Back to the UK: Part 1 (July 2017)

Greetings Blog Fans.  We’ve just made it back from a wonderful two weeks in England and Scotland.  Notionally this was a graduation trip for Nicole but we were all eager to return to visit friends and see places old and new.  It’s hard to believe it has been 3.5 years since we’ve moved back to the States.

map overall trip

Our trip involved 3 main phases with some additional stops along the way:

  • 3 nights near Derby (the “ttingham” house above) staying with our great friends, the Connells
  • 7 nights in Whitby, Yorkshire also with the Connells
  • 3 nights in the Scottish Borders (Melrose) with a stop in Seahouses, Northumberland along the way

I’ll cover the first 10 nights here and will do a second post for the trip north on our own.  This was a relaxing trip for reconnecting with friends and the beautiful countryside we have so missed.  We visited a few sites along the way but that wasn’t the primary purpose.

June 30 – July 1 (Fri / Sat) — Derby

Arrival day was about survival.  The overnight flight is always rough though fortunately I did get some sleep.   Flight and passport control delays pushed things back a bit but the worst was the drive.  The normal 2.5 hour drive took 5.5 hours (didn’t miss the traffic) as we finally made it to the Connells outside of Derby.  Ugh.  Apparently I looked like death warmed over.  Oh well; we made it!


Nicole lucked out in that her former school, Derby High, was having their prom that night.  She quickly got ready and joined Annabel to reunite with former classmates.  Not sure how she did it as I crashed hard!


As I awoke from my slumber early the next morning, this was my view out of the Connell’s house.  I’ve written about their “ideal British home” before but how can you beat sheep, stone walls, and a valley view out of your kitchen window.  This is what I missed!

The kids were left to their own devices, while we did another quintessentially British activity:  walking.  We just headed out their back garden and up the foot path to the countryside.  It was a short stroll of a few miles through fields and forests and was just what the doctor ordered.

That afternoon, we joined our former neighbors, the Clevelys, for tea.  It was good to catch up and see everyone.  The adults look the same (at least they do!) and the kids have of course shot up.

scrumptious cakes whipped up by Jo
Tom and Jo
Kaleb M., Leo C., Max C., Evan M. and Alex back in the ‘hood

Sunday, July 2 — Derbyshire

With one day left and cooperative weather, we set out to do a hike/walk in the Peak District.  Now that’s something I’m familiar with!  It was tough to choose which one to do but ultimately we ended up combining two previous walks near Castleton / Mam Tor which is about an hour away.


My GPS map highlights all the walks we’ve done in the area (one of our favorite spots).  The two specific previous walks were Cavedale (blue) and Mam Tor (green) in the lower center section above.


We combined the outer portions for a nice 8 mile hike (red track above).  The cyan squiggle above is from the previous walk when I knew we weren’t quite on the trail.  Derek’s digital OS map kept us straight this time!


The longer climb is actually up Cavedale with the peak at Mam Tor.  There were a series of smaller climbs after that before we walked back down into town.  Stats:  8.0 miles in 4:26 (3:29 moving).  1125′ min to max climb with a 1914′ overall climb.  And now to the photos:

the crew sets off on a gloriously sunny day
the Cave Dale climb
yay, sheep!
dramatic sky during the flat walk across to Mam Tor
Mam Tor in the distance — our next stop
the reward at the top
bracing against the fierce wind
Kuk and a nice backdrop
more great views


I tried to take this shot above near where I took one of my favorites (from 2012) below:

2012 — Mam Tor rainbow



I really love the walks that get up on the hills and look into the valleys below.  This walk was perfect.  And much better than the last time we all tried it:

2012 — Mam Tor (in the rain)

While we were enjoying a glorious walk, Nicole took advantage of the last opportunity to see some of her other close friends: Phoebe (w/ Annabel) and Abbie.  Good times — good luck at “uni” (college) girls!

Monday, July 3 — Whitby via Ripon

While the Connells got their house in order, we set off to Whitby with a slight detour to Ripon to see Fountains Abbey.  We visited York in 2011 on our first holiday during our secondment (3 year work assignment) and saw the Yorkshire Sculpture Garden on a previous day out as well.  Other than that, we’ve not spent much time in Yorkshire so we had a lot of choices for the drive up.  We settled on Fountains Abbey.  Ironically we let that entrance cover for all the other abbeys we would see but not enter the rest of the trip.  [We used to have both National Trust and English Heritage passes — now we are frugal visitors.]

From the National Trust website:

The dramatic Abbey ruins at Fountains are the largest monastic ruins in the country. The Abbey was founded in 1132 by 13 Benedictine monks from St Mary’s in York seeking to live a devout and simple lifestyle.

Within three years the little settlement at Fountains had been admitted to the austere Cistercian Order and with that came an important development – the introduction of the Cistercian system of lay brothers.

The lay brothers (think labourer) relieved the monks from routine jobs, giving them more time to dedicate to God. It was because of the lay brothers that Fountains became so wealthy through wool production, lead mining, cattle rearing, horse breeding and stone quarrying.

In the 14th-century the monks had to cope with bad harvests and raids from the Scots which led to economic collapse. This was only made worse by the Black Death which struck the country in 1348.

Despite its financial problems, the Abbey remained important. The abbacy of Marmaduke Huby (1495 – 1526) marked a period of revival and the great tower built by Huby symbolises his hope for the Abbey’s future.

The Abbey was abruptly closed down in 1539 in the Dissolution of the Monasteries ordered by Henry VIII, and the abbot, prior and monks were sent away with pensions.

And with that we were off to the Abbey (and the tour that awaited us).  We couldn’t pass up the playground along the way however as it reminded us of another photo.

Aww — 6 years earlier in Ireland
2017 — a little bigger now (same green jacket though! I guess we can get you a new one)
the tour gathers — we definitely brought the average age down






looking back as we head to the Studley Royal Water Garden



Chorister’s House
St Mary’s Church

Tuesday, July 4th — Whitby

Well, it’s not our first 4th of July in the UK.  Can’t say we were even phased by it though the weather was certainly cooler than we were used to (about 15C / 60F if I recall).

We arrived in Whitby, our base for the week, the previous afternoon.  Andrea found a gem of a place for our two families to stay.  Living the high/posh life for the week.  Though perhaps not a geographically ideal place for a Yorkshire base, it was more than adequate (and quite luxurious actually).

Whitby is a seaside tourist destination and fishing town of about 13,000 people.

yorkshire google map

I had mapped out some options for the week ahead of time but knew we would be flexible about our plans due to weather and group interest.  We figured a day for Whitby, 2-3 walks, Robin Hoods Bay and other area activities to fill in the rest.  These are somewhat marked on the map above (or as linked here).  [The black symbols were options that we chose not to visit in the end.]

For our first day we simply got our bearings and checked out the sights that Whitby had to offer.

close up of the full crew at the classic  whalebone arch (similar to headliner up top)
abbey from the west cliff
looking back towards the lighthouse and piers
down the pavilion and the colorful cabanas — Alex would get quite familiar with the stretch as he chose to do his training here on most days.  He was up at 7 to keep up with his cross-country training schedule.  Andrea joined him most days in Whitby (thanks!).  Very proud of that boy.
having fun
having fun round 2
up on the hill/cliff looking back
our speedy slug has followed us here (so many slugs and snails ….)
abbey from the pier
up the 199 steps we go
looking back down towards town
the girls striking a pose with the abbey in the background (we opted not to pay to enter)

We would see bluer skies later in the week.  In fact, just the day before was quite different.  While we were traipsing around Fountains Abbey, Annabel got some nice, bright shots from similar vantage points:




Those look painted in comparison!

Wednesday, July 5th — Robins Hood Bay

The weather forecast for the day was overcast but mostly dry so we decided to set out on our first Yorkshire walk from Whitby to Robins Hood Bay along the Cleveland Way coastal path.


Robins Hood bay is the next village to south (east).  Though originally a fishing village it’s primarily a tourist village now.  It makes for a nice (classic) coastal walk.


Relatively flat once outside of Whitby and the 199 steps though there were a few ups and downs.  Stats:  7.4 miles in 3:45 (3:11 moving).  A min-to-max climb of 381′ with total climbs of 1338′.  We were quite tired by the end.  After enjoying a tea and walk around the village we took the bus back to Whitby (£4.30 each — well worth it!).

a nice welcome near the start of the walk — actually we appreciate all clarifications when it comes to staying on the approved footpaths
the abbey from farther away along the walk
nice group shot along the coast
classic from the rear shot
yay, sheep here too
looking back along the coast
ahead to the slight uphill grade
another coastal shot
A friendly pooch we met headed towards Whitby. The older couple initially scoffed at our plans to take the bus back but we saw them back in Robins Hood Bay after deciding it wasn’t such a bad idea after all!
a curious cow
very curious (notice I waited to get on the good side of the fence being the city slicker that I am)
and finally looking ahead to Robins Hood Bay

Thursday, July 6 — Museum of Victorian Science

Given all that walking, we were due for a low key, low activity day.  In doing my research I came across the Museum of Victorian Science which sounded like our kind of place if we could fit it in.  It did sound a bit quirky and unique but the reviews were great.  I asked Andrea to try to make a booking for us which was a bit more of an ordeal than she probably imagined.  It turns out they can take no more than 4 at a time so the Connells gratuitously let us have the slots (though it probably wasn’t much of a sacrifice!).  While they enjoyed another day strolling in Whitby, we set off for the back roads to find this place.

As it turns out, it is run by a nice old chap who turned his collection into a museum since his wife wanted it out of the house!  All of the items were shoehorned into an attached shed.  I know why the limit was 4 because another person could not have fit (though I did think Andrea might have been making that bit up ;-).  For 2 hours, Tony took us through many of the items and demonstrated them along the way.  We even had a lovely tea break with both he and his wife in their kitchen midway through.  What a wonderful and unique experience, especially for this science-y family.





Friday, July 7 — Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey

Time for another walk!  The girls requested a day in town to themselves so the 5 of us tackled this one.  In trying to decide which walks to do I kinda took the easy way out.  The North York Moors National Park has a list of 6 classic walks so that was a good place to start.  They also had descriptions of each, including this one.

This walk starts in the quaint market town of Helmsley and heads out along the Cleveland Way (restarted in Helmsley) until the ruined Rievaulx Abbey is reached.  You then walk up along the “terrace” and back through some farm land to complete the somewhat circular (“lollipop”) walk.

route taken (cyan)–we did not enter the terrace as shown in magenta
relatively flat walk (note scale)

Stats:  7.0 miles in 3:43 (3:08 moving).  433′ max climb and 1316′ overall.

looking back at the castle in Helmsley
Rievaulx Abbey from a distance
nice group shot with the abbey in the background
one last angle
my feeble attempt and trying to capture the wheat blowing in the wind–too low
Alex and Andrea having a deep discussion–probably about their running schedule
I was impressed by Helmsley but I didn’t get a picture of market square. This will have to do.

Another nice walk (and great company!).  Not as many commanding views but the abbey was surprisingly impressive and really neat to just walk by and see it out of nowhere.

Saturday, July 8 — Roseberry Topping walk

Saturday’s weather was predicted to be nice so we saved the “commanding view” walk for then.  This was my number one pick of the 6 classic walks based on my preferences so it was a good fit.  The Connells opted to do their own thing so it was just the Freys (like old times) on this day.

The Roseberry Topping website states:

An ascent of the ‘Yorkshire Matterhorn’, plus a reminder or two of the great navigator and explorer Captain Cook – just some of the delights of this classic 7-mile circular walk through dappled woodlands and across heather moorland.

Sounds good to me!

04_Roseberry Topping Track

The walk starts from Great Ayton, continues through the village and some fields until the climb to Roseberry Topping.  There’s a down and up to Little Roseberry and then a walk through the moors to another ascent to the Cook monument before finally ending up back in Great Ayton.

04_Roseberry Topping Graph

Some good climbs (and views) in this one.  Stats:  8.0 miles in 4:20 (3.28 moving).  806′ max climb with 1919′ overall.

traditional setting off photo–lovely blue skies (you don’t take those for granted here)
skirting the woods along to Roseberry Topping; Nicole’s high stepping apparently
an early view partially the way up-aaahhh
higher vantage point looking back
now looking out — notice the sea view from a distance
peace and serenity at the top? Not so much. Just a colony of beaver (cub) scouts. Those leaders had their hands full, especially with poor Hammish. He’s lucky he made it back in one piece.
back towards Great Ayton (I think)
enjoying a rest (and lunch)
another nice view
family shot
hey, all four of this time
heading down Roseberry Topping on the other side (to Little Roseberry)
looking back
and again from farther away
skirting the Moors
one last look back
Captain Cook’s monument in the distance (our destination)
and the reward back at the house

Another great day and a great walk.  This one was on par with the Castleton walk for good views.

Sunday, July 10 — Whitby area roundup (Falling Foss, etc.)

Our last day in Whitby and with the Connells.  It’s been a great week all around.  Rather than tackle another big walk, we thought we’d hit a few nearby sites and chill out.  We considered taking the steam train but decided the expense wasn’t worth it.  We thought we’d check out one of the famous stations (Goathland, aka Hogsmeade station in Harry Potter).  Before doing that we decided to do a short walk around Falling Foss Tea Garden and Waterfalls.

This short stroll is described here as a “magical woodland walk”.  We parked by the tea garden so did the stream (east) side first.  I much preferred that to the more dense ferns and woodlands and would suggest simply doubling back.

Stats:  2.0 miles in 1:15 (1:05 moving).  206′ max climb (554′ overall)

a view of the falls
the calming and pleasant river walk
battling the ferns (the deep forest shots later didn’t turn out)

We enjoyed some tea and scones at the tea gardens while we recharged.  And now on to Goathland, a shortish drive away (through some nasty backroads though — thanks Sat Nav / GPS).

Goathland Station
close up of the bridge
with Frey kids
waiting for the train (not really)


Since we love our food so much I couldn’t leave without a few comments.  On arrival we ate at a sit-down “chippie” (Trenchers — nothing special (to me) but they could take 7!) and the adults later ate at a new restaurant called Star Inn The Harbour which was quite nice though going through some early growing pains.  We ate in the rest of the time (with yours truly cooking most of the meals).  We bought two rounds of seafood to try at home as part of that (no photos — dang).  Monkfish and mussels the first time and cod, mussels and samphire the second.

Seafood pie (this rookie didn’t realize that meant all those mashed potatoes) — not a fried fish and chips guy though

The following are from the Star Inn The Harbour:

Rockpool (yum), halibut, dressed crab, red mullet


What a great 10 days.  It really ticked all the boxes and it was wonderful to spent so much time with such great friends.  Seeing all the wonderful countryside was a bonus.  It’s a shame we are divided by an ocean.  Okay, Connells, be thinking where you want to visit in the States and we’ll work on our next trip over there!

The trips continues for 4 more nights through Northumberland and the Scottish Borders.  I’ll pick that up in the next post.


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