“I love Brother William”
Welcome to the fourth instalment of the road trip diaries! In today’s episode we will be exploring Whitby Abbey, before heading down to the city of Leeds.
We drove up the steep incline to Whitby Abbey, and grabbed our tickets (£7.50 each for adults) and audio guides (free). The abbey was built in 657AD by Benedictine monks, on the top of a cliff overlooking the North Sea.
It went through various changes in leadership as England evolved between the Anglo-Saxon, Viking, Norman and Tudor periods. Henry VIII eventually destroyed the second Abbey during the dissolution of the monasteries in 1540. After this point, the abbey’s ownership changed hands until it was shelled during the First World War by the German Navy (1914), and taken over by English Heritage.
Today, Whitby Abbey stands as a magnificent Gothic ruin, making an impressive backdrop to the beautiful Whitby coast line.
The audio guide gave useful and often hilarious commentary from the Abbess Hild (614-680AD) and Brother William, a hapless monk who lived in the monastery (I’m still not sure if he was real). We happened to visit on one of the most glorious days of the year, which made it a pleasure to walk around the massive ruin and sit on the grass by the adjacent pond, watching the swallows swooping low and the dragonflies hovering around the water.
Whitby Abbey is so spectacular; it became the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula (written in 1897).Although amazing on a summer’s day, I would definitely like to return and see it in all its dank, foggy, Gothic majesty.
After the Abbey, we got back in the car and made the two hour drive to Harrogate for a spot of lunch.
Harrogate has just been voted the happiest place to live in the UK. It certainly seemed a happy place, but maybe that’s just because we ended up in one of the happiest restaurants in the world… NANDO’S. Who doesn’t love a #cheekynandos?
Following the recommendations of the local tourist office, it seems that these are some of the most important things to while in Harrogate:
- Betty’s Tea Room – this is one of six branches of the famous tea room. Be prepared to queue! There’s always a long wait for their famous afternoon tea.
- Valley Gardens – a large park in the middle of Harrogate, with beautiful flowers, games for children and the odd café for the adults. A summer staple!
- Royal Pump Room Museum – Admission is £4 for adults; this museum contains artefacts and history relating to Harrogate’s role as a spa town, links to Russian royalty and randomly, some ancient Egyptian pieces.
- Mercer Art Gallery – free entry; contains works of art from famous and local artists.
The town was very beautiful and relaxing; a lovely place to spend an afternoon. However, neither of us felt Harrogate to be as exciting as everyone had promised! I don’t mean any disrespect, but I think it suffered the fate of not living up to the hype. Charles Dickens once described Harrogate as ‘…the queerest place with the strangest people in it, leading the oddest lives of dancing, newspaper reading and dining.’ I found myself wishing it had been a little more like his description.
We hopped back in the car and made our way towards nearby Leeds, for the last night of our road trip!
We had saved the best hotel for last and had booked the Metropolitan for around £50 for the night. This hotel was bang in the middle of the city and the hospitality was second to none. The concierge drew out the best places to visit, eat and drink in Leeds on a map which allowed us to plan our time there really well.
- Helpful concierge
- Amazing, spacious room
- Free wifi
- Great location
- No negative feedback!
Parking in Leeds is super expensive. Long gone were the times of £4 a day back in Liverpool! All the car parks charge pretty much the same for long stay – you’re looking at £19 for a day. The hotel did offer its residents parking, but at £20 for the night it hardly seemed worth moving the car.
We saved the majority of the sightseeing for the next day but did head out for a wander around the city centre. With a large student population, Leeds gave us the impression that it was a good location for a night out. We certainly came across our fair share of hen and stag do’s!
Everyone recommends two bars in Leeds for an out of the ordinary drinks experience; the Alchemist and the Botanist. As we were after a quiet dinner rather than a night being ignored by bar staff, we decided to try out Gusto (the restaurant part of the Alchemist/Botanist family). The food at Gusto is primarily of the Italian persuasion and the ownership is working on expanding the restaurant into a chain (12 branches at the moment). You can check out their menus here! We had a lovely meal with excellent service, and even signed up to their loyalty card.
That’s it for day four, tune in next time to find out all about the city of Leeds!
Thanks for reading,