As one of the millions of people who have loved all of the books and television serials of James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful and All Things Wise and Wonderful, I have been entranced by the Yorkshire Dales.
After recently visiting London, my husband and I took the M1 north to see for myself the place that I had been so inexorably drawn to. Here, James and Helen, Siegfried and Tristan and all of the memorable characters lived and worked.
The Dales cover most of the north of England, starting from the Pennines in the west to the North Sea in the east, an area of approximately 1,600 square miles. The town where James Herriot had his practice, Darrowby, is fictional, so I opted for Harrogate, a wonderful old spa town in the eastern Dales instead. We stayed at the Old Swan Hotel, which was originally an 18th-century coaching Inn, and located right in Harrogate's center.
Harrogate is the fictitious town of Brawton where James and Helen would visit on their day off. He felt everyone needed a hideaway, and his was Harrogate for nearly forty years. It was made famous in 1571 with the discovery of the first medicinal spring and rapidly became one of the foremost spas in Europe. The approximately 80 mineral springs are made up of sulfur and iron and were reputed to cure all varying sorts of ailments.
It was the north’s leading spa town until WWI where aristocrats would stop after a tiring London season for the healing waters before going on to grouse shooting in Scotland. Today, it is the centre for visiting North Yorkshire and the Dales.