Before moving to London last year, I knew very little about Yorkshire. All I knew was that it is famous for its pudding (not really a pudding, but that's another discussion), terriers, and tea. Despite my initial lack of knowledge, I knew I wanted to visit this historic and beautiful region in northern England and it did not disappoint.
David had a meeting in York at the end of January and, since it fell on a Friday, we decided to make a weekend trip out of it. Spark and I grabbed a train out of Kings Cross after work and met David at York train station approximately two hours later. It was my first solo train ride with Spark, but everything worked out well. Our seat mate turned out to be a big dog fan, so that was a nice surprise.
Whilst perhaps not everyone's idea of a good time to visit northern England, we've vowed to see as much of our new home country as possible and, when in the UK, this often means traveling during subpar weather conditions.
Without further ado, here are my top 10 recommendations for things you and your pooch will enjoy in the Yorkshire area!
Wander around York
I know, this isn't very specific but that's because York's historic downtown is so charming, it doesn't really require further instruction. We stayed in a really memorable Airbnb built into the original city walls of York, which meant its foundations date to the 13th century. The house was cozy and historic and, best of all, in the heart of the city. This meant we were steps from some amazing York gems, including:
- The Shambles: a winding street of timbered shops, historically where York's butchers used to display their meet. Today the shops sell everything from candy and ice cream to souvenirs and a lot of Harry Potter-themed gifts. This is due to the rumour that the Shambles inspired J.K. Rowling's creation of Diagon Alley in the books, although this is unconfirmed by the author. Either way, you can definitely see how the rumor came about given the architecture and extremely narrow cobblestone road.
- Clifford's Tower: located right across the street from our historic airbnb, Clifford's Tower is worth seeing. It is the largest remaining piece of York Castle, which has been disassembled throughout the years. Its construction occurred over the last nine centuries, so plenty of history to experience, not all of it pleasant. Sadly this was the location of a pogrom in 1190, where 150 local Jewish residents were killed in the castle keep.
- York Minster: we've seen a lot of churches of all shapes and sizes since moving to Europe, but York Minster still took our breath away. A stunningly large cathedral composed of white stone and stained glass, the church is one of the largest in Northern Europe. While dogs aren't permitted inside--and non-churchgoers have to pay a small fee--I found the church's exterior to be breathtaking enough in itself. I'm sure the interiors are beautiful as well, perhaps next time we'll take turns with Spark so we can have a peek.
- The Crossed Keys: this is a historic pub we dined at on our first night in York. It's dog-friendly and extremely welcoming to humans too. Given the crisp January air, all three of us were pleased to step into the pub's cozy interior and Spark was thrilled to curl up in the corner, where she received many pets or 'strokes,' as the Brits say. Our meals were typical British pub food--David had a burger and I had chicken--but everything was delicious and very reasonable. York is quite affordable, especially compared to London.
- Free walking tour: yes, a free and dog-friendly tour of York! David discovered that the Association of Voluntary Guides to the City of York (AVG) offers free tours of historic York at least once daily and all are welcome, including dogs. The tour includes a walk along the city's original walls, although dogs are not permitted on this part of the route. Fortunately for us, David had already visited the walls and that segment of the tour is quite short, so he took Spark and they met me at the other end, by Monk's Bar—which turns out to be a part of the wall and not an actual bar. I learned a lot on this tour, including the roots of "loophole" and "eavesdropping." Loopholes were the narrow slots built into city walls and fortresses where archers would station themselves upon invasion. The term comes from the fact that it was very unlikely that invading troops could get their arrows through these. "Eavesdropping," meanwhile comes from the architecture prevalent in York which consists of a smaller first floor and overhanging eaves on the second story. People would linger under the overhanging eaves and listen through the windows above for juicy gossip. Funnily, houses were constructed this way because they were taxed on their first floor footprint, so it allowed them to have more space inside without paying extra for it.
- Nice to see you: Spark's first walking tour went really well overall. She was patient and on her best behavior, even when we walked through a park with about a million squirrels in it (her doggie kryptonite) but it was a cold and extremely rainy day and we did not plan well. She had her little raincoat on but, after about an hour and a half of walking out in the cold rain, she was shivering so badly I decided we'd better cut the tour short. She and I headed down a nearby street to find a place to warm up and stumbled into a 'Dogs welcome' sign in the window of a café with an open table right by the window. Taking this as a sign, we stepped in and found an extremely cozy and welcoming atmosphere and—best of all—gluten-free pancakes! Combined with a nice orange ginger tea, these were exactly what I needed to warm me up. As for Spark, she enjoyed a few treats curled up by the radiator. The café's name couldn't have felt more appropriate at that moment as it's called Nice To See You.
Venture into wider Yorkshire
On our second day in York, we loaded up our car and headed out on a road trip to explore the wider Yorkshire region, which I definitely recommend. While I loved York, it's not a massive city and most of its sites can be seen in a day—especially if you're limited to dog-friendly ones. Yorkshire, the area surrounding York, is extremely dog-friendly and full of amazing historic destinations:
- Fountains Abbey: our first stop was at Fountains Abbey, the largest monastic ruins in the UK. This is a massive site, not only ruins of the huge abbey dating to 1132, but also encompasses an ancient mill, lodge, deer park, water garden and the usual restaurant and shops typical of other National Trust properties. You could easily spend half a day or so exploring the site, which is also extremely dog-friendly—they're allowed everywhere. I've never seen so many dogs at any other place we've visited, so definitely a great stop for the whole family.
- Whitby: if you love charming English seaside villages, you have to stop in Whitby. This fishing town dates to the 1500s and was once home to Captain Cook. Today its streets are full of adorable shops, independent restaurants and charming cottages, all wrapped around a picturesque harbor. We are hoping to return to Whitby in the summer months to enjoy its beachy atmosphere in the sunshine.
- Whitby Abbey: there must be something about David and I that draws us inadvertently towards locations from Bram Stoker's Dracula. We live mere steps away from Hampstead Cemetery, which Dracula visits in the book as well as living next to Highgate, another setting. Whitby Abbey, as it turns out, is another notable setting from the novel and actually inspired the Irish-born Stoker to write his book in the first place. A visit to Whitby Abbey is well worth the hike up to the site itself. It boasts an impressive ruins alongside a modern museum, gift shop (offering many a Dracula-themed souvenir) and tearooms. Situated on a hill, the eery-looking ruins overlook the charming seaside town below, making for a breathtaking view.
- Robin Hood's Bay: another must-visit part of Yorkshire is the seaside village of Robin Hood's Bay. Around five miles southeast of Whitby, Robin Hood's Bay is like its smaller, more scandalous cousin. Although today it consists of tiny winding lanes through adorable cottages, this village was a huge smuggling port back during its early years. As a result of the ongoing wars with France, many popular goods such as tobacco, silk, tea, and alcohol all carried heavy import tariffs during the 18th century. Robin Hood's Bay, as a seaside village with a popular fishing trade lent itself well to the illicit smuggling of contraband goods.