Day 1: Arrive Malhamdale, walk to Malham Cove. We have a courtesy pick-up from Manchester Airport at 10.30 a.m. and make the approximately 1½ hour transfer to the Yorkhire Dales, one of ten areas of outstanding natural beauty in England and Wales which were designated as protected National Parks in the 1950s. Straddling the Pennines, the backbone of England, this expansive area of hill country is composed predominantly of limestone giving rise to many impressive "karst" features such as caverns, sink holes, limestone pavement, vertical cliffs, waterfalls and gorges. In the center of the Park a cap of erosion resistant millstone grit has created a mountain area rising most famously in the ‘Yorkshire Three Peaks’, to over 2,300ft (700 meters).
Throughout the national park, rivers have cut numerous deep valleys or dales each with a distinctive character and atmosphere. One of the most picturesque is Malhamdale and this will be the base for our explorations in the Yorkshire Dales. After checking into our accommodation, we take a short walk out of the village to visit the impressive Malham Cove. Standing some 260 feet high and almost a thousand feet in length, this curving cliff of limestone was formed at the close of the last ice age when millions of gallons of melt-water would have produced a waterfall bigger than Niagara.
Day 2: Hike. Goredale Scar, Malham Tarn and the Limestone Pavement – a circular tour. Today’s walk starts with a stroll through pleasant woodland to the pretty waterfall known as Janet’s Foss which cascades over rocks into a deep plunge pool. From Janet’s Foss we follow the stream to the mouth of Goredale Scar where vertical cliffs tower on each side. A short scramble over the rocks beside the stream that tumbles through the narrows leads to a good trail in the upper part of the Gorge. Climbing from the confines of the gorge we emerge in a splendid open landscape of rolling green hills and limestone escarpment leading to the delightfully located Malham Tarn. This lake - an unusual feature in porous limestone country - was created by an underlying "plug" of impervious slate.
We follow the outlet stream to a sinkhole where it quite suddenly disappears to emerge over 2 miles away and some 600 feet below our feet. Continuing along the now dry valley we reach the impressive limestone pavement above Malham Cove. Limestone pavements are outcrops of rocks which have been dissolved by water over millions of years into "paving blocks" and are home to a number of rare and unusual plants. There is very little limestone pavement found anywhere in the world, and this one at Malham is among the most spectacular examples anywhere. From the lip of the cove we make a steep descent to reach the foot of the cliffs and follow the path back to our accommodation.
Day 3: A walk through Bronte Country. One of the wonderful qualities of this area is the way really dramatic changes in the landscape can be seen within just a few miles. Less than a half hour’s drive from the pastoral limestone valleys of the Yorkshire Dales we enter Bronte Country. The geology here is predominantly Millstone Grit, a dark weather-resistant sandstone which lends the rolling hills and outcrops here an air of bleakness and desolation. This windswept landscape of heather and wild moors provided the inspiration for the Bronte sisters to write their classic novels, including "Wuthering Heights".
We start our tour of this fascinating area in the village of Haworth which clings to the hillside high above the Worth Valley. We visit the parsonage which was home to Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte, now preserved as a "period house" with the Brontes’ furniture, domestic objects, artworks and personal belongings set out as they were in their own time.
Setting out on today’s hike, we begin with a lovely walk through the delightful Penistone Country Park. We pass a series of stepped cascades over weathered grit-stone shelves known as the Bronte Falls and climb onto the moors. Here we find the ruins of a farmhouse known as "Top Withins" which was the inspiration for the Earnshaw’s ancestral home in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. After a picnic lunch we enjoy a splendid walk across the highest part of the moor with fantastic views of the surrounding countryside, before returning by a different route to Haworth. From here we drive back to our base in Malham.
Day 4: Ascend one of the famous Yorkshire Three Peaks. We have an excellent hike today, making an ascent of one of the Yorkshire "Three Peaks" of Ingleborough, Whernside, or Pen-y-Ghent. Though they vary slightly in difficulty, each of these peaks provides a challenging and rewarding hike and superb views in good weather. The particular peak we choose will depend upon the prevailing conditions. All the walks start at or close to Ribblehead which is just a 15 minute drive from our hotel. This will be a circular walk and at the finish we drive back to Malhamdale to enjoy our final evening in our Yorkshire Dales base.
Day 5: Transfer to the Lake District. After breakfast we move our base westwards, traveling into the county of Cumbria and entering the Lake District, England’s premier National Park. We enter a landscape different again to the limestone dales and the Yorkshire grit, to a charming world of sheep farms and little market towns set beneath the highest mountains in the country. We travel first to Lake Windermere the longest of England’s Lakes where we spend some time to explore the lakeside town of Bowness.
From here we take a ferry across the lake and continue our drive to the village of Hawkshead which was home to Beatrix Potter, beloved author of "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" and featured in the film ‘Miss Potter’ with Renée Zellweger in the title role. Hawkshead is an ancient market town with whitewashed houses dating back to the 17th century connected by a haphazard arrangement of archways, cobble-stone alleys and squares. Cars are banned from the village and it is a pleasant place to stroll around. In the town is the Beatrix Potter Gallery which has original book illustrations by the author and information about her life and works. Tonight we will stay in a country pub or guest house in "Beatrix Potter Country".
Day 6: Follow the Cumbria Way to Coniston Village. This morning we have a short and very scenic drive through Grizedale Forest to Lowick Bridge where we cross the River Crake and follow a narrow country lane to the place known as "Kiln Bank". We now join the Cumbria Way as it follows the high pastures above the beautiful Crake Valley. The walking is delightful as we climb gently towards the Blawith Fells and the wild and remote Beacon Tarn fringed with reeds and decorated with water lilies. Beyond the tarn we cross a little col between the low hills of Blawith and suddenly the mountains of the Lake District heart stand before us.
A track now winds down to the tumbling Torver Beck at Sunny Bank. Beyond, as we top a small rise the beautiful lake of Coniston Water comes into view and we follow its shoreline on a gently undulating trail through mixed woodland of oak, birch, copper beech and conifer, until we reach the charming village of Coniston set beneath the crags and slopes of the "Old Man". Here we take a boat across the lake to Brantwood.
This fascinating house with its beautiful gardens was the home of John Ruskin, a remarkable 19th century philosopher, author, poet and artist whose influential ideas of "Chistian Socialism" led to the establishment of the modern welfare state in Britain. His influence on literature, art and architecture were no less widespread stretching from Leo Tolstoy to Frank Lloyd Wright, and around the world Ruskin had many followers. Marcel Proust translated his works into French and Mahatma Gandhi said that Ruskin had been the single greatest influence in his life.
Today Ruskin’s house perched on a steep bank above the lake, is a popular visitor attraction. The original seven rooms that he used during his lifetime are open to the public and filled with original furniture, art and objects, while his lovingly created gardens preserved or restored by the estate, offer an eclectic mix of ancient broad-leaf woods, scented azaleas and bluebells, and flower gardens.
Day 7: Visit to Beatrix Potter’s House and Mountain Hike. We start today with a visit to Hill Top Farmhouse where Beatrix Potter wrote many of her children's stories. We then make an ascent of one of the Coniston Fells (pictured above) for a splendid panorama of lakes, mountains and coast. There are several options for hikes of around 6 or 7 miles up to 2,600 feet above the Village including the "Old Man of Coniston".
Day 8: Transfer to Berwick-upon-Tweed. We move across to the East of England today to the third of our areas of outstanding natural beauty visited on this trip, the Northumbria Coast. Our base for this part of the trip is the historic town of Berwick situated at the mouth of the River Tweed. This is border country, rich in the history of Scottish – English rivalry and war. To get to Berwick we must first cross into Scotland where we travel through the hills of the so called "Lowlands". We stop en-route at Melrose to visit the 12th century Abbey there.
Melrose Abbey is a magnificent ruin on a grand scale with lavishly decorated masonry. Originally built in 1131 it was burnt down by the English King Richard II in retaliation for a raid by the Scots in 1385. The Abbey was then rebuilt to its former glory during the 15th century. The Abbey is thought to be the burial place of Robert the Bruce’s heart, marked with a commemorative carved stone plaque within the grounds. Visitors can also visit a small museum housing a display of artifacts found within the abbey.
We take our lunch in Melrose before continuing our journey east through Scotland, finally re-entering England for the last few miles to Berwick. This historic border market town changed hands between England and Scotland no less than 14 times between its first capture by the Scots (around 1018) and its eventual retaking by the English in 1482. It is still very much a border town and the River Tweed is considered a Scottish River. Prior to its final fall to the English, Berwick was Scotland’s most important seaport. The raids and sieges did not stop for a further two centuries and Elizabeth I built extensive defenses to protect the town and these remain the most complete set of Tudor town walls in Europe. For our accommodation in Berwick we use a variety of historic halls and houses adapted as guest-houses, each chosen for their combination of character, comfort and location within walking distance of all the amenities of the town.
Day 9: Visit Alnwick Castle. Coast walk to Beadnell Bay
Berwick is the most northerly town in England and was a strategic point in the border defenses. Traveling south the next important defensive town was Alnwick which boasts the second largest inhabited castle in England, the first being Windsor Castle. First constructed at the turn of the 11th century the castle is today the home of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland.
Except for their private apartments, most of this magnificent Castle is open to the public and is an important visitor attraction in Northumbria. It has also been used as the set for several major films, most recently for the Harry Potter movies. We will spend a couple of hours looking around the castle before heading off to begin today’s walk close to the village of Longhoughton overlooking the North Sea coast. This is a delightful walk of approximately 10 miles along cliff tops, across sandy bays and beside rolling dunes.
We follow the coastline north past landmarks with evocative names such as Longhoughton Steel, Sugar Sands, Rumbling Kern, and Cullernose Point, to the quaint village of Craster. Here, a tiny natural harbour has created the ideal location for this fishing village which also has a volunteer for a lifeboat station. Crossing a green swell of pasture which tops a rugged cliff-line above ocean breakers, we head for the eerie skeleton of Dunstanburgh Castle. This imposing ruin of a 14th century castle was built on a basalt outcropping of the Great Whin Sill rising over 100ft above the sea, and has long since been a noted landmark for sailors on this coast. After taking the view from inside the castle we descend to the shoreline and continue our coast walk passing through Newton-by-the-Sea to reach Beadnell Bay and meet our waiting vehicle and return to Berwick.
Day 10. Visit Bamburgh Castle. Boat cruise around the Farne Islands and visit to Holy Island
This morning we start with a drive to Budle Bay some 15 miles south of Berwick. A bracing walk of around 2 miles following the rocky headland of Budle Point brings us to the dramatic Bamburgh Castle situated atop another Basalt outcrop. There is evidence of fortification on this natural stronghold as far back as the 6th century. The foundations of the present castle were probably laid down by the Normans and it has the distinction of being the first castle in England to be defeated by artillery, after a 9-month long siege by the Earl of Warwick during the War of the Roses in 1464. The castle was restored to its former glory during the 17th 18th and 19th centuries and is now the home of the Armstrong family.
The castle is open to the public and contains several interesting exhibits as well as some original architectural features and stunning views across to the Farne Islands and inland to the Cheviot Hills. After our visit to the castle we drive along the coast for 2½ miles to the seaside resort of Seahouses. Making our way to the harbour we board one of William Shiel’s boats for a cruise around the Farne Islands. Leaving Seahouses, we sail around Inner Farne viewing many nesting sea birds, and visit the Grey Seal colony at Megstone. Continuing up the coast there are good opportunities to see porpoise before reaching the harbour of Lindisfarne otherwise known as Holy Island.
This is the closest of the Farne group and the only one which is inhabited by anything other than seabirds. Holy Island can be reached from the coast by a 3 mile long causeway which is only passable at low tide. Our arrival is timed to coincide with the high tide when the Island looks at its best, and when it is quietly beyond reach of the coach parties who flock to its several attractions. During the 7th century the missionary community of Iona who had kept the flame of Christianity burning throughout the Dark Ages of Anglo-Saxon invasion, were invited by King Oswald, to introduce Christianity into northeast England. They chose this island as their base.
Four centuries later the Benedictine order built a great priory here and in the 16th century a castle was added to the small island’s rich architectural heritage. We have 2 hours on the island to visit its sights. There are also several cafes, pubs and shops on the island. Before the tide retreats and the causeway emerges once more, we board our boat for the return trip down the coast giving spectacular views of Bamburgh Castle. At Seahouses we meet our vehicle for the transfer back to Berwick at the end of a full and exciting day on and off the Northumbrian Coast.
Day 11: Hike to summit of The Cheviot. We return to the hills for the day, traveling first for 20 miles to the village of Wooler a small, attractive stone-built town, perched high above the Wooler Water, and the natural gateway to the Cheviot Hills and the Northumberland National Park. Using either College Valley or the pretty Harthorpe Valley we will make our approach to the hill known simply as "The Cheviot". The climb to its 2,675ft summit takes us through wild moorland country and gives excellent views across to the coast and over the rolling hills of the Cheviot range stretching into Scotland. Today’s hike is around 10 miles in length and will take approximately 6-7 hours.
Day 12: Day trip to Edinburgh. As part of this superb tour of Dales, Lakes, Coasts and Castles we have allowed for a full day’s excursion to the historic Scottish city of Edinburgh. It takes approximately 1 hour to reach Edinburgh from Berwick. Our first stop is Edinburgh Castle on the Royal Mile, where the views of the city from the battlements are simply stunning. The afternoon is free for shopping and independent sightseeing and in the evening we rendezvous for a farewell dinner in one of Edinburgh’s great restaurants. After our meal we return to England and to Berwick for the last night in our Northumbria base.
Day 13: Transfer to Newcastle. There is complimentary group transfer to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, timed to leave after breakfast. This transfer takes approximately 1 hour. Newcastle has excellent rail links to Manchester Airport and to London (either journey will take approximately 3 hours and trains depart every hour). Newcastle is also served by an international airport.
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