Jane uncovers hidden gems in Whitby and York

Jane has recently been out and about exploring North Yorkshire, stopping off in York, Scarborough and Whitby as well as admiring the spectacular scenery of the North Yorkshire Moors

York never fails to please and there's so much to see here. As always, the Minster looked magnificent notwithstanding some temporary scaffolding on the west side. It's the second largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe and can be seen on the horizon for miles around. It's a stunning building plus an entrance ticket is valid from a full year from your first visit. Nearby, it's worth peeking into the National Trust's Treasurer's House. Entry is, of course, free if you're a NT member (prebooking is advisable), but everyone is welcome to view the beautiful gardens and enjoy a cup of something refreshing in the cafe. The city centre is surprisingly compact but packed full of interesting small shops and great places to eat, including branches of the famous Betty's Tea Rooms and the Ivy Restaurant - but look out, too, for some lovely little tearooms that you'll find dotted around the centre. Tourists gravitate towards the famous Shambles, one of the best-preserved medieval shopping streets in Europe and a Harry Potter location. Although none of the original shop-fronts have survived from medieval times, some properties still have exterior wooden shelves, reminders of when cuts of meat were served from the open windows. There are some super museums to visit, like the Castle Museum and the free-to-enter National Railway Museum making York a perfect spot for any kind of weather plus plenty of free activities like walking the city walls or exploring the Museum Gardens. The ambience in the city centre is a perfect backdrop for annual St. Nicholas Christmas Fayre (p18 of our new brochure).

In Scarborough, it's always interesting to contrast the two sweeping bays. The North Bay seems to stretch for miles, backed by a long level prom looking out across the beach that's has been awarded one of this year's coveted Blue Flags. Overlooking it are the majestic ruins of the once-mighty fortress of Scarborough Castle that make for imaginative exploration. Follow the long curtain wall with its many towers and climb viewing platforms in the Inner Bailey and the 12th-century Great Tower, admission is free for English Heritage members.

The Castle stands perched on a rock separating it from the much livelier South Bay, where you'll find all the traditional 'fun of the fair' seaside attractions and the picturesque harbour. Stroll across the Spa Bridge to the Spa, where outdoor entertainment can sometimes be found on a fine summer's day and take one of the cliff lifts that link the sea front to the town centre and you'll find beautiful gardens here, including Peasholm Park with an unlikely Japanese pagoda sitting in the middle of the lake.

A little further north, fish & chips is a must-do on any trip to the hugely popular resort and port of Whitby. Super fresh and tasty haddock and chips, with mushy peas (aka Yorkshire caviar) from Trenchers did not disappoint! Eat in or pick up a nicely packaged take out and wander across the road to sit by the harbour and watch the boats sail out to sea. To the starboard side, the atmospheric Abbey ruins keep watch over the town and if you wander to your left, you'll find yourself amongst a fascinating maze of back streets that make up the old town before arriving on the West Cliff, where the Whalebone Arch and bronze statue commemorate Whitby’s most famous explorer, Captain James Cook. Cook learned his seamanship as an apprentice in Whitby and all of the ships used on his three world voyages of exploration were built on the banks of the Esk. 

Sadly, we didn't have time to call in to Robin Hood's Bay but we did enjoy a swim at nearby Runswick Bay and, after walking from Goathland (better known as 'Aidensfield' if you're old enough to remember Heartbeat) to Grosmont, we just managed to arrive in time to catch a ride on the famous North Yorkshire Moors Railway back to Goathland. For safety, the steam engines had to stay in their sheds (due to the fire risk posed by the tinder dry countryside) but the mighty Class 47 diesel proved just as nostalgic, reminding Jane of the years when she commuted to London - when she had a proper job! Don't miss the last few seats on our 22 August day tour which includes not only enough time for fish & chips in Whitby but also a ride on the NYMR all the way from Whitby to Pickering!