Travel isn’t always about exploring far flung and exotic places, as much fun as that is! The pandemic has shone a light on what’s on offer right on our doorsteps and what better way to spend a weekend than exploring the North Yorkshire Moors.
Little more than an hour away from home, you’d think I’d have been to some of these places more times than I have, but what drew us to the Moors was a couple of specific experiences.
Known as the Foodie Capital of the North, we’d booked a cooking course at the famous Cook’s Place in Malton (previously Malton Cookery School). There’s a range of courses covering meat and fish, baking and Chef’s Table. There’s half and full day courses and the host, Gilly, instantly makes you feel welcome and at home.
The course was a gift for the other half so he had the pick of classes and chose a half day baking. There was just the 2 of us on the course so it felt very exclusive. The maximum group size seems to be 10 so even full classes would feel intimate.
After a cup of tea and an introduction to the kitchen, we cracked on with our bakes; an apple and lemon curd cake, eclairs and stollen mince pies. I must admit to have been a bit nervous, particularly at the thought of making choux pastry, but Gilly was so calm and reassuring, she made it all seem so easy!
The 3 hours flew by and what started as individual ingredients magically turned into delicious cakes in front of our very eyes. It would have been nice to sit with a cuppa and enjoy our creations but the cute market town of Malton was calling, so we had to make do with having cakeaway.
Malton is only a small town but is renowned for its range of independent and artisan retailers, particularly when it comes to locally sourced food. There’s a major food market on the second Saturday of every month (except January) and a mega food festival over August Bank Holiday weekend.
As you’d expect from a foodie haven, there’s plenty of choice for places to eat and we settled on the New Malton, a relaxed pub recognised in the Michelin pub guide.
I had a beetroot and goats cheese mouse followed by a Gruyère, beef and ale pie with chips. The beef was slow cooked to perfection and the cheesy crust on the pie was delicious. I would have liked more chips though! The dessert of plum crumble with Amerreto ice cream was the highlight of the meal, the ice cream was ridiculous!
Feeling rather stuffed, we had another little walk around town before driving the 7 miles to Pickering, another cute Yorkshire town and home to tomorrow’s adventure.
Chain hotels are in short supply in these parts but you’re not short of guesthouses, B&Bs or campsites for a comfortable overnight stay. Nonetheless, a brand new Premier Inn had opened just outside town so I booked us in there for the night.
There’s not much to say about the hotel. It’s a standard Premier Inn with a decent size room, nice enough bar and food and a hearty breakfast. It was an early breakfast for us as we were booked on to the first departure of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway at 0920 from Pickering station. And you know I love a steam train!
The 1930’s theme at Pickering station invokes a golden era of steam hauled train travel and seeing the loco appear from the steam on a cold autumn morning was just magical! There’s something so exciting about the sights, sounds and smells of steam trains!
The best scenery starts about 20 minutes out of Pickering, particularly on the left. The train was fairly quiet with it being towards the end of the summer season (I love travelling off-peak!) so I was able to hog the windows in the doors on both sides of the train. I’d learned from my Jacobite experience and brought sunglasses to stop soot getting in my eyes!
The views aren’t as spectacular as we’d seen in Scotland but beautiful, nonetheless. Yorkshire isn’t called God’s Own County for no reason! Cutting through the rolling hills, passing streams and little waterfalls. It’s a very relaxing journey. Because it was so cold outside, the carriage was heated by steam which made it very atmospheric!
It’s not currently possible to hop on, hop off at stations between Pickering and Whitby if you’re end point is Pickering or Whitby. So you either have to do the full route or hop on, hop off. We did the full route but the hop on, hop off gives the opportunity to explore some of the little villages connected by the railway. The most famous being Goathland, featured in the 90’s police drama, Heartbeat and Harry Potter. Goathland station is picture perfect! I’ve put a great video of us leaving the station of my Facebook page.
Just short of 2 hours after leaving Pickering, we pulled in to Whitby station. The weather was kind to us and it wasn’t as cold as I thought it was going to be. We headed straight to the Magpie Cafe for fish and chips with a pot of tea. The menu is quite extensive and I liked that it wasn’t just fish and chips. I also liked that the fish and chips came in 3 different sizes so there was something for everyone. We got there just before opening time and there was already a queue. The restaurant filled very quickly, and the food lived up to its reputation with fantastic views of the harbour and Whitby Abbey from the first floor windows.
After gorging on fish and chips, we climbed the 199 steps up to Whitby Abbey, the 7th century ruins made famous in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The only downside to being on the fixed timetable of the train was not having time to explore the ruins. At over £12 to get in, it wasn’t worth it for the 20 or so minutes we had. So instead, we headed back down the hill and had an ice cream on the pier. Luckily for me, they had Amerreto flavour which was just as good as that at the New Malton!
I wouldn’t go as far to say I’d avoided going to the Yorkshire coast, but resorts such as Scarborough and Bridlington certainly didn’t make me want to rush there. This was my first visit to Whitby since a school trip when I was about 10 years old, but I really enjoyed it.
Whitby is a much more refined and understated destination, not as gaudy and tacky as it’s neighbours. Much more chilled out and grown up. The narrow, windy streets with boutique art and gift shops are a great place to spend a few hours and I definitely want to go back and explore the Abbey. It’s a little over an hours drive away from home, so what’s my excuse for not going back?
Date of trip: October 2021
Price paid: £85 for 1 night at the Premier Inn Pickering including breakfast. Cooking course prices are on the Cook’s Place website. Trip on the North Yorks Moors Railway provided by NYMR.
Points earned: 127 Avios for paying for the hotel with our BA Premium Plus American Express.