Yorkshire, England - Richmond Castle

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Richmond Castle is one of the oldest Norman stone fortresses in Britain, begun in 1070 by William the Conqueror's Breton supporter & Cousin Alan the Red.  The Castle, which has a commanding view of lower Swaledale, was built in an attempt to stabilize the population in areas north of York which had initially rebelled against Norman rule.  (Norman rule began in 1066 when the French invaded and defeated English forces at the Battle of Hastings.)  

The Castle passed down over time to various Dukes of Brittany, who usually assumed the title of Earl of Richmond.  Being a Royal Castle, it was seized a few times by reigning English Kings, for shelter during turbulent times, true of Henry II in 1158, and Henry III in 1250.  It's always good to have a royal castle somewhere to hole up in, when you're a King, and under attack, no?   

we had the Castle to ourselves, in a light rain.  It was enjoyable climbing around the old structure and reading historical displays.  A lot of history happened here for let's say the last 950 years, and when you pause to consider this, it great that so much is left to explore.                

note - you can enlarge any part of a picture by left-clicking in and then out again.

Richmond Castle a commanding view above the River Swale feasting room (Great Hall)
  heritage rainy day look     how it might have looked in the 1200s
the Keep   a doorway to nowhere once upon a time it went somewhere  
  view from the crenellations castle & garden River Swale again upper market
lower market narrow slit through which to shoot arrows
walk to the garden somewhat slippery  pavement stones a rainy day in  Yorkshire counting device

We had lunch at a terrific cafe called the Cross View Tea Room, with great food, service, and atmosphere, looking out onto the market square.  We enjoyed listening to British accents all around.  Richmond was one of the high points of our trip as regards ambience & atmosphere.         

After lunch we took the short walk around the base of the Castle, where we came across a friendly wall-sitting cat.  We also looked around in a used bookstore and while Lins was talking with the owner, I had time to peruse the shelves and found two books that I read on this trip.  

Prior to leaving Richmond, we dropped into another mouth-watering British bakery. The talkative guy making our coffees, probably in his mid-30s, said he'd only recently been in Australia for some years as a beach bum & big wave surfer and he's only just arrived back to Yorkshire, where he grew up, getting his bearings on what he should do next.         

To me this indicated he had a habit of intense risk-taking, for the thrill of the ride. 

I said 'if you were a big wave surfer down under, you've got to be going through terrible culture shock', and he looked into my eyes and said 'yeah man, that's no ****, but he was smiling and appreciated the empathy.....and he certainly did not look unhappy.....it was a nice encounter at a backstreet pastry shop.  

A day full of unexpected discoveries like this shows that great traveling is about finding really good scenery, walks, and food, and people, in any order it occurs.  

small cars fit the tiny roads better    Cross View Tea Room view of the market square
  Linda's fish & chips and tea; note the tiny sprouts garnish a great pasta dish and coffee the walk beneath the castle a large waterfall below could be heard but not seen
house in old neighborhood for sale very friendly   wall-sitting cat another great  bakery neighborhood where we parked  

Both Linda and I felt an attraction to this little Dales hill town, population 7,000, and we vocalized how nice it would be to stay here for a week, to explore the modest City on foot. Although we did not go there, the ruins of Easby Abbey were only a short and scenic walk up the river from the Castle.

And Richmond is the gateway to Swaledale, some of the best loved scenery in the Yorkshire Dales. The terrain follows the river Swale uphill to remote towns like Muker, and Keld, becoming pretty steep and spectacular, but increasingly barren and covered with Heather.  The OS map shows so many walks here, with  different levels of steepness. 

Swaledale in Autumn (from google images) Heather with this lovely coloration occurs starting in August, generally only on hilltops in the Moors & Dales; see the epilogue page for a few more photos of the heather, having to do with the train from Pickering to Whitby. 

My take after our brief encounter with Wensleydale (later on this trip) is that there's enough of interest in any one Dale to take at least one full day to explore, and it's better to have 2 or 3 days, or more, so you can drive the scenic side roads, and find some great hikes, or waterfalls, or village bakeries. 

The best option is to stay up here, leave the car behind, and be on foot, for days on end.  Guide books to the best short walks in Swaledale reveal that experienced hikers who stay up here use the local bus system for getting to and from their trailheads. 

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