(Photo by Mafyoo)
When you leave London so rarely that south of Brixton feels like the countryside, a few days spent up North (capital N) feel like another world. There are coves, there are tarns, there are falls. There are creepy men in inns who think that any food not served with chips is “pretentious”.
Yes, yes, the south has these things too. But it doesn’t offer the opportunity to drive through places named Giggleswick, Nook, Puddlemire Lane and Cow Brow. No wonder Wild Beasts songs are so beautiful, intricate and remote, having grown up around here.
(Photo by William Haine)
We turned up at Angel to pick up a hire car and were soon giggling giddily when the car looked closer to a monster truck than a mini. Soon aiming for the wonderfully vague yet pointed road signs proclaiming The North, only a mistaken detour into Bradford (scenic it ain’t) tarnished a lovely drive to Malham Cove.
Having already climbed a tree (obviously) and followed a beautiful babbling stream, the Cove soon loomed large. It is 80 metres of craggy majesty, stained black to add menace and drip-dropping water to hint at its ice age waterfall past. Like a limestone cowboy I suggested the shorter, rockier route up and around the Cove. Then, like an idiot, I swiftly fell on the floor, ripping a hole in my trousers and cutting my knee open.
A few hours later, The Angel at Hetton offered mouthfuls of jus, froth, scallops, wontons and other scrumptious things they eat on the telly. As this holiday had grown out of an idea to replicate Steve Coogan’s culinary adventures in The Trip, it was suitable that the locally shot game of the day was partridge.
The other Trip-inspired restaurant – we were too short on time and money to fit in more than two – was Holbeck Ghyll. The breathtaking view over Windermere outshone the food (“is this bread fancy, or just stale?”) but a post-prandial stroll was perfect for lots of Michael Caine, Alan Bennett and of course Holbeck Ghyll impressions.
Before that, the historic town of Skipton came calling, the allure of its castle equalled by the reputation of its pork pies. Fascinating as it was to investigate the final battlements to fall during the English Civil War, it was equally enjoyable to meet the acquaintance of one Lord Norman Fighting-Chamber. Being an ancient stone room in need of little sustenance, he politely declined our dinner invitation.
The higher quality of the cooking was confirmed when, after visiting a takeaway in Windermere, one of my companions choked on his stir-fried chicken. This was understandable though; it was the only place open and we’d just been subjected to a pub folk session punctuated by conversation with the Windermere Walkers club. We didn’t learn though – the next day a service station McDonald’s tempted us in.
With that – and a fair few hours of the I, Alan Partridge audiobook, our little trip was over. It’s good up north. Must go more often.