Tag: Yorkshire

TV Shows to Inspire Your Next Trip to the UK

TV Shows to Inspire Your Next Trip to the UK

TV Shows Set in the UK to Inspire Your Next Trip

It’s no secret that I am, above all else, a hopeless Anglophile. My choices of entertainment are no exception – I adore British television and find it far superior to what we have here in the US. The plot lines are more complex, the humor can be much subtler, and the actors look like real people, not unrealistically perfect specimens of humanity. (Except maybe Aidan Turner in Poldark. But more on that later.) The added benefit of watching British television is that many TV shows set in the UK have a star that does not get any credit: the scenery. I’d like to share with you some of my favorite TV shows set in the UK that have inspired my travels – past and future.

NOTE: In the US, we refer to a year’s worth of programs on a show as a “season.” In the UK, they call it a “series.” For the most part, I have tried to use “series” here because streaming services list it that way.

1. Shetland – the Shetland Isles

This is the most recent show that I’ve watched. It takes place on the Shetland Isles, which are a group of islands northeast of Scotland. If you’ve heard of Fair Isle sweaters, then you’re at least a tiny bit familiar with Shetland. One of the islands is Fair Isle (population 55).

TV Shows Set in the UK - Shetland features murder mysteries set in the Shetland Isles

The show features Douglas Henshall as DI Jimmy Perez, a widower who has raised his stepdaughter alone since the death of his wife. His daughter is now college age, and heading off to Glasgow, which leaves Jimmy somewhat alone and at a loss as to what to do with this phase of his life.

One of the police officers under DI Perez is DS Alison “Tosh” McIntosh. Originally from Glasgow, Tosh has always struggled to fit into the close knit community of Shetland. But under the mentorship of Perez she flourishes and becomes a vital member of his team. Her character becomes especially well developed in series 3.

What I like about the show: Well, besides the beautiful landscape, I especially like the characters of Perez and Tosh. I also found the “whodunit” aspect to be intriguing as I could never figure out (before the characters did) who had committed the crimes or why.

Where it’s inspired me to travel: I want to visit Shetland (despite the 12-14 boat ride from northern Scotland!). Specifically, I’d like to go in late January to see the fire festival known as Up Helly Aa.

TV Shows set in the UK: In one episode, Shetland features the fire festival known as Up Helly Aa.
Photo via Flickr by Vincenczo Fileccia.

Groups dress in costumes and carry torches through the town. At the end, they throw their torches into a replica Viking longship. Then the groups visit local halls to attend private parties. At the hall, each group performs an act, which may be a send-up of a popular TV show or film, a skit on local events, or singing or dancing. The Up Helly Aa festival in Lerwick serves as the backdrop for one of the show’s episodes.

What you need to know before you watch it: Series 1 and 2 of the show consisted of two part episodes based upon the mystery novels of Ann Cleeves. Series 3 departed from that format with a six part episode written solely for television.  Series 1-3 of Shetland are streaming on Netflix; Season 4 has been released in the UK but so far has not made it across the pond.

2. Outlander – Scotland (Inverness & the Highlands)

Outlander is a story that has it all — romance, time travel, war, politics, villainous scheming, espionage, torture, and history. Add to that the gorgeous main characters and beautiful highland scenery, and it’s a must-see.

TV Shows Set in the UK: Much of the Outlander series takws place in the Scottish highlands.

What I like about the show: I read the book series by Diana Gabaldon long before the TV series aired. What I appreciate most is that the show is pretty faithful to the books, which is a rare and wonderful thing. Also, the cinematography is very visually appealing, and then there’s this guy:

TV Shows Set in the UK: Sam Heughan stars in Outlander as Jamie Fraser

Where it has inspired me to travel: After seeing how beautiful the mountains of northern Scotland are, I have placed it much higher on my list of places I want to visit.

What you need to know before you watch it: The show is not available via Netflix or A,mason Prim3. The fourth season will premiere in November 2018. Starz has already renewed the series for a fifth and sixth season.

3. Doc Martin – Cornwall, England

This was the first show that really made me fall in love with a place, and it’s my favorite of all the TV shows set in the UK. Set in the north Cornwall fishing village of Port Isaac, Doc Martin is the story of a very intelligent, highly skilled London surgeon who suddenly develops a fear of blood. Pretty inconvenient for a surgeon, right? Well, he gets reassigned as a general practitioner in the fictional small town of Portwenn and, as he has no bedside manner whatsoever, hilarity ensues.

TV Shows Set in the UK: Doc Martin shows off the north Cornish coast of England.
Martin Clunes stars as Dr Martin Ellingham in Doc Martin.

Unlike many television shows filmed on location, this program has many scenes filmed right in the village. Many times, viewers will see the characters walking down the street, popping into a store, or welcoming someone into their home… and all of those places are right there in Port Isaac. The large white building with church like arched windows in the photo below is a hotel (in fact, the one where we stayed). But in the show it’s the village school, where Martin’s love interest works.

TV Shows Set in the UK: the Cornish village of Port Isaac is the setting for the show Doc Martin.

The show has proven very popular, with eight series already aired, and a ninth in the works for 2019.

What I like about the show: It’s quite funny, but also a bit suspenseful as you watch Doc Martin try to figure out why someone is ill.  A bit like House, MD, but not as serious. Every episode features lovely, quirky characters who will either remind you of someone you know or make you wish you knew them. (Sole exception: the secretary from Series 1, who is absolutely dreadful.)

Where it’s inspired me to travel: Because I fell in love with this show almost from the first time I watched it, going to Cornwall, and especially to Port Isaac, was a priority for me. We have already crossed this one off of our bucket list, and it was a wonderful trip.  Cornwall is every bit as stunning in person as it is on television. I hope to return some day.

What you need to know before you watch it: Series 1 through 6 of Doc Martin are streaming on Netflix.

4. Sherlock – London

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote his Sherlock Holmes stories between 1887 and 1927. The BBC has taken the beloved title character and placed him in modern day London. The result is a brilliant adaptation of classic literature that is relevant to today’s audiences while staying true to the original story. Add to that the brilliant talent of Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role, and it’s completely riveting.

TV Shows Set in the UK: BBC's Sherlock, the most recent incarnation of the famed detective, is set in modern-day London.

What I like about the show: Hands down, the dialogue! Each episode abounds with quotable sentences and stinging one-liners. However, they speak so fast at times that it’s difficult to take in everything that they’re saying. I usually watch with English SDH subtitles on just to make sure I don’t miss anything important.

Where it’s inspired me to travel: I went to the Sherlock Holmes Museum in London on our last visit there. However, it was a disappointment as this incarnation of the detective was noticeably absent from the museum.

What you need to know before you watch it: The episodes are three to a series, and they run 90 minutes each. There have been four series total, and all are currently available streaming on Netflix. No word yet on whether there will be a fifth series.

5. Poldark – Cornwall

Ross Poldark returns home from fighting in the colonies’ Revolutionary War to find that his father is dead, his family home is in shambles, and his beloved, Elizabeth, has wed his cousin’s wedding proposal. Always a risk taker, the stubborn Ross decides to restore his estate and his family’s disused mine. He finds opposition at every turn. This underdog with a strong sense of social justice wants to prove that he alone is the master of his destiny.

TV Shows Set in the UK: Poldark is set in late 18th century Cornwall.

 

What I like about it: Well, Cornwall, for a start. And Aidan Turner is a fantastically broody Ross Poldark. I also love the headstrong and self-sufficient Demelza, and Ross’ cousin, Verity. These women are intelligent, capable of taking care of themselves, and firm in their opinions.

TV Shows Set in the UK - Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza Poldark
Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza Poldark.

Where it’s inspired me to travel: Back to Cornwall, although that’s an easy sell for me. Specifically, I would like to learn more about and visit sites pertaining to the area’s tin mining heritage.

What you need to know before you watch it: The show is based on a 12-book series written between 1945 and 2002. This is not the only television adaptation of the Poldark story. Other versions were made in 1975 and 1996. But they don’t have Aidan Turner!  Series 1-3 are available streaming on Amazon Prime Video. Series 4 is currently airing in the US on PBS stations.

6. Broadchurch – Dorset’s Jurassic Coast

I recommend Broadchurch to nearly everyone I discuss television with. It is so brilliantly put together – the cinematography is stunning and the music perfectly complements what is happening on screen. The series 1 debut episode opens with the discovery of an 11 year old boy’s body. He has been murdered, resulting in enormous repercussions of grief, mutual suspicion and media attention on the small town. Detectives Alec Hardy (played by Doctor Who’s David Tenant) and Ellie Miller (played by Olivia Colman, now one of my favorite British actresses) set about finding out who killed the boy, and why. But every time they (and you, the viewer) think the answer is obvious, it turns out to be a dead end.

TV Shows Set in Dorset: Broadchurch is set in a small town on the Jurassic Coast of Dorset, England.

What I liked about the show: So many things! For starters, there’s the music (which is something I rarely even notice, let alone appreciate!). Also the dynamic between Hardy and Miller. Then there’s the way the show kept me guessing about who had killed the boy. (Ultimately, I was wrong each time I thought I had figured out the identity of the killer.) It’s just an all-around excellent show, and I can’t say enough good things about it.

Where it’s inspired me to travel: Dorset, obviously.  It’s a very dramatic coastline, with huge cliffs looking out over the sea.

TV Shows Set in the UK: Broadchurch features the Jurassic coast of Dorset as its locale.

What you need to know before you watch it: There are three series of the show.  Series 1 is the whodunit, followed by series 2, which is the trial of the murderer and the turmoil around it. Series 3 is an unrelated case, a rape, with the same detectives investigating. All three seasons are available in streaming from Netflix.

7. Last Tango in Halifax – Yorkshire

Celia Dawson and Alan Buttershaw are both widowed and in their seventies. Attracted to each other as teenagers in the 1950s, they never expressed their feelings, and Celia’s family moved away before they had a chance to do so. After their respective grandchildren persuade them to join Facebook, they reconnect with each other and meet. After their reunion, Alan and Celia discover that they still feel as passionately for each other as they did when they were teenagers.

TV Shows Set in the UK: Last Tango in Halifax takes place in Yorkshire.

The romance between Alan and Celia runs in contrast to the the troubles of their own grown-up daughters. Alan’s daughter Gillian and Celia’s daughter Caroline are complete opposites: widowed Gillian runs a farm and works part-time in a supermarket, while Oxford-educated Caroline is the headmistress of a successful school. Their parents’ engagement affects both daughters’ lives. Gillian wonders how she and her son will cope without her father around to help. Caroline, struggling with depression and her feelings for a female colleague, feels that her mother’s unconventional romance gives her “permission to finally admit to being who she really is.”

Many comical and cringe-worthy moments follow as the characters try to sort out their feelings, deal with their changes in circumstance, and come to terms with how their choices impact the people they love.

What I like about the show: I felt like the characters were real people with real problems. They weren’t rich, powerful, beautiful people who had perfect lives. Nor were they total basket cases who couldn’t turn around without causing drama and upheaval. They were real people with real struggles, perfectly relatable to viewers.

TV Shows Set in the UK: the characters of Last Tango in Halifax are relatable through all their ups and downs.

Where it’s inspired me to travel: Because of the rolling hills and stunning Yorkshire countryside, I was inspired to travel to that county in 2016. It was every bit as beautiful and as picturesque as I’d seen in the show. It’s a lovely area of the UK, and I highly recommend that you explore it a bit.

What you need to know before you watch it: There are three series of the show and a two part Christmas special/epilogue.  All of them are available via streaming on Netflix.

8. Hinterland – Wales

Hinterland is described as a “noir police drama” set in Aberystwyth, a historic market town and holiday resort on Wales’ western coast. It differs from most television shows in that the cast filmed every scene twice – once in English and once in Welsh. The show features troubled DCI Tom Mathias solving murders while searching for personal redemption.

TV Shows Set in the UK: Hinterland is one of the few shows to be set in Wales.

What I like about the show: Honestly? Not a whole lot. I watched 5.5 episodes before calling it quits. I appreciated seeing glimpses of Wales, but I didn’t particularly care for the characters, and found the show to be a little too grim for my tastes. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, there are few alternatives. Not many of the TV shows set in the UK have Wales as their setting.  For a lighthearted alternative, I recommend the 1995 Hugh Grant film The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill but Came Down a Mountain.

TV Shows Set in the UK: Hinterland features beautiful Welsh landscapes.

Where it’s inspired me to travel: Wales has been on my bucket list for a while now. I’d still love to go there.

What you need to know before watching it: All three series of the show are available to stream on Netflix. The version available on Netflix is almost exclusively an English language version, and each episode runs about 90 minutes.

But Wait – There’s More!

And if this isn’t enough, consider subscribing to the all-British streaming channel BritBox. I’ve arranged for my like-minded Anglophile readers to receive a free trial of BritBox at Amazon.com. I know you’ll love it – they have documentaries, dramas, comedies, historical series, and more. Like most streaming services, they routinely add new shows, so you’ll never run out of great content. Give it a try today!

 

TV Shows Set in the UK that will inspire you to travel there!
Flamborough Head, Yorkshire

Flamborough Head, Yorkshire

On our recent trip to England, I had a list of lesser attractions for us to see. They weren’t big enough to drive out of our way for, but they were interesting or scenic enough to add into our itinerary if we found ourselves with a little bit of extra time and happened to be in the area.

Flamborough Head was one such place.  I had seen pictures of white cliffs and a big lighthouse and thought, “Well, that will be a nice place to take a few pictures.”  I had no idea there was so much history attached to it.  As a result, I was pretty pleased that we had gone to check it out.

flamborough head old lighthouse chalk tower

We passed this chalk tower as we approached the Flamborough Head lighthouse.  Sir John Clayton built the tower in 1669 with the permission of King Charles II. It stands over 78 feet tall and would have had a coal or brushwood fire burning at the top. However, most historians agree that it was never actually lit. Perhaps the voluntary dues from passing sailors were insufficient to provide funding for it. The chalk tower is most likely the oldest surviving lighthouse in England.

When we arrived at the current lighthouse, Hubs took a moment to read the signs, and we got a little insight into the historical significance of the site:

In the middle of the American Revolution, on September 23, 1779, the Battle of Flamborough Head took place. The battle was a conflict between an American Navy squadron led by none other than John Paul Jones on the Bonhomme Richard, and two British escort vessels, the HMS Serapis and the Countess of Scarborough, which were protecting a large merchant convoy.

Battle of Flamborough Head

Jones’ initiated the conflict by engaging the Serapis in a violent gun battle. It seemed that a British victory would be inevitable because the Serapis was more heavily armed.

At one point in the battle, John Paul Jones’ ship collided with the Serapis, rendering both ships temporarily immobile. The British captain, a man by the name of Pearson, taunted Jones by asking if his ship had struck.  (This was a play on the word strike, which is also the term for lowering a ship’s flag as a sign of surrender – “striking the colors.”)

John Paul Jones’ response?  The famous quote, “I have not yet begun to fight!”

In the end, Jones claimed the victory, although he lost his ship in the process. Countless expeditions have looked for the wreckage of the Bonhomme Richard but none have met with success to date.

Samuel Wyatt, a noted architect, designed the current lighthouse at Flamborough Head.  Built in 1806, it held an oil lamp, which rotated by means of a clockwork motor.  The light was reportedly visible for 20 miles.  In 1925 authorities raised the lighthouse to its current height of 85 feet, which puts it 250 feet above the waves.

Flamborough Head Lighthouse

In addition to the impressive lighthouse, the view there was really beautiful.  Water lapped at the edges of the white cliffs and the North Sea stretched out in front of us as far as we could see.  It was the kind of place that you want to just stand and take it all in. So if you’re in the area and have a half hour or so to spare, stop by to soak up the history and the salt air.

Flamborough Head Cliffs

You can reach the Flamborough Head Lighthouse by way of Lighthouse Road (B1259) in Flamborough, Yorkshire, postcode YO15 1AR.

Rievaulx Abbey & Rievaulx Terrace

Rievaulx Abbey & Rievaulx Terrace

In doing my research for our UK vacation, I ran across a lot of abbey ruins: Whitby, Fountains, Rievaulx, Guisborough, St. Mary’s, Bolton, and Tynemouth, just to name a few.

Why so many? I’m so glad that you asked!

Well, Henry VIII had been married to Queen Katherine of Aragon for over 20 years. However, for all that time, Katherine had been unable to provide him with a male heir. When the lovely Anne Boleyn caught his eye, he decided to divorce Katherine and marry Anne instead. The Catholic Church refused to allow a divorce. Henry’s spiritual advisers found a Biblical loophole for him in Leviticus 20:21 – “If a man marries his brother’s wife, it is an act of impurity; he has dishonored his brother. They will be childless.” Katherine had previously been wed to Henry’s older brother, Arthur, who passed away at a young age.  Henry sought an annulment by claiming that his marriage to Katherine had never been valid.

The Catholic Church still said no, they would not dissolve the king’s marriage. Henry decided that if the church wouldn’t give him what he wanted, he would take it himself. So in 1531, he declared himself the Supreme Head of the Church in England. Prior to that time, the church functioned independently from the throne. By declaring himself Head of the Church, Henry VIII had a monopoly on all of the power in the land.

Henry ordered his investigators to evaluate the monasteries for necessary reform. Following reports of idleness, greed, and immorality, Parliament passed an act in 1536 to permit closing all monasteries with an income less than £200 (376 monasteries in total). Then, in 1539, larger monasteries were ordered to be dissolved – 645 in all. The monastery buildings were stripped of their doors, lead, timber, glass, art and literature, gold plate, silver, gold and jewelry. Livestock was seized. Land was sold to the wealthy. If buildings were not sold, they were used as quarries where individual stones were sold off to local builders. Truly, it’s a wonder that anything remains, yet there are monastery ruins all over Britain.

While I personally wouldn’t have minded visiting all of the monastery ruins within a 30 mile radius, I faced the all-too-familiar restrictions of time, money, and family members. So I resolved to visit just one and admire all the others from afar. The question was, which would be the best one to visit?

From the moment I first saw this breathtaking picture on Pinterest, I wanted to visit Rievaulx Abbey:

rievaulx abbey as seen from rievaulx terrace

But Fountains Abbey in Ripon – with the Studeley Water Gardens – sounded equally lovely. Rievaulx or Fountains? I can be pretty indecisive at times, and I was really having a hard time choosing one over the other. So I turned to my favorite Settler of Disputes, Google.

Other people had asked the same question, as it turned out, and many people had chimed in with a strong preference. The winner, with very few exceptions, was Fountains Abbey. I plugged Fountains Abbey into my itinerary and moved on to the deciding the next stop on our tour of northern England.

Except.  

As time passed, I felt a little resentful about not being able to see Rievaulx. As the date of our trip approached, the feelings grew. Until finally, I came to my senses and remembered my own advice to travelers:  don’t let conventional wisdom dictate what you do and see on your vacation.

I crossed off Fountains Abbey and replaced it with Rievaulx, and that’s where we went. Happily, I can say that I don’t regret it for a moment.

When approaching the Abbey, you drive through a great little town called Helmsley (more on that later), and you reach a fork in the road. One side leads to Rievaulx Terrace, the other to Rievaulx Abbey. Rievaulx Terrace provides amazing views of the Abbey (I got the shot above at Rievaulx Terrace). National Trust manages Rievaulx Terrace. English Heritage, on the other hand, manages the Abbey. It’s a bit inconvenient, having to go to two locations and pay two separate admission fees, but one could argue that you can’t fully appreciate the Abbey unless you see it from a distance, and hands down, the Terrace is the best place to do that.

We went to the Terrace first. I was there mainly just to take photographs, but it has some other interesting features as well. First, it’s important to note that the Terrace was built in 1758 for the specific purpose of showcasing the Abbey (and impressing guests, of course).

Guests would alight from their carriages at one end of the Terrace near the Doric Temple.  This structure resembles a scaled-down version of the mausoleum at Castle Howard, a few miles away. They would then walk about a half a mile across the lush green carpet of grass covering the promenade before reaching the Ionic Temple, inspired by the Temple of Fortuna Virilis in Rome. That temple was actually a banqueting house, with facilities for food preparation in the basement.

We started at the banqueting house and the guide gave us a brief introduction to the property and its history. The interior consisted only of one large room, with the central table still set as if for a meal. It also featured elaborate ceiling paintings and ornate furniture.

rievaulx-terrace-banqueting-house abbey

From there, we strolled down the promenade. There were art installations along the way, which I thought were a bit out of place (very modern) and also completely unnecessary. When you have such a spectacular view, why bother with a statue of a horse made from wire?

wire-horse-sculpture at rievaulx terrace

I happily snapped pictures of the Abbey at each opening in the vegetation. The one at the top is by far my favorite as you can see most of the Abbey as well as the surrounding hillsides, sheep in a field, and the red roofs of some nearby houses. I just wish it had been a bit sunnier when we were there.

Finishing at the Terrace, we drove down to the Abbey. Oddly, you can’t see much of it from the car park and visitor center. But once you pay for your admission and go out onto the grounds, it dominates the scene.

Cistercian monks built Rievaulx Abbey in 1132.  The monks were ingenious in matters of farming and industry, and prospered there during the 12th and 13th centuries. In fact, Rievaulx Abbey became one of the greatest and wealthiest in England, with 140 monks and many more lay brothers.

However, they went through a rough spell in the late 13th to mid-14th century – sheep got mange, people got the Plague, and debts on their building projects began to build up. By 1381, there were only fourteen choir monks, three lay brothers and the abbot. By the 15th century, the monks were no longer the austere pious men from the early days of the Abbey. They had become privileged and self-indulgent.

Henry VIII order the destruction of Rievaulx Abbey in 1538. At that time the grounds held 72 buildings occupied by an abbot and 21 monks, attended by 102 servants, and an income of £351 a year. Henry ordered the buildings rendered uninhabitable and stripped of valuables such as lead. Today, all that remains are the stone walls.

rievaulx-abbey-2

rievaulx-abbey-6

rievaulx abbey 1.jpg

In addition to the massive ruins, you can tour a wonderful museum that contains some remnants of the Abbey. From gargoyles to stained glass fragments, they are on display in the museum, along with interesting information about the history of the Abbey.

rievaulx-abbey-stained glass fragments

rievaulx-abbey-gargoyle head museum

rievaulx-abbey-statues museum

There is so much history and beauty at this site – I highly recommend it for anyone with an appreciation of architecture or history. (Maybe I’ll visit Fountains Abbey the next time I’m in Yorkshire!)

Rievaulx Terrace is near the town of Helmsley, Yorkshire YO62 5LJ. It is open seasonally, so check to make sure it will be open when planning your visit. Rievaulx Abbey is also close to Helmsley, with a postcode of YO62 5LB. Telephone 01439 798228. Days & hours vary by season, so check the website or call when planning your visit.

The Picturesque Village of Staithes

The Picturesque Village of Staithes

One of the Yorkshire places I fell in love with on Pinterest was the tiny fishing village of Staithes. (Probably because it reminded me so much of Port Isaac in Cornwall.)  When I found a cottage there through Airbnb, I quickly jumped on the chance to rent it.

History in Brief: A staithe is an old English word that means “landing place.” The village got its name because it has two landing places, one on either side of the stream that brings water down from the moor into the sea. Staithes was once one of the largest fishing ports on the northeast coast of England, as well as an important source of minerals such as jet, iron, alum and potash. (We drove past a potash mine every time we left the village, and jet seemed to be the claim to fame of many jewelry shops in nearby Whitby.)

Geologists love Staithes for researching the Jurassic strata in the cliffs surrounding the village. In the early 1990s, a rare fossil of a seagoing dinosaur was discovered after a rockfall between Staithes and Port Mulgrave to the south. This fossil has been the focus of an ongoing project to remove the ancient bones of the creature. Visitors often look for ammonite fossils, which are common in the area.

staithes-cliff

Captain James Cook was the most famous resident of Staithes. Cook became famous for making three voyages to the Pacific Ocean, during which he achieved the first recorded European contact with the eastern coastline of Australia and the Hawaiian Islands, and the first recorded circumnavigation of New Zealand. He was not, as I mistakenly thought at first, a pirate. (That would be Captain Hook, not Captain Cook.  LOL)

We arrived in Staithes near dusk, after a busy day in County Durham. We were allowed to drive down into the village to unload the car, had to go back to the top of the very big hill to park. Before we took the car back up to our designated space, I got to see the sunset over the harbor.

staithes-harbor

Since it was dinner time, we decided to eat at the Captain Cook Inn, at the top of the hill near the parking area. I would describe the food as bland at best; if you ask my daughter (who is not a picky eater), she would tell you it was flat out awful. (I saw her turn into Gordon Ramsey before my very eyes. Amusing, but I wish we could have avoided it.)

The cottage we rented was on the High Street (or as we would call it in the US, the Main Street), across from a quaint little butcher’s shop.

butcher shop.jpg

butcher shop window.jpg

The street itself was gorgeous, with cobblestones and colorful cottage doors.

staithes-street

staithes-door

staithes cottage.jpg

While Staithes may have once been a prosperous fishing village, it is now mostly a tourist destination. Very few of the cottages seemed to be permanently inhabited, and most shops opened only a few days a week. There is no cell phone service at all in the village.

We had dinner the second evening at The Royal George, a pub closer to the cottage where we stayed. Unfortunately, it wasn’t any better than the Captain Cook Inn, and the menu was almost identical. It occurred to me that in a town full of tourists, restaurants don’t have to be good, just open. There is no need to build a loyal customer base because the customers are always temporary and changing. I don’t believe the stereotype that the British don’t cook well, but in the case of the Staithes restaurants we tried, it was certainly true.

My best advice for anyone going to this lovely little village – and you should – is to go for one day. Get there early in the morning but leave before dinner time. It’s a great place to visit, but with the benefit of hindsight, I wouldn’t want to live there.

Staithes lies on the northeast coast of England, within the North York Moors National Park.  

The Royal Armouries Museum – Leeds

The Royal Armouries Museum – Leeds

True confession: my husband and I met through participation in a medieval reenactment group.  He even has his own suit of armor! So when I was planning our vacation in the Yorkshire area of England, the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds was a must-see.

Royal Armouries Museum Leeds Entry
It is an impressive building – five floors in all. The museum has two sides: tournament (armor and weapons for sport) and war (armor and weapons on the battlefield).

The symbol for the museum, which you will see on many signs and banners as you approach the building, appears to be a ram. But once inside, you learn that it is actually a remarkably odd 16th century piece known as “The Horned Helmet.”

Horned helmet at Royal Armouries Museum Leeds
Emperor Maximilian I’s armorer made the helmet in the 16th century. The Emperor presented it as a gift to King Henry VIII. Apparently there was a suit of armor that went with it. It the helmet is all that remains. I can only imagine what the suit must have looked like!

Horned Helmet at Royal Armouries Museum Leeds
Yikes.

One of the most striking displays that I saw when we first arrived was a diorama of the Battle of Pavia (1525).  The historical significance of this battle escaped me – either I had never heard of it, or I had long since forgotten. Regardless, I found it fascinating that one side was mounted on horseback, fighting with swords, whereas the other side was on foot and armed with guns. Guess which side won!

royal armouries museum leeds battle of pavia diorama

It may seem strange to say it, but there were some really beautiful arms and armor there. I thought the black armor was especially striking (and intimidating).

Black Armor Royal Armouries Museum Leeds
Some armor was handsomely engraved with beautiful, intricate designs.

Engraved Breastplate armor at Royal Armouries Museum Leeds
It was sobering to see these two suits of armor, made for boys aged 8 and 10.

Armor for two boys at Royal Armouries Museum Leeds
There was also “The Lion Armour,” from the mid-16th century. It is damascene armor, with inlays of gold and a dozen embossed lion’s heads.

Lion Armor Damascene Royal Armouries Museum Leeds

lion armor damascene royal armouries museum leeds
Unfortunately, the helmet was not there when we visited.  From what I saw of it on the brief film they were showing, though, it is a beauty! It looks as though a lion is roaring at its wearer’s foe.

We also saw a special exhibit on gold items from a Staffordshire hoard. Saxon men decorated their weapons with gold, and often garnet stones as well.

Staffordshire hoard garnet gold royal armouries museum leeds
The collection is so vast, the stairwells even displayed weapons and armor:

stairwell royal armouries museum leeds
The museum covers a time period from the early Middle Ages up through the present. Several areas were temporarily closed when we were there; we did not get to tour the Asian section or the modern warfare section, nor did we get to try the Crossbow Firing Range.  However, there was still a lot to see and enjoy.  I highly recommend this as a stop for history buffs and, in particular, military history enthusiasts.

The Royal Armouries Museum is at Armouries Drive, Leeds, LS10 1LT. Open daily 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.   Admission is free.

Intrigued?  Here are some books I recommend to learn more:

The White Horses of Britain

The White Horses of Britain

There are nearly 60 carvings of giant horses, men and other animals in the British landscape. These figures are typically made in chalk and limestone areas.  The figures therefore appear white, which contrasts with the darker surrounding soil or grass.

The most famous of these horses is the Uffington White Horse, which is both the oldest and the largest. It has graced that hillside in Oxfordshire for at least 2000 years, perhaps as many as 3000 years, and it is a whopping 360 feet long.

uffington-white-horse

Another white horse in Osmington measures 323 feet and includes a figure riding it. The rider is probably King George III, who was the reigning monarch at the time of its creation in 1808 and measures. Osmington is near the southern coast of England, in Dorset.

osmington-white-horse

The Kilburn White Horse is in the North York Moors National Park in Yorkshire. Created in 1857, it is 318 feet long and covers more than an acre and a half of land.

kilburn-white-horse

In Southeast England there is the Folkestone White Horse, overlooking the English end of the Channel Tunnel (or “Chunnel”) in Kent. It is the newest addition in the White Horse family, and as such, the most controversial. Environmental groups opposed the project, which first sough approval in 1998 but did not receive it until 2002. The Folkestone White Horse is 267 feet long.

folkestone-white-horse

Another hill figure known as the Cherhill White Horse, located in Wiltshire, dates from the late 18th century. It measures 220 feet.

cherhill-white-horse

Also in Wiltshire is the Westbury, or Bratton Downs, White Horse. First cut in the mid-1700s, it is the oldest white horse in Wiltshire. People as far away as 16 miles in every direction are able to see the 180 foot figure.

Westbury white horse.jpg

These are just a few of the hill figures in Britain. In addition to horses, hill figures include swans, rabbits, men (including one that’s semi-pornographic in Dorset), and a donkey. They each have their own history and story, so they’re worth checking out if you’re near one.

Finally, if you would like to learn more about the hill figures of Britain, check out these great books: