I LOVE travelling by train, do you ? The whole process is just so easy, stress free and relaxing. Don’t you find it stressful when travelling by car on our busy roads ? Then you have the hassle of finding a car park near to your destination, and don’t get me started on car park charges ! There is also something so romantic about travelling by train. Yes, I know, I am being all nostalgic thinking of the good old days when travelling by train was such a big adventure.
I remember travelling from Leeds to North Wales for our annual family holiday. It seemed like I was travelling to the ends of the earth! The train journey was part of the holiday back then. The excitement of the train pulling into the station and hurrying down the carriages looking for the best seat. The wonderment of watching the different landscapes as the train hurtled through the countryside. I am not sure how long the journey took back then, but I was never bored or fed up. This was probably helped by mum packing a picnic for eating on the train.
Nowadays we seem to spend our lives rushing from one destination to another, usually in a car. More often than not, sat in a traffic jam admiring the view of the back of another car ! I think we miss so much travelling by car in our haste to get to a place quicker and faster than everyone else. We miss looking at parts of the country we wouldn’t normally see. We miss the chance to spend quality time together with friends or family. Instead we find ourselves cooped up in a car, worrying about the ever increasing traffic ahead. We miss the chance to be a true adventurer and to explore new places we wouldn’t normally visit.
So my blog today is to write about my recent adventures where I spent a full weekend visiting various places as a guest of Northern who are part of Arriva. Arriva being one of the leading providers of passenger transport in Europe. Northern cover a huge number of destinations in the North and North West. I must admit I was surprised at all the wonderful places you can visit by train. To have a look at just a selection of the destinations please click here.
Did you know you can travel to lovely Windermere in the Lake District on Northern ? Or perhaps you fancy a trip to the coast to take in that lovely sea air ? Well, you can travel to Blackpool on the West coast or Scarborough on the East coast. Or why not visit some of our fabulous cities and towns ? York, Leeds, Chester, Harrogate, Manchester and Newcastle are just a few of the great places you could visit.
So I hope you will carry on reading about my weekend travelling round Yorkshire with Northern. I took my husband along as adventures are always better with a friend or family member. I hope it will inspire you to make a journey of your own by train and to explore more of your area. After all, life should be an adventure and you are never too old to experience new places.
LEEDS CITY CENTRE
So for my first leg we started in Leeds which is the third most populated city outside London. Leeds is considered to be the cultural, financial and commercial capital of the West Yorkshire region. There is so much to do in this area for a day or weekend leisure stay. I know how fabulous Leeds is for shopping, so I decided this would be my main focus for my time here.
TRINITY SHOPPING CENTRE
After leaving the train station we walked for just five minutes to Trinity Shopping Centre which is located on Boar Lane adjacent to the 18th century Holy Trinity Church. This shopping centre has hundreds of shops suiting all pockets and ages. There is a variety of eating places, so you can rest your weary feet from all that shopping. The shopping centre opened in 2013 and is worth a look even just for the modern architecture style.
Leaving Trinity Shopping Centre we made our way to one of my favourite places in Leeds – the Corn Exchange. This iconic and stunning building was built in 1864. It has been sympathetically restored to retain all the original features. Visiting the Corn Exchange is an absolute must for any visitor and I guarantee you will not be disappointed. The Corn Exchange is home to independent businesses such as boutique style shops and eating places. We had a look round these lovely shops and were so impressed with the quality of the products. Isn’t it refreshing to see so many independent shops producing such unique items?
I especially liked the Great Yorkshire Shop which specialises in hand picked products from Yorkshire businesses. Here you can buy cards, gifts, homeware and beauty products. So if you are a new visitor to Yorkshire and want a nice souvenir of Yorkshire, or you are a native of Yorkshire and want to support your local fellow countrymen then this is THE place to visit.
By this stage you will probably be feeling hungry as I was, so I can recommend a visit to Humpit bar within the Corn Exchange for a lunch stop. Humpit is Yorkshire’s first dedicated hummus and pita bread bar selling authentic hummus, falafel, salads and drinks. There are other wonderful eating places located within the Corn Exchange to suit all tastes. It is a perfect place to stop for lunch and is so relaxing to sit in such beautiful surroundings.
After a hearty lunch we made our way to the iconic Leeds Market which is literally a stone’s throw from the Corn Exchange. Leeds Market has been trading to the public since 1857 and still retains the old architecture of that period. In this bustling market you can find characterful traders who are part of families that have been trading in this market for decades. There is a wide range of international businesses too which adds to the ambience of the place. With over 170 traders in this vibrant market you will always find something interesting to buy or see.
After leaving Leeds Market we walked for a few minutes to Victoria Quarter Shopping on Vicar Lane. Victoria Quarter is known as the premium shopping centre in the North of England with many of the top brands having retail outlets here. Victoria Quarter is home to the first Harvey Nichols store outside London. The centre is home to other top brands such as Vivienne Westwood, Coach, Paul Smith and Louis Vuitton to name but a few. We stopped here for a quick coffee as I needed more fuel to carry on. Coffee always seems to do the trick! We stopped at a lovely coffee bar just in the centre of the arcade called Le Pain Quotidien. We then headed back to Leeds Train Station for the next leg of our adventure.
We then took the train onwards to our next destination – Saltaire. After a relaxing fifteen minute journey we alighted at Saltaire. It is a long time since I visited Saltaire so I was looking forward to this visit as I had heard so many good things about it.
As the sun was shining, we headed from the station for a leisurely five minute walk to a stunning park area called Robert’s Park. This fourteen acre park is just beautiful and a perfect place to relax and to have a stroll. There is a bandstand in the park which hosts concerts and a play area to keep the children happy. We stopped at The Boathouse Inn located at the park entrance, for a quick drink as the weather was so good and it was pleasant enough to sit outside.
We then walked to Salts Mill which is located right opposite the train station. Salts Mill, a former textile mill is now a thriving complex, housing an art gallery, shopping centre and restaurant. The original mill was built in 1853 by Sir Titus Salt. The Mill is home to many David Hockney paintings which are always of great interest to visitors. There are many other interesting art exhibits in the 1853 Gallery. There is a good variety of shops within the Mill and I especially enjoyed looking round Kath Libbert Jewellery Gallery. I do love a bit of sparkle! After a quick stop at Salts Diner for afternoon tea and crumpets, we left Salts Mill and headed back to the train station for the next leg of our trip.
Jumping back on the train for a further thirty minutes, we headed to Skipton, a lovely market town situated in North Yorkshire. Skipton is known as the Gateway to the Yorkshire Dales and lies on the River Aire and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. We actually walked along the Canal from the station to get to the centre of Skipton. This is such a lovely walk and it is only ten minutes into town from the station.
As it was Saturday, the town was bustling with locals and visitors alike, many of whom come just to visit the market which has gained a good reputation over the years. The market was in full flow as we arrived, with a wide variety of stalls, ranging from local food produce to clothes to pet beds. I bought myself a lovely print scarf for just £3 from a stall that sold the largest range of fashion scarves I had ever seen!
Reaching the end of High Street, we went to Skipton Castle which stands in a prominent position overlooking the town centre. Skipton Castle is over 900 years old and is one of the best preserved medieval castles in England. The Castle is well worth a visit and will interest both young and old. You can visit the Banqueting Hall, go to the dungeons and climb up to the Watch Tower. There is an admission fee and all visitors receive a comprehensive Tour sheet which will help you enjoy your visit more. There is a lovely picnic area within the Castle and a tea room, but as we wanted to experience more of Skipton we headed back down the High Street to find an independent coffee shop. We found a little tea room called Three Sheep Tea Rooms where we enjoyed a lovely coffee and home made cake.
CRAVEN COURT SHOPPING CENTRE
Suitably refreshed we then headed to Craven Court Shopping Centre which is located just off the high street. This lovely shopping area is all under cover ( great when the weather is not so good ) and hosts some lovely quaint shops. I enjoyed looking round a beautiful gift shop called Out Of the Ordinary. This fabulous shop is an absolute must for your visit as it is like a treasure trove. After shopping for a few gifts for family and friends, I reluctantly left this wonderful shop and headed to the station for the train home on what had been a jam packed day.
So that is a summary of my first day and what a day it was ! Shopping, countryside, culture, food, art galleries and all reached by travelling on a train, relaxed and stress free. Please join me for my second day when I travel from Leeds to Knaresborough stopping off en route at some fabulous places.
After an exciting day yesterday I found myself eager to get out to continue my adventures by train. Maybe I have been watching too many travel programmes or maybe it is my age, but I find myself lately trying to pack as much into my days as I can. It is a beautiful world out there and I am so keen to explore it and to create lots of new memories. With that in mind I got up early and set off with a plan of exciting times ahead.
LEEDS – HEADINGLEY
Leaving Leeds station with just a quick ten minute journey we arrived at Headingley Station in anticipation of our visit to Kirkstall Abbey and Museum. Kirkstall Abbey is just a fifteen minute walk from Headingley Station.
The Abbey is one of the best preserved Cistercian monasteries in the country set on the River Aire. It is surrounded by lovely parkland and picnic areas. The abbey was founded around 1152 but was dissolved in 1538 by Henry the eighth. There is a fabulous visitor centre showing the history of the Abbey which is also attached to a well stocked gift shop. Entry to the Abbey is free. The grounds and parkland surrounding the Abbey are also free and regular concerts, farmers markets and other events are held here. The Abbey itself is a wonderful and atmospheric place to walk around. There is something quite eerie but relaxing about walking round an ancient ruin, even in the bright sunshine.
ABBEY HOUSE MUSEUM
Across the road from the Abbey is Abbey House Museum which is a really interesting museum. The ground floor of the Museum houses a reconstruction of a typical Victorian street with shops etc. In the upstairs galleries you can read about the history of Kirkstall Abbey and also view exhibitions about the local area. There are lots of different events and temporary exhibitions on within the museum over the year, so it is always worth looking for something that may interest you. After a cup of tea in the Museum Cafe it was time for us to head back to Headingley station for the next train to our next destination.
A leisurely fifteen minute train journey heading further north brought us to the lovely village of Pannal, just outside Harrogate.
My reason for stopping here was to visit Crimple Hall Garden and Antique Centre which is located just ten minutes walk from the train station. Crimple Hall is a quirky shopping area which houses a garden centre, an indoor antiques centre, gift shops and a bistro cafe.
The garden centre is a delight to walk round, with all you could want to make your garden area look pretty this summer. The antique and vintage showroom is a vast array of all things vintage from clothes to jewellery to furniture. I loved browsing round here exploring all the different shops, each with their own vast collection of antiques. If you are interested in antiques or vintage then this place is a must for you to visit. It is like an Aladdin’s cave with every possible antique / vintage item you could think of.
Next door there is a small shopping area selling lovely gifts and homeware etc. There is even a great selection of pet gifts and products here, so I bought my dog George a little present. If you are feeling in need of refreshments after all that shopping, then there is a lovely bistro / cafe you can call in for drinks and food. The Barrows is a lovely cosy cafe with a great menu, whether you fancy just a sandwich or a more substantial meal. With cosy seating overlooking the gardens it is easy to get so relaxed here that you don’t want to move. However we had lots more to do in the day, so, after a light lunch we headed back to Pannal train station to catch the next train to Harrogate.
Harrogate is a popular spa town located in North Yorkshire. The town attracts many tourists and long stay visitors and has won many awards such as ‘ The happiest place to live in Britain’ The train station is right in the centre of town, and as we were spending our time in Harrogate mainly shopping, this was really convenient.
VICTORIA SHOPPING CENTRE / JAMES STREET
Located just across the road from the station is the Victoria Shopping Centre and the James Street shopping area which is home to many high end chain shops and Harrogate’s only department store Hoopers. I have always loved the small department stores that we used to have in all small towns, but they seem to be a dying breed now. So it is good to see this tradition is been continued in Harrogate.
After all this shopping I was feeling the need for coffee and cake. Yes, this seems to be a common theme in my life! So heading down to the end of James Street was that wonderful institution that is Bettys. Bettys in Harrogate has being serving teas for a hundred years. People from all around the world visit Bettys to experience the traditional afternoon tea which consists of finger sandwiches, cream scones and the cutest cakes you have ever seen. Of course Bettys also serve breakfast and full hot meals, but whatever you order you can be assured of excellent customer service and amazing food.
Leaving Bettys after our coffee and cake break we headed for Montpellier Mews which is just a few minutes walk from Bettys on Parliament Street. Montpellier Mews is a lovely mews style area hosting independent shops and cafes. This place is a little off the beaten track but it is well worth a visit if you are visiting Harrogate.
Our final stop in Harrogate was a walk on The Stray. ( I needed to walk off that yummy cake I had just eaten!) The Stray is a large area of parkland in the centre of Harrogate. It is in fact 200 acres of open space, which is designated for the people of Harrogate to enjoy. So, you will find many families having picnics here during the summer. It is lovely to have such a vast space in the middle of Harrogate away from the hustle and bustle. After a nice walk crisscrossing the Stray and admiring the blossoms on the trees, we headed back to the station for the train to our next destination, Knaresborough.
We reached Knaresborough from Harrogate in just ten minutes and travelled over the famous Knaresborough viaduct which gives an amazing view of Knaresborough Castle and river area. If you go, then try and catch a glimpse of this as it really is breathtaking from the train. The viaduct is literally a minute before you pull into Knaresborough station and the best view is as you sit on the right hand side of the train coming into the station.
Knaresborough is a historic market town lying just four miles east of Harrogate and is built around the River Nidd. Knaresborough is actually mentioned in the Doomsday Book with Knaresborough Castle dating from around the 1100’s. The town is a busy, bustling town with quaint independent shops and cute tea rooms, with lots of events and activities for all ages, including boating on the River Nidd. Other notable landmarks aside from the Castle include Mother Shiptons Cave, St Robert’s Cave, The Chapel Of Our Lady of the Crag, The Oldest Chemist Shop in England and the Frazer Theatre.
SHOPPING – HIGH STREET, MARKET PLACE, GREEN DRAGON YARD, CASTLEGATE
We started our adventure in Knaresborough by walking round the town centre to do a little shopping and buy some gifts for family who have birthdays coming up. We started by visiting a lovely independent gift shop on High Street called Cosmic Love. This shop is run by the lovely Nikki and has a fabulous array of gifts, jewellery, vintage style dresses and beauty products. Nikki also runs a holistic treatment business along side the shop where you can receive Reiki, Crystal Healing, Chakra Balancing and Indian Head Massage to help you de stress and achieve better health.
We next popped into the Old Chemist Shop located in the market square. This shop really is an ‘old’ shop where medicines were dispensed from around 1720 until 1997. Nowadays the shop is a gift shop with a tea room upstairs. The shop retains lots of original features and you can almost believe you are back in time.
Next we popped into The Sweet Cabin located in Green Dragon Yard which is THE cutest sweet shop ever! If you love retro sweets that take you back to your childhood, then this shop is a must. I bought some sweets for my children ( yes they are all grown up but they still love little treats from me ). I even bought some Snowies for myself! Who remembers Snowies? They tasted SO good and no, I didn’t share.
Of course shopping always means refreshments are needed and we visited a lovely coffee shop Number Thirteen on Castlegate. I love the ethics of this coffee shop as everything in the shop is preloved, upcycled or handmade. All their ingredients are locally sourced and they support other local businesses. They actively encourage you to take in your own coffee cup if you wish to buy a takeaway coffee. In fact, I bought a reuseable cup for myself while I was there. The coffee and cakes are amazing here and this cute coffee shop is well worth a visit.
To finish off my shopping trip in Knaresborough I visited The Yorkshire Soap Company on Castlegate which is one of my favourite shops for all things bath related. This Yorkshire company sell the most amazing bath products. The shop itself has one of the most attractive displays of products I have ever seen anywhere.
So after I had spent up we decided to finish our day with a walk by the river. Waterside is a popular attraction for many visitors to Knaresborough especially in spring / summer. You can hire a boat for an hour and drift up and down the River Nidd or you can just watch the world go by at one of the tea rooms by the river. Marigolds and The Black Mulberry are the two lovely Waterside cafes worth a visit.
CONYNGHAM HALL PARK
Walking on from Waterside you will come to Conyngham Hall Park which has lovely riverside walks and picnic areas and is a great place to relax after a busy day. This park is a great place to take children as there is a lot of space for them to run round and enjoy themselves. There is a small ‘beach’ area just off the grassy area car park where it is possible to paddle in the shallow water.
Well, I have to say, I honestly had a fabulous weekend exploring new and old places in Yorkshire. I love creating new memories, meeting new people and opening my eyes a bit more to things I sometimes take for granted. We often think we need to go abroad to experience adventures, but sometimes those new adventures are right under our nose and we just don’t realise it. My weekend has made me think that I need to explore Yorkshire a little more. Perhaps it is a good idea to look at your local area from the viewpoint as a tourist rather than as a local? That way we see things differently, as opposed to rushing round as we drive through places.
And here is where the advantage of travelling by train comes in. It allows you to take things easier with no stress and to truly appreciate the places you visit. Every train I travelled on during the weekend was on time, clean and the staff were amazing. I know train travel in the UK has a lot of bad press but I honestly experienced only good things on my weekend.
One of my favourite quotes is by Louisa May Alcott – ” I like adventures and I’m going to find some ” What a fabulous quote to end this blog post.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this and I hope I have inspired you to have a look at creating adventures of your own. And let me know what adventures you plan on taking ? Do you love travelling by train as much as I do ?
Until next time dear friends and happy travelling !
** This post was sponsored by Northern but the content and views are my own **