Tag Archives: yorkshire

A Yorkshire Town called Thirsk

Thirsk, Yorkshire

Home of James Herriot

Set in the Yorkshire countryside 24 miles north of York, the charming medieval market town of Thirsk rests between the Hambleton Hills and the Dales. Perhaps most famously known as the home of Author James Herriot. Although James Herriot is the name we know him by, it is actually his pen name. Born James Alfred Wight (Alf to people that knew him), Herriot became a Veterinarian before turning to writing.

He is best known for his books on animals and their owners called ‘If only they could talk’. Herriot’s practice was located in the Yorkshire town of Thirsk, 23 Kirkgate to be exact and now the site of the Herriot Museum. The veterinary practice is still working on this site, caring for ‘all creatures great and small’. The museum is well worth a visit, even if you are not familiar with his work.

James Alfred Wight Blue sign
James Alfred Wight

James Herriot Museum

As you step through the bright red door into the museum you are taken back in time to visit the fully restored 1940’s home of the author and vet. A magical time capsule of the author awaits you, a moment frozen in time where you can imagine him sat at his writing desk, recalling the tales of the clients he had that day. During the war, his basement was converted into an air raid shelter. As well as a family home it is also the site of the veterinary surgery, dispensary and waiting rooms.

Herriot’s books were turned into a tv show called All Creatures Great and Small in the late 70’s and again in the late 80’s. A reproduction of the set and the vehicle used are still on show for visitors today. The legend of veterinary work is still being televised today with the popular programme ‘The Yorkshire Vet’ filmed here with Peter Wright (who worked alongside James Herriot) and Julian Norton.

James Herriot’s honeymoon in Carperby

We visited Carperby, a little village not too far away from Thirsk on the other side of the A1M. It was here that James took his bride for their honeymoon and according to the documents in the local pub, he stayed there and then spent half of his honeymoon working on the local farm looking at Cows! His signature is displayed in the pubs guest book.

Whilst there we highly recommend you stay for some food as it is incredible! You can take a nice walk to Aysgarth falls through the fields or head up the hills for some stunning views from the beacon.

Thirsk, not just a Market town in Yorkshire.

Thirsk Yorkshire
Thirsk, Yorkshire

The road that runs between York and Northallerton may be Roman built, but the Yorkshire town of Thirsk situated on that route is actually Saxon in origin, although it is likely there were settlements here even earlier than that.  The town has held a market here since the 12th century and been the meeting place for local villages to come together. Markets still happen here every Monday and Saturday on the cobblestone floor of the town square.

The sounds of the traders selling their goods has long been a sight on these stones and if you can imagen them in different clothing with different shelters, you can fall back in time. Horses tied up where cars now park, meat hung up for sale at the butchers, hand carved utensils form the wood turner. There would be people from all over the area coming to market to collect fresh goods for the week ahead or try to sell their wares.

The town square houses a nice collection of independent shops, a few branded shops, pubs, cafes and gorgeous architecture. It is easy to see where newer buildings were built next to old ones if you stop to take in the buildings character above the shop fronts.


One of the plus sides of social media is that you get to connect with people like you. It is even better when you are then able to meet them in person. We had been following LifeBeyondBricks for a while, and unbeknown to us they were following us too!

We started talking over the internet and when we saw they were in Yorkshire we did a happy dance and tried to meet up, It was here in Thirsk that we finally met. If you havent heard of them before, here is what you need to know…

Tash and Jon travel in their motorhome. They started their full time adventure in March last year, at the same time we did but they took their 3 cats with them on the road.

See what happened when we met the team in Thirsk!

Thirsk Castle

Thirst Castle, Yorkshire
Thirsk Castle, Yorkshire

Sadly, barely any trace of it is left to be found. Built around 959-970’s this Motte and Bailey castle is now reduced to imagination, myth and legend. There is some argument to whether it was a Norman Castle as there is no mention of it in the Doomsday book. After the conquest, the castle belonged to the De Mowbray family. Around 1175, one of the descendants rose up against Henry II somewhat ineffectually. Thirsk castle was besieged, rapidly surrendered and totally destroyed as a result.

All that remains now are raised earthworks around town with information boards to tell you more about that area. There are plenty of walks around town that explain the history of the Yorkshire town of Thirsk.

12th Century Church – St Oswalds

Moss growing on the Church wall.

Whilst walking around the town, it is worth taking a little stroll down the lanes and side streets. When we visited with Jon and Tash from Life Beyond Bricks, we noticed a sign pointing to a 12th century church so decided to investigate. It was a little further walk than we expected but a glorious walk past the back of the Ritz Cinema, past the Thirsk and Sowerby Institute and stunning open views of the North York Moor hills rising sharply as if from nowhere.

The church dates back to around 1140 and over the years had been refurbished with bits added on to allow for larger congregations. The Church has a large cemetery and a sign displaying a sign for war graves. Squirrels were racing around in the trees and on the ground the snowdrops were standing with their heads bowed showing how much life was ongoing, even in this cold January afternoon.

The Clock.

clock in thirsk
Thirsk Clock

The clock in the main square was erected in 1896, commemorating the marriage of the Duke of York and Princess May of Teck. They later became King George V and Queen Mary. The position of the clock ensures that on a sunny day the clock face glows almost golden. The skyline dominated by it at sunset means that many a photograph have been taken here.

Tour De Yorkshire

The Tour de Yorkshire cycle race thundered through the town of Thirsk in 2016 but sadly wasn’t on this year’s route, that didn’t stop the whole of Yorkshire celebrating the coverage of its glorious county. Everywhere you went, bicycles were being decorated, bunting was out and strange knitted racing jerseys were being hung around windows. Thirsk threw themselves into Yarn-Bombing the town and drew crowds in for miles away to see! Now this tradition reappears every year and is a favourite of many a tourist.

The hope is that the race will return here again in the coming years.  The nearby town of Leyburn has been nominated again as a start/finish point for the 2020 races. We recommend booking accommodation early if you wish to come and watch the events as it does get very busy!

Ritz Cinema

Cinema thirsk
Ritz Cinema, Thirsk

The charm and history of Thirsk reveals itself like peeling an onion. Everywhere you look there is a blue plaque denoting something from history. The Ritz cinema is one of the oldest continuously run cinemas in the UK after opening the doors to the public in 1912. The 200 seat cinema was originally the mechanics institute but converted for entertainment. Now, the cinema is run by volunteers desperate to keep the history of the local cinema going.

A Question of sport

One of Thirsk’s most famous sons is Lord Thomas, founder of the cricket ground. He was born here in 1755. However, one of Thirsk’s more visible claims to fame is the racecourse. Established in 1854, the flat ground made it a fantastic venue for horse racing. At one time, other then Newmarket, Thirsk was the only other racecourse where prize money was allowed for races.

Thirsk’s rich history with racing dates back as far as 1740 and was the site of the first official racecourse in England. During the 2nd world war, the racecourse was closed and turned into an Army camp before returning to, and still operating as a racecourse.

Food and Drink

Yorks Cafe

Located next to the town clock, is the Yorks café. It is full of racing memorabilia and jerseys decorating the walls. We do love to drop in here for a brew or a spot of lunch when visiting as they are very welcoming to tourists. They are dog and muddy boot friendly and also cater for vegan, veggie and gluten free diets. We visited them again last week when we met up with Life Beyond Bricks and all opted for a nice warming bowl of soup and fresh bread.

Upstairs Downstairs

Here is a cute tearoom and deli with lovely cakes displayed as you walk in to the shop. Homemade pies and a wide selection of cheeses will have your mouth watering and craving more. A small selection of dried products are also available such as teas, pickles, chutneys and breadsticks. Several butchers shops also tuck neatly in to the town and provide fresh and local produce to locals.

A pub dominates each side of the square like a monopoly board giving lots of options. The pubs likely made their appearance around the 17th and 18th century when Thirsk became a popular coaching stop for people travelling to and from Scotland.

Thirsk, Mowbray Arms

The Mowbray Arms, a nod to the family that owned the land many years ago, sits on the south east corner, the Three Tuns, Golden Fleece, Black Lion and Black Bull are also located on the perimeter of the square.


Getting to Thirsk is very easy, good road signposts pave the way from the A19 and A1M. Getting around the coast to Whitby and Scarborough

Parking in Thirsk is easy as multiple car parks dot the surrounding area, each just a short walk to the town square. These include long stay, short stay, disk parking and even some free parking is you are savvy!

Thirsk has a rail link connecting it to other parts of Yorkshire. It is part of the East Coast main line which travels 210 miles from London Kings Cross in a southern direction and north to Durham, Newcastle and Middlesbrough.

National Express also operate to here and the coach from London to Thirsk is just £7.50


Just outside of the main square you will find a Tesco Superstore and a Lidl both with their own car parks. A little further out of the main town but still easily reachable (and easier to park large campers) is Aldi.

We love Thirsk

Thirsk at Sunset

The Yorkshire area has turned up so many hidden gems that we honestly didn’t realise were here and Thirsk is one of them. Driving through on our first trip, we knew we had to come back and explore the picture postcard town. With the main roads connecting here had travelled through it on a few occasions before getting to explore on foot and the things we found took our breath away.

We really do recommend that you visit Thirsk should you be in the Yorkshire area and stay tuned for other locations in Yorkshire that we have visited!

Thirsk in low sun.

National Get Outside day

National get outside day – 29.9.19

wellies and waterproofs on the beach
Wellies and Waterproofs!

Tomorrow is national Get Outside day. The first one the UK has had and it is being organised by the Ordinance Survey. Their aim is to encourage over 1 million people to get outside and be active. We may be preaching to a largely already converted clan of campers and adventure enthusiasts here but there are still many of us who like to only participate in fair weather adventures.

The Ordinance Surveys get outside campaign is led by a picture of a child, in a yellow waterproof, asking “Will you go out with me?”. Not a tag line that I would have chosen perhaps… but its sentiment of asking someone to come and join you in your outdoor time is something that even us seasoned adventurers can get behind.

It doesn’t matter whether you are going camping for the weekend, taking a hike up Mount Snowdon or a gentle stroll at a local park. There may be someone you know that really wants to start being more outdoorsy – if that’s a word – but don’t know where to begin. By inviting someone to join you, you could be the catalyst in helping someone to get more active, to help boost their confidence and to start their outdoors journey.

Activities for everyone!

The Get Outside campaign aims to get people moving in many ways and events are being held across the country to encourage this. From organised walks, runs, water sports and bike rides, you can find an event near you or you can do something on your own. If you log on to their website you will be able to see all the information they have put up for you, from beginners guides, information on mini adventures to have in London, Dog friendly parks and 50 outdoor activities you could try.

“A good walk always ends at a pub” – My mother!

We have had so many great outdoor adventures, our most entertaining one was when we got lapped by two pugs when climbing the Sugar Loaf in the Brecon Beacons. Those little dogs managed to get up and half way back down when we were still huffing and puffing our way up! It really doesn’t matter what your fitness level is – its about taking those first steps. We have kayaked in Lake Bala, cycled in Pembrey, walked through fields of lavendar, and visited lots of castles across the UK with our Cadw passes.

Health Benefits

Being outside has so many health benefits. Did you know that sitting outdoors for 20 minutes in the sunshine can give you an energy boost equivalent to a cup of coffee? Being outside allows you to breath cleaner air, absorb vitamin D, lowers blood pressure, boosts mental health and releases endorphins making you feel energised, motivated and creating a healthier immune system.

In a shocking video on the GetOutdoors website, we meet Kayleigh, a young child. The video tells us that her generation could for the first time, have a lower life expectancy than the one before her. Citing blood pressure and diabetes as major concerns to her generation, the video also shows adults that wish they had more time, didn’t feel lonely or could quiet their mind.

If not for ourselves then for our next generations, we need to set the examples of leading a healthier and more active lifestyle.

Ways you can become more active

Outdoor photography.

If the thought of scheduled exercise brings you out in hives, why not find a local arboretum and take some time to just spot those colours changing as we come into Autumn. Take your camera and just play around with taking some pictures you will walk further that you think!

Volunteer as a dog walker or to walk for charity

Emma and Bertie, Border terrier

If walking on your own feels a little uncomfortable, why not walk a friends dog OR dog walk for charity? Volunteer at a local rescue centre and assist with exercising the dogs. They love the company and stroking pets also has added scientifically proved benefits for your health.

Join a charity walk such as Cancer Research or Alzheimer’s – Sometimes having a reason or a target to hit can be a real motivator, especially where money and keep up appearances is concerned. once you have booked your place and told everyone you are doing this event it is harder to let yourself back out of it!

Make small Changes to your daily routine

You don’t have to spend a fortune on running shoes and lycra. In your lunch break, go for a short walk. It is great to get out of a stuffy office and just take 20 minutes to change the air and your location. A short walk around the block at lunch or look at getting off of the bus a stop earlier to increase your daily exercise just a little will have benefits.

Investigate your garden

From building a fort, making a fairy house, planting and tending to vegetables or stargazing, your garden can allow you lots of outdoor time. It doesn’t have to be a large garden, or one with grass, a balcony will do. Stand outside barefoot – if safe to do so – and connect with the earth. Take your first drink outside and smell the morning air. Plan your day in a calm environment and take a moment to look at the beauty around you. You may not like spiders but you can still marvel at a dew covered web! Perhaps take your evening hot chocolate outside and try to learn the constellations of the stars.

Book yourself on an outdoor course

You don’t need to paint your face and book on to a bear grills survival course if you don’t want to. There are plenty of other outdoor courses you can go on. We booked ourselves onto a foraging course when we first started exploring and learnt so much from Kerry. You can read about all the amazing things we learnt here!

There are so many ways that you can start to spend more time outdoors. Ultimately it has to start with you. Whether you know someone who wants to start, or you know someone who is active and want to learn about what they do, ask them and invite them along.


As we mentioned above, we have had some amazing adventures outdoor this year and we are not the only ones. Some of our readers also sent in their pictures to show how much fun it can be and what they have been up to!

Our friends at 2born2travel have had some amazing adventures, from sleeping on an inflatable bed outside – with no tent, to this stunning picture, they are ones who walk where others dare to fly! If you haven’t checked them out yet, watch this video about when they slept on this and woke up in the middle of the lake!!!

2born2travel sleep on an inflatable bed on a lake!
2Born2Travel with their inflatable bed on a lake – Why not?

Natasha and Jon from Life Beyond Bricks, are currently travelling the in their camper and have witnessed a variety of weather! Check out these amazing pics from Snowdon and the Preseli Mountains!

Catherine on facebook got in touch to share this picture of her husband in Whitesands on the Pembrokshire coastal path.

Catherine's picture of Whitesands
Catherine from Facebook sent us this from Whitesands.

Mandy went to Stonehenge for the Autumn Equinox AND also was the captain of a narrow boat for the first time!

Fi had lots of fun this summer walking around waterfalls in Wales and flying Kites with her family

Thank you to everyone who sent us pictures of themselves today!




Send us your snaps on facebook http://www.facebook.com/vanlifediary or twitter @vanlifediary.

What do you win? Well, nothing of any value! We will announce on Sunday who the winner is from all the pictures we receive. This will be posted on our facebook account at 6pm! That’s it… no money.

Keep it clean but we need to see that you are outside on national #getoutside day – get your friends to join in to!

VanLifeDiary Solstice

Here at vanlifediary, Solstice is creeping up on us. Follow our journey from Yorkshire to South Wales as we get sentimental and personal with you!

Our journey begins

Yorkshire has been our home for the last few weeks as we visited our daughter. Thanks to the rain, it was a damp visit. The waterfalls were bursting as the rivers somersaulted off of the rocks – free falling to the river below. The noise was a tremendous orchestra of rumbling and crashing, echoing off of the walls and down the river. It was very grounding to be stood watching this immense power that mother nature brings to the table. The rivers that have been carved out over hundreds and thousands of years are still evolving today. We are witnessing that happen at this very moment. The water that falls here will be life sustaining – it will also be recycled. The cycle of life will repeat and the next season will have its turn.

Our journey as vanlifediary, during the 2019 summer solstice, is also going in circles. Mostly by design. We had committed to be back in South Wales by the 21st June. We had to, at some point, start our journey down to South Wales from the Dales and we were a little reluctant! There are so many places we still want to visit there. The journey was a great opportunity to see some friends along the way but we hadn’t really understood why these people were the ones to be a part of our very special journey until the solstice itself!

High force, co durham
vanlifediary solstice
High Force falls, County Durham

A moment of real reflection and a sudden realisation…

On solstice evening ‘vanlifediary’ found ourselves sat in our campervan next to a reservoir in Wales. You can barely make out the paths and roads on the opposite hill as the leaves have exploded into their summer outfits and are providing shelter for the wildlife. The reservoir was in the shade of those hills and rippling in her dark blue silk dress, as deep in colour as she is in the middle of her large expanse. Looking out, the seasons new offspring of ducks and geese follow their mothers in perfect lines from the bank, still growing into their adult plumage. A slight purple haze started to cover the sky as the sun got ready to finish the longest shifts of her cycle. A picture of serenity with barely any sounds other than the natural noise of the earth and the odd car that passes us by.

This week saw a milestone in our travels. We left our jobs on the spring equinox and have just seen our first summer solstice as full time vanlife enthusiasts. A whole quarter of a year of full time travelling now under our belt! It is very exciting and has seen us go as far North as Yorkshire, Somerset to the south, Gower on the west and a week’s long road trip in Norfolk to the east. By no means have we done everywhere in between. We have made a lot of new friends on our travels and had the chance to see some old friends too.

sign vanlifediary


We left Yorkshire on Tuesday and drove to Nottingham. We met up with a very special lady, El. I met her when I was helping out at a castle in Staffordshire and we became good friends in an instant. I recall the day like a movie scene. After all the events (from Reenactment teams to a ghost hunt) we found ourselves sat in a tent at 3 am with a knight, a witch and a swordsman drinking tea and vodka, whilst eating El’s mini cheddars! Some nights are so surreal! Funnily enough, that was on the summer solstice 2009. Exactly 10 years ago that we met and I still count the people I met that day as very close friends.

We were so happy to stop by and see her and the family. She cooked us a lovely mexican meal and we reminisced about our days at the castle. I always get a little nostalgic and then I wonder… we look back at history and read all about the monarch and lords, see the stately homes etc. What will future generations think when they look back at us, when our lives are just names in a census and a period of time governed by our Queen, our government and the building techniques we used. Perhaps they will even laugh at our methods of medicine? Are they much more advanced? Have we gone too far already to save our future? Has there been another world war? Time to stop thinking too much and move on to our next destination.


sugarloaf vanlifediary solstice 2018
On top of a mountain!

The next stop on the vanlifediary solstice tour was to see Luke. We lived next door to Mrs C when we were working and she had a large family. Mrs C is a remarkable woman and always made us feel so welcome living next door and we became good friends. Luke is one of her sons who happens to live in the Brecon Beacons. A year ago, for Louise’s birthday, we decided we wanted to climb the Sugar Loaf mountain in the Brecon Beacons. It took us long time to complete. 3 adorable pugs managed to lap us before we had made it up to the summit. Not our finest moment but we pushed on. Sometimes stopping every ten steps to catch our breath as it was so steep in places.

Finally, out of breath and sweaty, we reached the summit. We dropped to the floor in a glorious display that should have been narrated by Sir David Attenborough and panted for a good 15 minutes. Just as we had caught our breath a school party of about 20 ten year olds all came singing and dancing along the ridge with no sign on exhaustion. They looked like they had just got off of the bus!!! Some sheep joined us, sensing that food is often consumed on the summit. The boys in the school party decided to name one of them ‘Snot’ and I dread to think what the others were called.

We checked ourselves in on Facebook as being on top of the mountain with a photo of us at the trig point for proof and shortly after Luke sent us a message. He said he lived close and wondered if we would like to pop over for a little bit of dinner and see his home at Bryn Bach Barn! (which is also a holiday let! click here!!!) “Of course!!!” we said… realising we now needed to get off of the mountain and not smell like a sailors armpit for dinner, we made our descent.

solstice brecon beacons
Bryn Bach Barn, Holiday let in the Brecon Beacons

Food for thought!

This year, we met Luke for a much more civilised brunch in Crickhowell and enjoyed some marvellous Welsh cakes and refreshments at Latte-Da Coffee and Kitchen. Latte-Da is a small but elegant tea room with a nice assorted menu. A large percentage of their menu is locally sourced and they make home made cakes, gluten free brownies and American pancakes.

They have a wide range of coffee to choose from and the staff were very polite and helpful. I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to have soya milk with my tea! Louise had the Dirty Chai, a regular chai Latte but with a shot of espresso. The cafe had a very natural and welcoming feel. Even though the tables were quite close together this just felt cosy and not claustrophobic. They are so popular that Trip adviser has them rated at number 1 for Crickhowell and 2 for the whole of the Brecon Beacons!!! We can certainly say that we will be visiting again when we are passing through.

Car parking is just across the road and is a great place to start before you have a look around the town. Did you know that Tolkien took his inspiration for parts of Lord of the Rings from the local area and named Crickhollow after Crickhowell! It has been exactly a year since we last met up with Luke on his home turf. Another Vanlifediary Solstice anniversary. (even if we were not full time vanlifers then, we did travel part time in our VW – Which I really miss!)

Back to where it all began

As I sat by the reservoir, all the puzzle pieces stated to slot together. Ten years since I had met El and a year since we had seen Luke on his home patch. We drove past the Sugar Loaf mountain on the way to Crickhowell. Now we are sat by the very same reservoir that we came to when we set off on our journey at the spring equinox. We were in Talybont-on-Usk.

None of this was pre planned. It was a revelation in the evening that we had reconnected with these people. We hadn’t decided on where to stay, just remembered how lovely it was. When we got close and thought it would be nice to stop there again for Vanlifediary solstice. We remembered how the last time we visited you couldn’t move for frogs as it was their mating season and the floor was covered with the frisky amphibians. By now, their offspring are likely enjoying the tranquillity of the reservoir and their cycle is just beginning.

Relevance of cycles.

The relevance of these cycles never ceases to amaze me. The deep connections that we make to places and with people run deep in our subconscious. Perhaps we will be like migrating birds, always coming back to Wales for summer solstice. Perhaps the people we meet on our journeys will stay with us and connect again on their own cycles. As I sit by the water I watch sky darken. Able to make out the shapes of bats and hear the owls start to call, I watch the water lapping at the shore line. I wonder if these are the same drops of water we saw 3 months ago. How far have they travelled before returning? When we return again, how much more will we have seen? What will we have learnt? Who will we bring with us?

I am a deep believer in the cycles of events. For example, if we haven’t dealt with a situation in our lives we will face a version of it again. This will repeat until we have learnt what we need to and grown. I believe that people can come into your life for many reasons, some stay, others go, some come back again.

As we travel further into our own lives and take stock of situations, we can sometimes look back and realise the mistakes we made. Or the exact moments when everything became clear. The ‘A-HA!’ moments. As we drive we are still learning. We have learnt more in the last 3 months than we can believe. Life isn’t about text books, its about being outside, exploring and learning. That’s what makes us so rich and lucky.

If you enjoyed reading about our vanlifediary solstice, please leave us a comment. Subscribe to the blog and follow our Facebook page for more interaction!