Home is a place we often take for granted. Boring and mundane to our familiar eyes, local places are frequently overlooked in favor of more tantalizing overseas destinations. Or if you’re like me, put on the ‘one day’ list that is stored at the back of my mind. After all, they’re so close we can do them any time, right? It was only when I returned from a big trip to countries so different to home that I gained a deeper appreciation for the green and sleepy North East England, the place I call home. I learnt that contrary to my previous belief, adventures are solely down to me, not a country. Adventure is in fact as present in my back garden as it is in the archaeological citadel of Machu Picchu or at the stunning lakes of Italy.
But my yearning to temporarily live abroad would mean I’d soon be leaving England. My ‘one day’ list of local places that had lost against European breaks would become difficult to visit, or worse yet, never actually materialize. So I made a vow to myself. My pit-stop at home before I moved away was going to consist of micro adventures, weekend ‘staycations’ and more day trips than I was dragged on as a kid.
So with a ticking clock, here is a snapshot of my journey of exploring locally; to places of historic interest and natural beauty, all within an hour radius of my front door. And I’m sure you will agree – I’m pretty damn lucky to call this incredible place home.
Situated just a 15 minute drive from my house, Mount Grace Priory is one of the most accessible and well preserved medieval catholic monasteries in the whole of England.
Nestled at the foot of the North Yorkshire hills, the Mount Grace Priory ruins are a wonderfully peaceful and majestic site to wander around.
Although I’ve been here many times, the priory always takes on new beauty with each season; recently in Spring with blossoms and daffodils in full bloom.
25 minutes back in the opposite direction but still in the North Yorkshire National Park, you can find a series of hills to hike. The most iconic in the area is the small, coned shaped hill called Roseberry Topping, which takes a prominent position on the horizon.
The walk to the top only takes a brisk 25 minutes but the last 10 of this are steep enough to really get your heart pumping.
The view from the jagged cliff-like top is expansive; across lush fields, dramatic moorland, villages (including my own) and out towards the east, the Yorkshire coastline.
Growing up so close to the coast, I have many fond memories of eating fish and chips and playing cricket on the beach with my family (typically British huh?). However I have rarely been to coastal locations independently.
Robin Hood’s Bay is a small fishing village near the town of Whitby, which was one place I was keen to explore alone.
Quieter and less touristy than its sister Whitby, Robin Hood’s Bay is dominated by brooding cliffs towering over rocky orange sand, with fishing cottages nestled in a crack between the cliffs.
The town has many cute photogenic streets, interesting shops and typical seaside pubs. Robin Hood’s Bay really is the raw and quaint English coast at its best.
Another fine example of a typical quaint town is Helmsley which was voted ‘Britain’s Best Market Town’ in 2015. With award winning shops, tea rooms, inns and surrounded by the North Yorkshire Moors, Helmsley is a popular base for tourists and especially cyclists.
Characteristic of many northern villages, a stream runs through the centre and most of the houses are built from old stone.
When visiting places like this, I always think how lucky we are to have a country that is now so conscious about preserving historic places and ensuring an aesthetic fit of modern features.
A few minutes walk from Helmsley there is the stunning Rievaulx Abbey, the first Cistercian monastery in the North of England.
The dramatic grand arches and huge scale of this abbey complex is mesmerising. I spent hours here attempting to piece together the splendour and rich past life of this architectural beauty.
At the top of the Helmsley valley there is also Rievaulx Temples and Terraces, which not only has lovely woodland walks but various viewpoints down to the Abbey.
Walks in the North however, do not get much more epic than at Brimham Rocks near the Yorkshire Dales. The precariously balanced rock formations are so unique that the region has been recognised as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty by the government.
Sculpted over centuries by wind, rain and ice, I can’t quite quite believe this Jurassic-like natural marvel is only an hour from home, and not somewhere like Africa.
The best part about Brimham Rocks is that you can climb it all. There’s nothing quite like crawling under stone tunnels and hanging off precarious ledges to make you truly appreciate mother nature.
Most neglected of all the places local to me would have to be the large old cities. Durham, a historic university city, only 45 minutes away, is a prime example.
With a grand Romanesque cathedral, huge Norman castle, medieval houses, botanical gardens and the Wear river to name a few attractions, I discovered that there was so much to do here, one day trip was simply not enough.
With every place I visited on my quest to explore locally, I came to the conclusion that no matter how much fun I have abroad, ultimately, home is where the heart is and that, is most definitely in the North.