Over the last few weeks I’ve been full of excitement as we’d booked a VW Camper to take on an adventure during the May Bank Holiday weekend. I’d discovered Sweet Campers via Twitter, and Graham was great in the lead up to our break with emails and telephone calls. Olive, as she’s called, was made in the same year as me (1979) and has been lovingly restored. We were given the option to hire things we may need on our trip, like sleeping bags, but we decided to purchase our own as we’re off on another trip later in the year. Graham told me to pack light, which I felt was impossible when I take a cabin suitcase on an overnight stay!
We arrived bright and early in Darlington to pick the van up and I was bubbling with enthusiasm. I’d planned where we were staying and where we’d visit intricately, and had made bookings for restaurants. The weather wasn’t great but we were fine with that, and I made sure to pack plenty of warm clothes for the two of us. I’m sure at some point I was informed Olive was a left hand drive, but it obviously hadn’t registered with me until we were looking round her. As a reasonably inexperienced driver the excitement subsided slightly with fear. Raf said he was surprised I’d been so calm, and he realised that bravery was ignorance on my part. Oooppps! I was commended by Graham on my packing skills. Because of the limited space you do have to prioritise what is a necessity. There was definitely no huge toiletry bag, and I ensured everything was multipurpose.
Graham gave us a run out in the van, took pre-authorisation of my credit card, and off we toddled off on the open road. The plan was to head straight to Yorkshire, but we made a detour to Robineau Patisserie first as we were in the vicinity. By the time we arrived at Castle Bolton, our first stop on the tour, it was pouring with rain and bitterly cold. It felt more like November than Spring. I was grateful for the break from driving as, after over an hour of driving without power steering, my shoulders were starting to hurt. I couldn’t believe how much of a workout driving something of that size was!The castle itself is not part of the English Heritage or National Trust network, meaning we had to pay to visit. It was £8.50 each for us, which included the gardens and a falconry flying display. As a concession pays £7, a family ticket for £30 seems good value for money. We were given a map and sent to explore on our own. We stumbled upon the archery demonstration quite by chance, which happens daily, and we had a try. Experiencing how difficult it was and hearing that an archer could fire 20 arrows a minute was quite awe inspiring. There are some impressive views of the Dales from a vantage point at the top of the castle, and there were activities dotted round for kids – e.g.: learning to write with a quill. These weren’t managed by staff so parents would have to engage their children with these. Seeing the rooms and reading some of the history was interesting, but I couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed by the lack of guides or interactivity. We’re definitely spoilt with some of the attractions at home in the NE.Having exhausted the options inside the castle we visited the gardens, looking for the advertised falconry displays. Because of the rain these weren’t possible, but we manage to see some of the animals up close as we hung around. There is also a boar enclosure near the car park, and it was lovely to watch them feed. In terms of facilities, there’s a tea room onsite, but we had a delicious croissant from Robineau to munch on afterwards. I felt a little underwhelmed with the site, being honest, but it was a way of passing a couple of hours out of the rain.From there we drove on to Aysgarth Falls, which are only a few miles up the road. In Olive this journey took longer than you’d anticipate thanks to the wonders of country roads and 4 gears! Apart from the parking charge this was free, and spectacular to walk round. Aysgarth is a triple flight of waterfalls where the River Ure has carved out the land by its force. The falls are easily accessible even for those with mobility issues, and as the whole area is probably only a mile walk it’s easily manageable for kids too. Like Sycamore Gap, one of my favourite places to visit, Aysgarth was used as a location for filming Robin Hood. As it had been raining heavily the falls were very powerful on the day we visited, so we didn’t take the chance of venturing too close to the edge at the Lower Falls, where it is apparently possible to sit on the waters’ edge on a fine day. We felt quite tired once we got back to the van, so we made the decision to head straight to the campsite to get settled. The Green Dragon Inn was recommended to me by a colleague as somewhere with a good atmosphere, great ales and live music over the Bank Holiday weekend. I rang ahead to enquire about plug points in the shower block, on account of my naturally frizzy hair, but was told they didn’t have them. I figured I could live without washing my hair for a day if I took my dry shampoo along, so it wasn’t the end of the world. Plus with it being so cold I ended up wearing a hat, which covers a multitude of sins 🙂Everything at the Green Dragon was ‘eccentric’: there was no real organisation, we weren’t really given a proper pitch for Olive, and we didn’t get a direct answer from anyone about anything. Being so organised I started to get stressed, but realised the best laid plans were just going to have to fly out of the window! Once we managed to talk to someone it started to improve, and we were allowed to park amongst the tents to avoid a rowdy party in the caravan section. We ate in the pub, and the food was ok. For the standard it was a little expensive (£14.95 for stew & chips), but we had a warm fire to sit beside and the locals were super friendly so it wasn’t all bad. One guy told us that the beer was the priority for this boozer, followed by the food. We certainly couldn’t dispute that! He gave us a recommendation for a place to eat on the following evening, and there’s a blog to come for that! It seemed there was a Geordie contingent there the night we stayed, and we all sat together and chatted. Raf enjoyed the selection of ales they had on offer, and although there was no live music, we still spent a decent evening there.I will feature more about our VW exploits in a follow-up post next week, featuring Hardraw Falls and photos of Olive.
Thanks for reading,
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