I don’t remember why, but we took a cab from York to Helmsley. John seems to remember the train took too long and neither of us wanted to take a bus. The travel was initially complicated by a traffic problem on the main highway but our friendly cab driver (female, naturally) drove to Helmsley on the backroads, pointing out notable sites, responding to our many questions and providing a history of the area. As it turned out, the traffic issues were in our favor. Somehow these little travel annoyances seem to turn out to be memorable parts of every trip.
It took us about 40 or so minutes of scenic country roads to get to Helmsley, views of the British countryside we would not have had from the main highway. As we arrived in town, we noticed Helmsley was dressed in yellow and blue, colors of the bicycle Tour de Yorkshire. Upon closer look, brightly painted bicycles hung from buildings, ribbons were tied to fences and signs announcing the Tour were strung all over town. Our cabbie explained that the Tour had been through Helmsley just the day before. I sighed with relief as I knew that with John’s love of bicycling, a future date could have been a temporary trip interrupter.
We unloaded our gear at Red Roofs B&B where we had reservations for the night. I know what you are thinking but the name Red Roofs comes from the red tiled roofs covering many of the buildings in Helmsley. Our B&B was situated in a proper British neighborhood with similar looking two story homes, small, neat lawns and, of course, red tiled roofs. Our hosts, Marco and Jane graciously accepted our luggage but sent us into town to explore till our room was ready.
An hour or so later we were settled in a comfortable second floor room, with a spacious en suite bathroom. Large windows overlooking a pretty garden filled one wall, sunlight warmed the room. A tea kettle and several cups had been set out for our enjoyment. Just the invitation we needed to rest our feet for a few moments. We don’t drink much tea at home and after several days of tea drinking I wondered why, such a civilized way to relax (note: I quit drinking tea again as soon as we returned home).
Marco gave us (John) instructions for finding the trailhead and we headed back to town in search of the beginning of our adventure. Along the way we stopped at the beautiful Church of All Saints, an Anglican parish church and walked the yard and cemetery. Just beyond the church, a street or so away, we spotted just what we were looking for, a stone marker with the symbol of the Cleveland Way path, the acorn.
Towering over the village of Helmsley and located near the entrance to the Cleveland Way are the ruins of Helmsley Castle. The castle has a lengthy history but the initial structure of wood was built around 1120 AD. Around 1186 AD, the process of converting it from wood to stone began. Somewhere along the line of life, death and inheritance, it became the property of Robert de Roos, Lord of Helmsley, who made significant improvements in the 1200’s. The market town of Helmsley grew up around the massive castle to serve the needs of the castle inhabitants.
The castle continued to be passed down among de Roos and was finally sold to the Duncombes, who did not really inhabit it. After decades of disrepair and decay, the castle, though still privately owned, is now cared for by the English Heritage.
We spent most of the rest of the day in town poking through shops and watching other tourists.
Finally it was time to find something for dinner. We were in Helmsley on a Sunday and discovered many restaurants were closed and those that were open had a long waits. We ended up sitting on a bench in town eating fish and chips from a take away store. Most B&B’s have signs that say take away food, especially (greasy) fish and chips are not allowed in the room.
After dinner we headed back to our room to prepare for our walk and get a good night’s rest. I was looking forward to what was to come, 10 days on the trail in a new B&B each night. So many exciting things to come…..