It’s three weeks since G made his way up to York for his second visit of my spring term, so it’s high time I documented our weekend. It involved a ridiculously long walk, more baked goods than we could cope with, and a beautiful day in my city.
G arrived on Friday evening and we had a quiet night in catching up and planning the next couple of days. I’d been trying to work out a good way for us to reconnect after time apart, and realised that we should make the most of having the North York Moors just down the road and a car to get us to them, so on Saturday morning we got up early and, after a quick stop in Morrison’s to pick up some lunch and snacks to see us through the day, set off to the village of Rievaulx, nestled in the Moors.
We were heading to the National Trust-owned Rievaulx Terrace, a landscape garden complete with two 18th century Palladian temples, overlooking the Rye Valley and Rievaulx Abbey ruins. The drive was great fun, particularly since a diversion forced us to take a slightly more scenic route through the absolutely beautiful Yorkshire countryside. I was so happy to finally have an opportunity to see some of the Moors which I’ve only ever seen in the hazy distance until now.
On arrival we took a long wander through the woodland and around the Terrace and making sure to have a look at the Ionic and Tuscan temples. It was the view from the edge of the lawn, though that we kept coming back to – even on an overcast day in February it was hard to beat, and particularly highlighted by the Abbey ruins and, a little peculiarly, the metal horse statue surveying the valley below.
From the carpark we followed a walk that I’d discovered on the National Trust website. It was effectively a figure-of-eight which would take us through Rievaulx village, up along the Cleveland Way and into nearby Helmsley before circling around, crossing our earlier path and looping back to the Terrace visitor centre. Once we’d worked out just where to start and made our way down a particularly steep and muddy track to the road we were well on our way, following the River Rye until we reached a sloping path which turned out to be the Cleveland Way.
The route was relatively quiet and extremely varied; to begin with it was a sharper uphill road than I’d anticipated, but once it levelled out it made for easy woodland walking. After some time the trees disappeared as the footpath turned through a field margin which led us to Griff Lodge, the high point of the walk, where we found a picnic bench and a stunning view. It was interesting to compare the Yorkshire landscape with that of the Lake District to which we both have such a sentimental attachment; the biggest difference for us (other than the height) was naturally the lack of water. Yes, it was beautiful – but the distinct quiet of a landscape uninterrupted by trickling streams or lapping shores meant that, to me at least, it wasn’t quite magical.
Having stopped for lunch at the bench (where, bizarrely, we were passed by one of my seminar tutors!) we continued following the path which led us down into the lovely village of Helmsley. It reminded me of the nearby market town of Holt back home in Norfolk with its abundance of coffee houses, tea rooms and independent shops. We chose The Beck Tea Room for delicious coffee and hot chocolate before continuing on our way up the drive to Duncombe Park.
The drive was easily a mile long and passed the castle ruins and Bird of Prey centre, and we also spotted another temple similar to the ones at Rievaulx Terrace, which makes sense as the Terrace was created by a member of the Duncombe family. When we finally passed the incredibly imposing Duncombe Park itself, we took a right turn down a long straight track towards some woodland. After some confusion about whether we were allowed to be on this particular path we found ourselves back at our lunchtime bench at Griff Lodge.
This time we continued down the path past the Lodge and, eventually, through Griff Farm. After crossing a road we continued up along a field margin footpath which led us back to the Terrace visitor centre carpark – and just in time, as the staff were literally about to lock the gate as we arrived!
My FitBit told us that our walk had been around ten miles but we had no time to rest, needing to make our way home to change and then quickly back into town for our reservation at the Lime House Restaurant on Goodramgate. I was concerned I was overdressed but when we were seated to a dreamy soundtrack of Ella Fitzgerald and our waitress asked if she could take our coats I knew I had nothing to worry about. We went for the cost-effective and absolutely delicious set menu and both agreed we couldn’t have made a better decision about where to eat – feeling all the more lucky when we were told we’d got the last available reservation.
The following day we slept in a little before taking the bus into the city. We took the opportunity to walk some more of the lovely City Walls and sat for an hour by the river eating a picnic lunch and brownies from the market.
I also ticked off one of my university bucket list items by visiting Crumbs Cupcakery, which I’ve had my eye on ever since I arrived at York. We’d actually eaten so much by this point that we couldn’t face sampling any cupcakes straight away, but that didn’t stop us from buying two to go and treating ourselves to a cafetiere of coffee each before making our way back.
This structure for our weekend – exploring the countryside one day and the city another – worked so perfectly that I’m hoping it’ll become our normal setup for G’s visits. I’m so excited to see more of what Yorkshire has to offer, and feel so incredibly lucky to have someone so wonderful to share it all with.
Have you been to Rievaulx Terrace or Helmsley? Where should G and I visit next in York? Let’s have a conversation – comment below!
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