According to the International Passenger Survey, there were 27.31 m visits to Britain by international tourists in 2015. However, over half of them were solely visits to London. I grew up in the suburbs of London and spent my childhood exploring the city with family and my teenage years lurking the street corners of Camden, wearing doc martens and too much eyeliner… London is a great city and I love it to pieces, you should definitely visit it at some point in your life. However, I find it a shame that it is prioritised by tourists over the rest of the country. I’ve never read about an international tourist’s experiences of anywhere in Britain other than London. Indeed, many international people may not even know where there is to go other than London.
I’ve spent the last two years studying in Leeds, a Northern city in England. The city itself is a vibrant place and I especially recommend it to anyone who has a passion for nightlife- you really can’t get better nights out anywhere else, even in London. However, what I love most about Leeds is its proximity to the beautiful Yorkshire Dales! You can get a 20 minute train from Leeds station to the Southwest corner of the Dales called Ilkley moor, where I visited a couple of weeks ago.
The train takes you into the town of Ilkley initially, roving past magnificent views of the Cow and Calf rocks. As you come out of the train station you’re met with the wonderful Victorian clock tower, boating British flags waving atop of its beautiful gothic architecture. Ilkley is a beautiful little town, all the houses are small, quaint and made from dark stone. Down the high-street there’s a large collection of places to stop and eat for lunch before your trek.
After a quick coffee, we bought some snacks for a picnic (some snacks meaning the whole of Tesco) and began our journey to the moors, walking up a long steep road towards the trees in the far distance. We finally found a gate onto a footpath which led us to a lovely secluded waterfall, where we stopped for a paddle (it was a surprisingly hot day for England) and to take some pictures. Bright green ferns lines the stream and the grassy spot was surrounded by tall, intimidating trees towering above us on the hill, their roots exposed from the earth and tangled in spidery knots.
We eventually left our spot and continued along the footpath, where we came onto a steep hill blanketed by prickly undergrowth. The path to the Cow and Calf rock formation -bearing left- was clear but it was crawling with people so we battled through the foliage uphill to a small wooded area straight in front of us. The further we climbed up the hill, the more stunning the views of Yorkshire behind us became. The village became dwarfish, the clocktower and exquisite churches standing out from the regular lines of houses like glorious gothic gems. At the top, the sun filtered through the trees and stretched across the grass in golden fingers. It was a beautiful spot.
The further you walk into the moors, the more magnificent the views become. We eventually reached the flat moorland at the top of the hill and the parish town completely disappeared from view behind us. Craggy rocks broke up the otherwise endless grassy landscape. Walking towards the horizon, we came across another waterfall, this time bigger and falling down into a large valley. I climbed down into it to take some pictures and back out again before we walked further into the moorland. Walking along, the amount of people dwindled and we were eventually struck by being alone in such a large and quiet expanse of land. The horizon seems infinite. Bearing right, we came across another valley – more like a gorge- and sat on the rocks right on the edge, looking down and across, where the town came again into view in the distance. How far you walk through the moorland is up to you, however we stopped at this point, only about a mile or so in to relax in the sun.
After sunbathing on the rocks for a few hours and delighting in the view, we eventually made a visit to the Cow and Calf rocks, back on the edge of the moors next to the town. These rock formations are extremely popular with locals and bear the marks of various names and dates from over the years scratched into them. We were surprised by how far back some of the dates reached- 1972! 1856! 100 BC?… okay, maybe that one was a joke. Next to the Cow and Calf rocks is a pub where obviously you can wind down after your perilous hike through the moors.
This is only one tiny fraction of the beauty on offer in Yorkshire- don’t limit yourself to London. After only a small taster of the Yorkshire Dales, I’m craving to see more! Next time, I’ll be exploring Skipton Castle, Malham cove, both further west of Ilkley.
Much love ❤