saw one on the radiator in the castle that was so enormous it didn’t look real. ‘My goodness. He must be stuffed with pollen!” exclaimed a docent when everyone gasped at the sight of it crawling around. 

Last Friday when we were visiting the Roman ruins in Northumbria, we met a man who told us an interesting story. In the highly touristic seaside town of Scarborough is an old world hotel high on a cliff above the beach known as the Grand Hotel. He told us his wife had seen it as a child and dreamed of going there so he booked a room in early July.  “It was rubbish!” he said. “The first room they gave us was below ground level with no windows and when we complained, they moved us to a room in considerable disrepair with seagulls roosting out the window.”

We had seen this magnificent hotel in old movies and had read the Trip Advisor reviews. It ranks 28/28 in the town with a rating of 2 out of 5. Stopping in Scarborough on the way back to our hotel, I wanted to see if this place could be that bad. It was, only worse.

The once elegant old world lobby with a grand staircase is now decorated with bingo posters. Gone is the elegant hotel shown in the black and white photos that decorate the walls. The massive terrace with a sweeping view of the beach was littered with trash and seagull droppings and was outright hideous. Picnic tables were falling apart and the seagulls roosting everywhere all over the hotel were positively Hitchcockian. I don’t know if a hotel of this size can ever be brought back to its glory days. I felt sad for the unsuspecting pensioners the coaches were dropping off.  It’s times like this that make me feel thankful for what we have in life.

Following the coast on our way back to Whitby we stopped at Robin Hood’s Bay.  To get to the waterfront you follow a steep winding road on foot through a pretty seaside village with tiny stone houses with brightly painted doors. Arriving at the beach, we walked out on a rock shelf which is only exposed when the tide is out. Ancient fossils have been found in these rocks. It was such a  pretty place to stop to appreciate the beauty of nature.

No trip to Whitby is complete without eating fish and chips. The locals recommended Trenchers and it did not disappoint. We ordered a small portion. It was haddock fresh from the sea with hand cut chips (fries) and “mushy peas” (pronounced with a long u). It was delicious. It was a great ending to a fun and busy day.

2 thoughts on “Of Yorkshire Elegance and Salty Charm

  1. Lisa Colagiovanni says:

    Nancy, thanks so much for taking us along! With the gorgeous photos and your beautiful words, I feel like we are there with you! Loving the blog!!


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