This is day two of a three-part series chronicling a long weekend in Yorkshire. To see part one, click here.
Day two began as every day should; a nice breakfast (I have vague memories of smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels, fresh coffee and orange juice!) and a good plan for the day. Jo has made all the arrangements for this day, so off we headed.
We drove northeast across the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. It was one of those journeys where the spectacle of the landscape around you is a constant distraction; beautiful rolling hills, rushing streams, dry stone walls. I’d not previously visited Yorkshire, so it’s fair to say I was unaware of how lovely the area is, and the drive across the moors to our destination was a wonderful one.
On the way across the moors, we saw the bold leaping arches of the Ribblehead viaduct. This magnificent structure was finished in 1874 and is 1320 feet long – a fine piece of Victorian engineering. The weather on the moors lent a suitably dramatic air to the scene.
Before long our destination came into view – the dramatic pile of Bolton Castle (No, not that Bolton, this one is in the vale of Wensleydale). More on that later, because our first appointment of the day was with someone called Raspy – not a man, but a male Harris Hawk with whom we had the pleasure of spending the morning. He’s a fine bird!
Bolton Castle has a falconry on site, and offers hawk walks where you get to experience a Harris Hawk flying to and from your glove out on the hill above the castle. It was an incredible experience! Raspy is a very intelligent, very characterful bird – and very attractive! He didn’t seem to mind posing for photographs.
But perhaps he was just attracted to the chicken that we were feeding him…
It’s incredible to witness the power and agility of top-tier predators up-close. Raspy tried his best to predate on the locals, too – a vole met its end at the end of his talons, and he managed to bag a rabbit too (but wasn’t allowed to eat it, otherwise he wouldn’t want to fly). This clever chappy has learnt that he can silence the bell on his leg with a talon, enabling him to hunt in silence. Moreover, he spent some time with two further Harris Hawks who are now also displaying the behaviour – turns out that these animals are quite clever indeed.
And stunning. Thanks to Jo for taking this shot – Raspy seemed to enjoy taking off over my shoulder, right past my face!
After an incredible hawk walk (Thanks to Debbie for her time, expertise and conversation!) we set off to explore the castle itself…
This lump of stone was built in the late 1300s and has had a long and varied history. Would you believe it’s another place that Mary Queen of Scots stayed? She really got around! The castle was damaged in the English Civil War but it remained a home for the Scrope family, who still own the castle today.
The interior of the castle is atmospheric and moody – the cellars are dark and damp, as castles always seem to be.
I’m always struck by the ceiling heights in ruined castles, until I remember that the floors are missing. I love the view upwards in these vast empty spaces, with windows, fireplaces and other architectural features stranded way above. There are lots of rooms at Bolton that have been restored, which gives a fascinating insight into what these buildings were like when they were inhabited.
No castle would be complete with the resident blacksmith. Judging by the rust on the anvil, he hadn’t been around for a while!
Up the tower, we were rewarded with a spectacular view of the surrounding valley, and beautiful countryside. Down below in the courtyard, the very talented Debbie (from the Hawk Walk) was teaching kids archery, so the sound of applause and laughter echoed up from the stone walls. It was quite atmospheric! The view through this archway caught my eye, the weathered stonework framing the farmland beyond.
The castle also has some lovely gardens, a maze, a vineyard, a kitchen garden and a series of beehives, as well as the aforementioned falconry. There’s quite a lot going on! These beautiful poppies were in the formal gardens below the castle.
We had a lovely lunch in the tea rooms of the castle, before moving on to our next stop for the day. For more information about Bolton Castle, visit their website at http://www.boltoncastle.co.uk.
Another beauty spot in Wensleydale is the Aysgarth falls – a three-tier series of dramatic waterfalls formed as the river Ure drops over a series of limestone ledges.
We followed the river downstream to explore the lower falls; choosing to ignore the signs to the viewing platform and instead headed further downstream to where we could get right down to the riverbank, and up close to the falls themselves. Although the falls can be much more energetic after periods of heavy rain (see this video, for example – stunning!) the thunder of water rushing past was mesmerising and awe-inspiring to watch.
Following the river further upstream led past the middle falls (Sadly you can’t get that close) and finally to the upper falls, where a scene in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was filmed (which you can see a clip of here) where the flow of water was slightly more sedate but no less beautiful.
Up above the upper falls the water was glassy and still, and along the riverbank the trees stood with exposed roots, like in a mangrove forest. I wonder if the exposed roots were as a result of the heavy rain in the video linked above?
The riverbank was a beautiful mix of low trees, exposed stone and gently worn wood – it was really beautiful and atmospheric.
There were these wild orchids dotted around – I’ve attempted to identify them but sadly not had much luck. Answers on a postcard to…
As I walked further upstream, there were more and more exposed tree roots. They completely grabbed my attention; resembling driftwood washed up on the beach, but anchored into the landscape and covered with moss.
Some of the roots were amazingly tangled and twisted; this set of roots was a particular favourite.
In the patches between the roots, the limestone ground was visible. This scene brought to mind Indiana Jones and tropical vines – albeit in the middle of Yorkshire!
After a lovely day, full of hawks and waterfalls, castles and tree roots, we retreated back to our little cottage in Settle for dinner – but not before a cup of tea.
Check back tomorrow for the final part in this three-part series! You can find part one here.