If you like thrills and spills then a visit to the North Yorkshire village of North Stainley may be in order. That’s because it is home to Lightwater Valley theme park, a place that has the longest rollercoaster in Europe and well as a number of other hair-rising adventure rides.
A theme park may not be what you expect in this part of the world, but it does its best to balance the high octane attractions with a tranquil lake, falconry centre and farm.
North Stainley itself is very laidback and has breath-taking scenery with tree-lined hills that stretch all the way to the horizon. The village is not in the Dales as such but it is next to Nidderdale, an area of outstanding natural beauty that many feel should have been included in the Yorkshire Dales National Park when it was established in 1954.
The village is just a few miles north of the cathedral city of Ripon. The city has been a vibrant place for more than 1,300 years and is brimming with history as well as things to do.
Ripon’s main feature is its 12th century cathedral which has stunning stained-glass windows, but perhaps the region’s key attraction is Fountains Abbey on the far side of the city. Located inside the grounds of Studley Royal Park, the Abbey was founded by Benedictine monks in 1132 and was one of the biggest monasteries in the country until the English Reformation under Henry VIII in 1540.
The abbey is now in ruins, but is no less stunning. The ground around it have also been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site they are a place of real beauty and are home to an abundance of wildlife.
If like an ale then you may want to stop off at Masham just up the A6108 from North Stainley as the village is home to both the Theakston and Black Sheep breweries. In fact, the two companies are connected as Paul Theakston started Black Sheep in 1992 after leaving his position as MD at Theakston, which was his family’s business but had been sold off to a corporation.
Masham also has one of the largest market places in the country and hosts a Sheep Fair for one week each September. Rare breeds of sheep are displayed and there are also Sheepdog Trials and other woolly events.
Heading beyond Masham you can visit Middleham Castle near Leyburn. This splendid medieval fortress has a history going back to 1190 and was the childhood home to Richard III. After the monarch died at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, the castle became the property of the House of Lancaster and remained a Royal residence until it was sold during the reign of James I.
It became derelict during the 17th century and was pretty much left to crumble until it was taken over by English Heritage.