I last went to Yorkshire as an undergraduate to study at the University of Leeds; this was in the days before students had cars, so opportunities to explore this fabulous county were necessarily pretty limited to a few occasional excursions into the Dales by train. And so now I am back, unhampered by the restrictions of a student budget and with the freedom to travel where I like, a bit of a voyage into the past but also a chance to get in amongst the great things that Yorkshire has to offer.
First port of call must be Castle Howard, fifteen miles north east of York and situated in the Howardian Hills, an area of outstanding natural beauty. I am staying in Pickering which is about 15 miles away from the Castle, a lovely market town and the gateway to the North York Moors.
Castle Howard will be well known to all aficionados of ‘Brideshead Revisited’, me included, but this splendid and beautiful place is also a blast from my past. I have some tattered photos of myself and fellow students sitting in the grounds having a picnic one summer term after exams were over. One of the girls in the group told us the tale of how her mother’s school was evacuated to Castle Howard during the war, and she regaled us with an account of how his Lordship had gone mad and thrown the entire contents of the wine cellar into the lake, closely followed by the butler who dived in to retrieve them all.
Apparently the school girls also played a large part in saving contents from the house when a serious fire swept through it in 1940. I had intended to spend part of the day at Castle Howard and then skip off to Betty’s in Harrogate for tea, a very occasional undergraduate haunt of mine, but I had forgotten just how beautiful this place is so I spent most of the day in the house and promise myself another visit just to take in the grounds. The setting is spectacular with glimpses of the Castle, magnificent sculptures dotted in the parkland and distant views of the Howardian hills; all quite breathtaking.
As for Leeds and a trip down memory lane, well it’s on the list but I am so distracted by this part of Yorkshire that it may well have to wait. Right now, it’s back to Pickering and my cosy cottage before dinner at the Black Swan in the market place and a chance to sample the local ales some of which I would have pulled and served as a student barmaid in Leeds back in the day. Happy memories!