Richmond is posh Yorkshire. I think William Hague is the MP and he is the ultimate in posh Yorkshire. You can hear it in the way he speaks. I’ve heard lots of people sing the praises of Richmond but I can’t ever remember having been there. Until today. And it’s actually not as posh as I imagined, indeed it’s very nice indeed with quite a few diversions to keep the passing tourist like me amused. The main attraction is the castle although I did almost give it a wide berth as the chap at the tourist office when I asked him about it simply replied that he hadn’t been there for years and, very honestly, couldn’t tell me. Hardly a ringing endorsement. He did recommend a walk by the river (which I never did) but I did follow the tourist walking route around the town. Signs usefully pointed out the information that I needed to know; the tiny Georgian theatre, the tram lines running from the train station to the main square, the point at which four thespians were arrested for (brace yourself) acting during the repressive Puritan years of… I forget. The views from the path that curled around the high walls of the castle were impressive. No, beautiful! (Why do so many people cram themselves into the south-east of England when they could be living in places like this?) and then I arrived at the castle itself, climbed the keep and looked down upon the people back in the main square scurrying around like small animals. Although it dates from the times of the Norman invasion of Britain (the translation referred to Alan of Brittany having been responsible for building the place although I’m sure he would have appreciated being referred to as ‘Alain de Bretagne’ which sounds significantly less prosaic), the castle has an interesting recent history having been a prison for conscientious objectors during the 1st World War. Unfortunately the area where they were held is not currently open to the public as the messages they left on the walls of the cells are so delicate that moisture in human breath would lead to them being damaged (according to the sign) but the lady at the reception desk told me that English Heritage does have plans to allow access at some point in the future. Some of the messages had been photographed and were displayed along with the story of the conscientious objectors outside the door of the cell block. I always find it easier to relate to a building if there is some link with recent times and this was the link at Richmond Castle that made the visit so much more satisfying.
Back in the main ‘square’ (it’s actually round) and after a brief visit to the covered market that had been turned over to an assortment of craft stalls, I sat and sipped coffee while toying over the options for the rest of the day. Stay overnight in Richmond? I had done most of what I wanted to do. How about York? I found an option for a centrally-located hotel, booked it and set off down the A1. It’s now 8pm. I might wander into the centre – it’s not far – and search out one of two of the haunts I used to frequent as a student in the city (The Acorn is not far). In the morning I’ll certainly have a wander around. And then I am off to West Yorkshire for three nights with the relatives… This is turning into a real holiday!