A winter weekend away in Yorkshire

A winter weekend away in Yorkshire

A couple of weekends ago we headed up to Cropton in Yorkshire, where we stayed in a cabin in the woods, complete with hot tub. We’d stayed with the same company, Forest Holidays a couple of years ago in January in the Forest of Dean, and we enjoyed it so much we thought it was time to give it a go again but in a different location. They have various locations around the UK and as we were going up with some friends who live in the southwest of the country, I suggested we try Cropton in Yorkshire to go a bit further afield. I also love to plan some kind of getaway in January as I find the winter really drags here in the UK, so the prospect of lounging in a hot tub for a long weekend was extremely appealing. I was originally planning this post to be more of a review of Forest Holidays and the joys of the hot tub, but during our weekend we encountered some unanticipated challenges. This one’s a bit of a saga, so grab a cup of tea now!

Our cosy cabin

The cabin was booked for the weekend, which is a standard package that Forest Holidays offer from Friday-Monday. We knew that check-in was at 4pm so we had a fairly relaxed journey up the motorway on the Friday. As we were driving right past Leicester, we decide to stop there for lunch. The whole drive up to Cropton actually only took around 3 and a half hours, but we wanted to take advantage of being near a Grillstock for Texas-style BBQ (there are only 4 of these in the UK!). It’s also where I was living when John and I first met so we have very happy memories of stuffing our faces there together. Once we’d eaten our body weight in meat, we carried on up to Yorkshire.

So much food!

As we started getting closer to our final destination, we started to see snow on the hills in the distance. I declared I was sure there would be snow and in fact, I was even hoping for it as a sprinkling of snow would be the icing on our cabin in the woods cake, so to speak. John insisted I was wrong, despite the news being all about snow in the northeast of the UK for days before we went away. As we continued onto the Yorkshire Moors, it was quite clear that there was snow that was there to stay for the weekend – perfect!

The snowy forest was a real winter wonderland

Our friends had arrived ahead of us and had already checked in so we drove straight down the track to our cabin, finally leaving the car to rest in a slight snow drift. I did have reservations about how we’d get the car out at that point when it transpired that our friends had spent the past hour clearing snow away from their parking space next to us. As I love the snow though this didn’t really seem to matter at the time and we were happy to get our stuff inside, crack out the Prosecco and jump into the hot tub straightaway.

Chilling in the hot tub

After a lovely, long lie-in on Saturday, we cooked breakfast in the cabin. The cabins at Forest Holidays are very well-equipped, with an oven, 4-ring hob and dishwasher, as well as plastic glasses to take into the hot tub. They do offer meals delivered to your door and there’s a shop for food on-site but we decided to buy our food at supermarkets before we arrived and then cook ourselves as this was a lot cheaper! After breakfast/brunch, we headed out for a walk in the forest. It was utterly magical with the snow and the paths were clearly signposted so we didn’t get lost at all (somewhat surprising). Our walk through the forest took a couple of hours and it was so refreshing to be outdoors in January!

Exploring the forest

That afternoon, we identified a suitable country pub to drive out to for early dinner before a quiet night in the cabin. We ended up at the Blacksmiths Arm in Lastingham, about 10 minutes’ drive from our cabin. It had a lovely, cosy atmosphere and the food was excellent after our winter walk. I had salmon and risotto, washed down with a local cider – English pub perfection. The first incident of the weekend happened as I stepped out of the pub onto black ice and hit the ground before I knew what was happening, slicing the heel of my hand in the process. Those sub-zero temperatures may give us pretty, sparkly snow, but with that inevitably comes treachorous patches of ice – if any of you reading this are from sunnier climes and are planning a trip somewhere snowy soon, be warned!

The beautiful salmon and risotto I had at the pub
Followed by a deliciously decadent chocolate cheesecake

In between juggling Prosecco and my bandaged hand in the hot tub on Saturday evening, we decided to get up promptly on Sunday to head over to Whitby. Whitby is a seaside town in the Yorkshire and was about 45 minutes’ drive from where we were staying. I’d been before with my parents a long time ago and I remembered that there’s a) a ruined abbey that was the inspiration for Dracula, and b) amazing fish and chips at the Magpie restaurant. The drive over the Whitby was lovely and by the time we arrived at the coast the snow had disappeared, although more was forecast later that afternoon. We spent a couple of hours exploring, going up the 199 steps to Whitby Abbey and having a huge portion of fish and chips in the Magpie Restaurant, which had only just opened again following two fires last year. Afer lunch we spent a little bit more time in the town before heading back to the car to drive home as it started snowing.

Whitby harbour
Whitby Abbey – the inspiration for Dracula
The view coming down the 199 steps from Whitby Abbey
My standard ‘Yorkshire portion’ – no-one thought I’d finish this on my own but I proved all the haters wrong

At this point, what was supposed to be a relaxing weekend away rapidly descended into chaos. Driving out of Whitby up the main road was absolutely fine, although the snow started getting a little heavier. Nevertheless, the roads were still clear and safe to drive on. Unfortunately, thanks to the genius of Google Maps choosing the ‘fastest route’ for us, we turned left off the main road and onto (what we thought was) a slightly smaller road, but still clear. We started our ascent across the North Yorkshire Moors and quickly realised we may have made an error following this route as the road narrowed to a country lane and the snow started coming down much more heavily. Within minutes, the road was completely covered and we found ourselves in a white-out snowstorm situation.

The white-out situation

For those of you who don’t know, when it snows in the UK, it’s standard practice for everything to implode and stop working whilst every single person in the country proclaims “we’re just not prepared because it hardly ever snows” or something equally unhelpful. This can be interpreted as no-one south of Yorkshire bothers to put winter tyres on their car and instead they just don’t go anywhere if there’s even the slightest chance of sleet. The usual amount of snow it takes to get to the point of schools and workplaces closing is probably around 2cm (if that). Just to emphasise how much snow there was on the North Yorkshire Moors, by the time the snow stopped there had been at least a metre of snowfall, if not more. And the car we were driving could probably not have been more unsuitable if we tried; it was an automatic BMW 3 series, with run flats, no less. Run flat tyres are basically exactly the opposite of winter tyres and I have no idea how we got as far as we did.

We got to the top of the Moors after some absolutely stellar driving from our friend Edd, despite the fact the car had next to no traction and was sliding all over the place. There was complete silence and a lot of gripping door handles, and it’s possibly the scariest experience I’ve had in a car ever, including all those crazy taxi drivers I’ve had abroad. We eventually reached a cattle grid, stopped and evaluated our situation. It had reached the point where we knew we couldn’t go back because it was highly unlikely we’d be able to brake going down the hills. Equally, going forward was particularly unappealing. By this time, the snow was literally horizontal, the wind was biting and we only had an hour before darkness.

We spotted a Land Rover pulled in nearby and just as we were about to get out of the car and ask for help/advice/a tow/general rescuing this super helpful person decided they’d had enough of sitting in the snow and bombed off down the road (they were clearly local and had appropriate tyres), effectively abandoning us on the Moors. Our options were looking increasingly bleak at this point, so our decision was obviously – onwards! The sides of the roads were now completely covered by snow and there were barely any points of reference to identify the edge of the road. Snow drifts had formed in the road, which were hitting our windscreen as we forced the car over them and eventually (and unsurprisingly) we ground to a halt. Right in the middle of the road. Blocking everyone’s way. Not ideal.

The car at the point where we finally abandoned it

I was now sitting there, phone in hand ready to call mountain rescue/the police/a helicopter company/the Marines to send out a resuce mission for us (although John pointed out no-one would be stupid enough to fly a helicopter in a snowstorm – fair point), when out of nowhere, our saviour arrived! Just as well we were blocking the road that Mark with his 4×4 Mercedes (complete with badass winter tyres) was trying to have a lovely afternoon drive with his wife and child (in a blizzard). Initially he tried to tow us but with absolutely no success as the snow had built up to the grille of our car. In the end, there was a chaotic scramble to put hazard lights on, hazard triangles out behind the car, a garbled phone call to the police to inform them we were abandoning a BMW on the Moors and finally clambering into the back of Mark’s Merc, squeezed in with horse feed and being driven back to the safety of our cabin. So not entirely the glamourous weekend lounging around in robes that I’d originally envisaged.

Beautiful views over the snowy North York Moors

Whilst we had succeeded in not being buried alive in snow on the Yorkshire Moors, we then had to work out how to retrieve the car on Monday. We had to check out that morning with all the other cabins that had been booked for the weekend, and as Forest Holidays hadn’t gritted the track, a good two hours of our morning was spent pushing our other car (and everyone else’s it would seem) up the snowy track. Once out of Cropton, we proceeded to drive most of the way to Whitby, as recommended by Mark, to follow the same road back to where we had left Edd’s car. The roads had been ploughed by local farmers and we were praying that no-one had taken it upon themselves to move the abandoned car out of the way. We eventually made it up onto the Moors again, with only a couple of pushes required to get our other car over the ice, including one half an hour session that took about 7 attempts to get enough speed to traverse a particulary slippy uphill stretch. Miraculously, the car was there in one piece and the tractors ploughing had simply carved a chunk out of the bank at the side to make enough room to pass the car. The battery hadn’t drained either, so we were all able to drive off and head home without further ado.

The snow that had fallen around the car came up to my hip!

So it was a lovely weekend and I felt mentally refreshed afterwards, if not physically with my hand wound and aching body from pushing more cars around Yorkshire than anyone ever should. One upside was the breathtaking views we had of the Moors when we conducted the BMW rescue mission on Monday. It was also one of those traumatic situations that has probably bonded the four of us for life. So, if you’ve made it to the end of this post then congratulations – you must have enough endurance to survive a blizzard on the Yorkshire Moors! I’d definitely recommend a visit as it’s a beautiful part of the world and we’d love to go back, but next time we’ll be armed with a 4×4, winter tyres and a shovel.