Monday, May 22, 2017

Adventures in Yorkshire

We just got back from a wonderful trip to London and Yorkshire. After a week in London our plan was to visit Haworth where the Bronte sisters lived. The question was: where should we stay? I had been told that York was a wonderful destination and only about an hour from Haworth. Once I began reading up on York I discovered so many interesting things. For example, did you know that York was once the capital of England? And that it is the home to the biggest Gothic cathedral in all of Northern Europe, the York Minster? I learned so much on this trip. But, back to the issue of where to stay. I did a little research and discovered what looked to be a lovely country house hotel just outside the city of York called Middlethorpe Hall. It is a Queen Anne country house that was built by Thomas Barlow in the early 18th-century and lived in by his descendants for many years. One of its most famous residents was the letter-writer and traveler Lady Mary Worley Montagu who rented it in 1713. Eventually the house fell into disrepair and was carefully restored in 1980 and turned into a beautiful hotel. I knew it was on a large piece of land but nowhere did I learn about its gorgeous gardens. Here is what we discovered at Middlethorpe Hall on our very first day. And by the way, don't you think the house itself has a sort of a Jane Eyre look about it? To me it looked like the Thornfield Hall of my imagination. Mr. Rochester or Mrs. Fairfax could have easily opened up that front door!

We entered the foyer and were very happy with what we saw. This is a very authentic and old-fashioned country-house hotel. Inviting and comfortable, it made us feel if we had traveled back in time. Our room was lovely and I wish I had pictures. But to give you a feeling of the authenticity of the building, our bedroom floor was on a slant and creaked like a thunderclap every time we walked on it. Late at night on the way to the bathroom it was easy to imagine ghosts. I loved the ambiance here and it was a great beginning to our Bronte journey. We checked in and quickly unpacked as we wanted to explore.

 There were some very beautiful public rooms

 I could imagine having tea here later

 But our first stop was the terrace at the back of the house where we were told we could get a cocktail

We walked out the back door and sat at one of these little table and had a glass of wine. We noticed that there seemed to be a garden at the end of the terrace. And so we took a walk.

We were greeted by this beautiful tree and noticed a pathway leading to a garden

We followed the path

The borders were lush and beautiful

And there it was -- a series of garden rooms filled with herbaceous borders, fruit trees, pathways, enclosures, long vistas, doorways, hedging, brick walls, and espaliered trees. There was also an 18th-century dovecote. This garden was enchanting and we were the only ones in it! 

There was beautiful hedging and inviting benches

Enticing vistas

Dramatic entrances


Garden doors

With views of more enticing gardens

Espaliered trees

The tulips were gorgeous

As were the alliums

There were arbors

And brick walls

We were happy to have made it in time to see the wisteria

The geometric shapes and symmetry were very inspiring

We followed along until we reached this park-like expanse which led us to the big lawn at the back of the house

Where we discovered the "ha-ha," a concealed ditch which allows views across the south lawn

At this point it was time to change for dinner at the hotel. The wood-paneled dining room was elegant and the food was delicious. We had three wonderful nights at Middlethorpe Hall. Maybe because of its proximity to Bronte Country, staying at Middlethorpe Hall felt a bit like living inside a Victorian novel. The combination of history, beauty, and atmosphere made it the perfect place to stay on our journey to visit the Brontes.

Next up: Haworth and the Bronte Parsonage