Can you believe it, Yorkshire, England’s largest county has overcome competition from Berlin, London and Madrid to land the title of Europe’s Leading Destination. The region was awarded the accolade at the annual World Travel Awards and became the first location other than a major city or country to have won the title in its 17-year history. Previous winners of the award include Istanbul, Paris, London and Barcelona. So what else could I do but share with you my experiences from my photo trips to Yorkshire’s two National Parks, those being the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors? Whilst there is no doubt many other locations worth visiting these are just two which have outstanding landscapes. My first trip was just over four years ago to the Dales, which is the name given to a collection of river valleys and the hills among them, rising from the Vale of York westwards to the hilltops of the main Pennine watershed. The word “dale” comes from a Nordic/Germanic word for valley. The defining characteristic of the Yorkshire Dales for many is the intricate pattern of stone walls and field barns that leave no part of the valley floors and sides untouched. This patchwork of enclosures dates from the sixteenth century and can be seen below in one of my most popular images captured at Gunnerside Bottoms.
The Muker area provides one of the best places to see upland hay meadows in the Dales, as some of the public footpaths take you right through the middle of these stunning habitats. Hay meadows are at their best for a very short time after grazing animals have been excluded and before the hay is ready to be cut. Therefore, the best time to see the Muker meadows and other similar meadows is the beginning of June to mid-July.
Let’s move on now to the York Moors, a beautiful landscape of stunning moorland, spectacular coast, ancient woodland and historic sites. We’ll start on the Moors themselves and Farndale, a picturesque valley located in the heart of the North York Moors. Heading north north-eastwards up out of Farndale from Church Houses will take you up Blakey Bank. It’s one of those banks where you think you are at the top, you round the next corner, and then it just goes on again. Blakey Bank is a climb of over 1300 feet from the bottom to the top, and although it’s not really steep, it’s fairly long and persistent.
This area is well known for its stone crosses, the most well known being Young Ralph which since 1974 as being the symbol of the North York Moors National Park. But one I prefer at least from a photographic point of view is Ainhowe or Ana Cross, situated on wild Spaunton Moor which has been a prominent landmark for hundreds of years. The original cross can be seen in the crypt of Lastingham Church, about 2 miles south of the present structure which stands at an impressive height of over 3 metres. This makes it the tallest cross on the moors but at one time it stood even higher, 8 metres high!
Finally, we can’t leave this area without a quick glimpse of the coast and Hayburn Wyke. A hidden cove washed by the North Sea and backed by dense woodland through which tumble attractive streams. The word ‘Wyke’ is said to have a Scandinavian connection and denotes a narrow coastal inlet or bay. This is certainly the case along the Yorkshire coast where Hayburn Wyke; Cloughton Wyke and Blea Wyke all conform to that pattern. A steep-sided wooded valley carries a clear stream to an attractive waterfall which plunges over a sandstone outcrop onto the shore.
I hope you can now see some of the reasons why Yorkshire was on this occasion chosen as Europe’s Leading Destination.