Yorkshire, England trip - posted november 2015

Background & Intro to our trip to Yorkshire, England, in October 2015

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Our cottage at Kilburn Park was a few miles south-east of the town of Thirsk, England, pretty much located in the center of the Yorkshire area.  We stayed there for fourteen nights.  

Here's are two maps for Yorkshire:   

Our overall trip was very relaxing, probably because it was so small-scale.  Most of the historical destinations were easily reached on uncrowded and windy back roads in the rolling-hills terrain.  The villages we visited such as Thirsk (population 5,000) and Helmsley (pop. 4,000) are very small towns. 

It takes all of five minutes (at 30 mph) to drive through Thirsk from one end to the other and only about two minutes for Helmsley.  Pickering (pop. 6,800), located on the major driving road for travelers heading northeast to the Moors, or Whitby, or east to Scarborough on the North Sea, has only two traffic lights on the main two-lane road. 

Coming from a densely populated area, where we live, it was refreshing, as was the climate.  Mostly cloudy weather with occasional sunshine or light rain suited us just fine.  Our being 40 miles east of the Atlantic Ocean, and, 40 miles west of the North Sea, meant that the weather continuously changes, and air quality here is really good.    

Self-Catering Cottage  

Kilburn Park Holiday Cottages (link here) are part of a horse-boarding property of maybe five acres.  There are two rental cottages here and our White Horse cottage, the larger one, was 50 pounds ($75) a night.  Upstairs were two en suite bedrooms, and downstairs was a living room, kitchen, and laundry room.  The owner Jackie was very nice to talk with and we really came to appreciate the place. 

Our pantry was well-supplied via a Tesco grocery store in Thirsk, ten minutes away.  For breakfast & dinner we kept up the same healthy diet as at home. UK guidebooks warn against driving in the dark when in the country because roads are tiny & never lit.  Thus, we were home almost every tourist day by nightfall - this being October - it was around 5 pm.  This left us with time after dinner when we usually had a fire going and read or talked or looked at maps or guide books for coming destinations.  Linda and I each read 3 or 4 books during our stay.         

History - background to the Abbeys

Our main historical destinations were the Yorkshire Abbeys of Byland, Rievaulx, and Fountains because of a coffee table book we've had for decades about Monasteries in Europe, which states that these were the three most important of the widely spread out Cistercian Abbeys in England, Cistercians being a French Order of Catholics who built Abbeys on a grand scale, with elaborate architecture.        

These monks followed the Rule of Benedict, written in 540 AD, which almost all European monasteries followed.  Benedict insisted that a monk's life be based on simplicity of lifestyle, frequent prayer & devotion, with Monks often living at poverty level conditions.  Monastic sites were encouraged to be away from population centers. This was Benedict's ideal.  

Instead, these Abbeys in Yorkshire became more than a little wealthy from a thriving wool trade with the Continent, and, from private donations.  The Normans had brought over their tradition of generosity to the Catholic Church, particularly from wealthy Nobles & Barons, who expected the Monks to pray, over the coming centuries, for their eternal souls.    

Life span of the Abbeys

The monastic lifestyle in the Abbeys we visited only lasted about 300 years with the best years being in the 1200s.  After a brief 'golden age', recurrent bouts of bubonic plague, a wide-spread sheep disease, and, occasional invasions of Scots tribes, mainly during the 1300s, lead to an overall decline in the Abbeys' wealth & population, which of course extended to the surrounding villagers.  

When Henry the Eighth's men came around to confiscate any wealth still left at the Abbeys in the mid-1500s - as part of the King's arrogant dispute with Rome - the population of monks was reduced to minimal, and little wealth was left, except some old lead roofing, which was taken. 

Henry mandated that each Abbey be rendered un-usable, which is one reason why so little remains to see now...the Abbeys were 'sacked'. 

A note about historical information on the trip pages

On the trip we read the displays, took ear-bud tours, and, purchased official brochures or guidebooks at each of the historic sites, all of them operated and maintained by either English Heritage or The National Trust. 

After we were home again I read all of the historic materials, and the dots began to connect. I undertook and enjoyed a small online research project to get the Monastic story right, and generally amended the text for the next few months after the initial posting.    

Revision, April 2018 - another cause for our wanting to see Yorkshire, which I forgot to mentioned above, had to do with our love for the British TV show All Creatures Great & Small, based on animal tales told by Thirsk Veterinarian Alf Wight, known to the world as author James Herriot

The stories in the TV shows were often set way up in the Moors or Dales, and once we saw the BBC TV series on PBS in the 1990s, like so many others, we marveled at the gorgeous scenery and hoped to come here someday.  About 15+ years later, we were glad to see the landscape for ourselves.  

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