Yorkshire Dales – Getting There
I thought stopping in Skipton for lunch was a good idea. But I was wrong. Boy, was I wrong. I imagined a cute little Grange-Over-Sands kind of place, but it is big. Too big. With hilly streets and no place to park and too much traffic, and I know Michael is frustrated trying to find a place for the Toyota that doesn’t seem to exist. And the weather is less than lovely. Cold. Wet. Windy. Rainy. And he has to drive on the wrong side of the road, and Jeeves is no help.
After Michael has looked for so long and turned so many corners and been so patient—trying to make me happy—I try to gather the courage to let him know it was just a dart on the map. Just a name. Not important. Let’s get out of here. It doesn’t matter. Yes, I know I should have told him immediately and avoided all this pain. But I’m not smart.
He pulls the car over to the side of the road and looks at me. I open my mouth. Spill the beans. He sighs. A long long sigh. “Why didn’t you tell me…” He programs Jeeves to take us to Grassington—somewhere in the lower part of the Dales. I remind him, it is just a name. A way to get us out of here.
It is two o’clock. We haven’t eaten in a while, although it wouldn’t hurt either of us to do without a meal or two. However, when we pass by an inn with cars in the parking lot Michael pulls into the car park and gives our trusty little rental a rest. I don’t know where we are. I don’t care. I think I need wine. Michael orders a beer.
The pub is perfect. Dark and cozy, a fire roaring in the fireplace. A friendly bartender. I order a sandwich to go with my wine. It is delicious. Grilled chicken with thick round slices of Spanish chorizo and melted English cheese. Their chips are strips of thin root vegetables fried crisp. I don’t want to leave. It is warm and wonderful. A refuge in the storm.
In the car park I look at the name of the inn—The Old Hall Inn. I still don’t know where we are. And I just don’t understand the flowers. Geraniums. It is cold and it seems like the sun never shines, but they are pretty and pink. Everywhere we go the flowers are happy. Even profuse.
I knew I’d love the Dales. I’m a country girl at heart. I have been all of my life. As we take the tiny road north toward the town of Hawes my heat swells with happiness. Green fields. Green grass. Fluffy sheep. Old farms. Rock walls. Everything neat. Everything clean. All of it pristine. I even love the gray clouds—they match the road. My camera is constantly pointed at the windshield. If another car isn’t behind or in front of us, Michael slows to a stop so I can get a better shot.
I’m not sure how long it takes us to get to the Stonehouse Inn a mile outside of Hawes, but it isn’t long enough. I could drive on that little road forever. “Only,” Michael reminds me, “you didn’t drive.” I know.
When I booked our room, I chose a BBD for two nights at a 10% discount. The D part is a four course dinner in their restaurant, appetizer, entrée, dessert, a cheese course, plus coffee. We also have a suite of sorts at this old stone inn, but it is more of an attached greenhouse. I don’t see how it will ever be warm enough to sit out here. Michael finds a wall heater, turns it on, and it is warm within minutes.
We settle in and then head to the bar, ordering a drink, taking our gin and tonic into the snooker room, relaxing in the squishy leather couch. I keep trying to let Michael know how sorry I am for the Skipton disaster. He squeezes my hand letting me know it is all OK, but that driving on narrow roads on the wrong side of the road, with cars parked in the lane you are supposed to be driving in, with no place to go, and trying not to wreck a car that isn’t ours is a bit stressful. I think he needs another drink.
We just have time to take a short nap before dinner. I think Michael needs that too.
Arriving in the dining room at 7:30 p.m. we are seated at Table 24—also our room number. It will be our table for all of our meals. I want the goat cheese and asparagus tart, but I order the mushrooms, which are overly decadent but quite delicious. I want the fish but order the lamb because I know it will be good, and it is wonderful. When the entrée arrives it comes with a large dish of veg—creamed leeks, two kinds of potatoes and sweet potatoes. I eat every sweet potato in the dish, feeling I have been fiber deprived almost this entire trip. I don’t want dessert, but order it anyway. I nibble at the edges. We both say no to cheese. We give our leftover bottle of wine to the waitress to save for tomorrow night’s dinner and take the sixty second walk to our room.
We crash for the night.
And because I can…