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Travel: Yorkshire​ Dales journey filled with creatures and comfort

© Shutterstock / coxy58steam train trundles into Oakworth station on the Keighley and Worth Valley heritage line as featured in the reboot of All Creatures Great And Small
steam train trundles into Oakworth station on the Keighley and Worth Valley heritage line as featured in the reboot of All Creatures Great And Small

For a large chunk of the nation it was essential Sunday viewing. All Creatures Great And Small ran on BBC1 from 1978 to 1990 and, at its height, up to 20 million people tuned in.

We just couldn’t get enough of the rural lives of James Herriot, his fellow vets and the colourful characters whose pets and livestock they treated.

Now All Creatures is well and truly back, with an acclaimed new series starring up-and-coming Scottish star Nicholas Ralph as the iconic vet getting record viewing figures for Channel 5.

And Yorkshire tourist bosses are rubbing their hands with glee, with the prospect of the new filming spots in Upper Wharfdale experiencing the visitor boom the original locations are still enjoying.

Darrowby may be the fictional book and screen name but Glaswegian vet Alf Wight – the real James Herriot – plied his trade in Thirsk and fans of either series will want to head here.

The first time I visited, when busloads of Japanese tourists still descended on the place, the surgery was very much the vet’s practice.

Now the whole building has been turned into the award-winning World Of James Herriot. Beside the social distancing signs outside are the original name plaques and inside the sitting room, surgery, kitchen and more have been lovingly recreated.

It’s like stepping into the past and so is Askrigg, which doubled as Darrowby in the BBC series.

© PA Photo/Channel 5/Playground Television (UK) Ltd.
The All Creatures Great And Small cast

The moment you drive up the windy hill to the main street you can see why the location scouts loved it.

Skeldale House is instantly recognisable today, just at the foot of the street on the right-hand side.

It’s now a chic B&B, but you still half expect a tweed-clad figure to step out the door with a battered old vets’ leather medical bag.

A few yards up on the left-hand side is the King’s Arms which didn’t just double up handily as the Drover’s pub, it was the food and watering spot for cast and crew. Pictures of them enjoying the hospitality still line the walls of this cosy hostelry with its roaring open fire.

Nearby Hawes was used for several scenes, including Darrowby Cattle Market, and this archetypal Dales market town is full of character with its partly-cobbled streets. And no visit is complete without popping into the Wensleydale Creamery, to sample its scrumptious cheese.

Picking Grassington – further south in the Dales – to double up as their Darrowby was just as easy a choice for the Channel 5 scouts as it’s well used to rolling back the clock.

Visitors already flock to it for its annual 1940s Weekend. Due to take place last month, it had to be cancelled but it’s usually a hugely colourful and nostalgic affair.

The cobbled streets are packed with re-enactors, costumed locals, military vehicles, classic cars and live music bringing back the wartime spirit.

It was the 1930s for All Creatures, so the shops underwent a transformation, with a gift shop becoming a bakers while a bookshop became Darrowby’s greengrocers.

The “new” Drovers is actually a couple of pubs. The Devonshire, in Grassington, had the perfect look outside, but the interiors were actually filmed back north at the Green Dragon in Hardraw, just outside Hawes.

It’s sure to give a new claim to fame for this 13th Century beauty, previously known as providing access through to the Hardraw Force, England’s highest single drop waterfall.

© Shutterstock / Andrew Roland
Hardraw Force waterfall

Some of the other properties used are already screen favourites, with Broughton Hall near Skipton – Mrs Pumphrey’s House – previously seen in Wuthering Heights and Gentleman Jack.

The railway station featured in the series is Oakworth, which is part of the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway. Just outside the Dales, it’s a heritage railway with the original line dating back to 1867 and it’s also used to being on screen, most famously in the classic Railway Children film.

It got back on the rails again after lockdown with a series of Back In Steam specials.

But the real beauty of both filming spots is just how stunningly beautiful they are and how much there is to see, do, and enjoy in the surrounding areas.

So, whether you choose the locations from the old or new, just like the All Creatures series the Dales really are as pretty as a picture.

P.S.

The filming locations used in the series will be hoping for a much needed turn-of-the-year visitor boost as Channel 5 have also recorded a Christmas special.

Factfile

All Yorkshire tourist info from yorkshire.com