Herriot highs

TV memories of the series All Creatures Great and Small probably evoke thoughts of Sunday evening bath times followed by giggles and groans watching a gloved arm up a cow’s backside. The series occupied the cosy Countryfile slot of its day, telling the trials, tribulations and misadventures of vet James Herriot and his rural practice covering the Yorkshire Dales.

The Herriot stories were written by real vet Alf Wight who was based out of Thirsk – and many of the trappings of his life and the TV series have their home at the World of James Herriot visitor centre.

This year it’s the centenary of Alf’s birth and so it’s timely that the first official Official James Herriot Trail Tour has been launched with the blessing of Alf’s son Jim and daughter, Rosie. The trail will bring back memories for those who watched the TV series and films and read about the beautiful landscapes in Alf’s books.

Whether you’re a fan of the series or not, the Herriot trail is a brilliant day’s journey into a beautiful part of God’s own country. Starting point is the world of Herriot then hop in to Yorkshire Chauffeur Company’s slick Range Rover and let tweed-clad Howard take you on your journey.

The scenery is epic and Howard enlivens the route with tales from stories in the Herriot books and TV series (Japanese and American tourist are addicts thanks to cable TV). The vehicles scoot through the market town of Leyburn to high-up Bellerby Moor and Grinton.

The vista changes all the time from lush and green to stone-walled neat pastures and then to top-of-the-world dramatic. If you watched the Tour de Yorkshire you will know the grand landscapes – the drive takes in the vertiginous Buttertubs Pass that was such a feature of the bike race.

We do the (not very splashy) watersplash that was in the opening credits of the All Creatures TV series then climb higher to deserted, forbidding roads. Then its time for tea. Afternoon tea in all its Yorkshire glory at Yorebridge House, the multi award-winning hotel in the heart of Wensleydale in Bainbridge. The location is just a few minutes’ drive from the village of Askrigg where you can stop at Skeldale House which was used as the location for the Herriot practice in the TV series.

Yorebridge was a former school and headmaster’s house, restored by Dave and Charlotte Reilly to become a beautiful boutique hotel. A shamelessly indulgent spread brings sandwiches, fruit cakes, buttery scones and skilfully-crafted fresh fruit merinques to the table. Sip on champagne and elderflower cordial alongside an essential brew. The perfect partner to a quintessentially English day.

The journey continues back to Thirsk via dramatic roads taking in landmarks such as Aysgarth Falls, West Witton and the gallops at Middleham.

Tours cost £400 for one person and £495 for three or more

For bookings and information | The Herriot Centre | 01845 524 234 | worldofjamesherriot.com

Images: Dawn Caroline Photography