New romantic ideas to inspire women in love
Looking for new ideas of where and how to woo your loved one or help make popping the question memorable in this (Leap) Year of Romance? Here are some suggestions from York, one of Europe’s most romantic cities, and its little ‘kingdom’ of Ryedale, the beautiful countryside that surrounds it:
Make a honeybee happy for love: propose in a wildflower meadow
If you make a bee happy then Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love will smile kindly on you. Bees were Aphrodite’s sacred creatures - in fact, she was known as ‘Melissa’, meaning Queen Bee. Honey also has a long love affair with romance: mead, made from honey, was meant to have aphrodisiac properties and newlyweds would drink it during the first moon of their marriage – their honeymoon. Fortunately, in York and Ryedale you can find some of the UK’s happiest bees to give you a head start – and it’s all linked to flowers… not in bunches, but in meadows. British bees have been struggling to survive in the UK, as wildflowers have declined in cities and fields but thankfully, that’s not the case in York and Ryedale! To help the honeybee, wildflower meadows are being planted as a main garden attraction in the area and the best examples can be found at: the Yorkshire Arboretum at Castle Howard, Nunnington Hall (National Trust), Terrington Lavender Farm, Ryedale Folk Museum and Helmsley Walled Garden. Wildflower meadows are at their peak in May and June.
Kiss in a tree
In ancient folklore, many trees like birch, mistletoe and apple were symbols of love and fertility, and Ryedale has more trees than the New Forest, so you’ll be spoilt for choice. It also has some of the oldest and largest trees in the UK – some of the forest around Duncombe Park, near Ryedale’s market town of Helmsley, is thought to have its roots in the last Ice Age, over 8000 years ago – and Europe’s longest lime-tree avenue is at Britain’s finest stately home, Castle Howard near Malton. If all else fails visit carpenter Keith the Stickman in Helmsley, who handcrafts magic wands for Nanny McPhee - an option if that proposal isn’t quite going to plan?!
Forget diamonds – amber is the real love gem
Diamonds are relative upstarts: they were only introduced in the 1930s, when US jewellery cartel De Beers needed to boost their revenues. By contrast, amber was the sacred stone of Freya, the Viking Goddess of love, lust and fertility: she wore an amber necklace called Brisingamen that made her irresistible, and the amber washed up on the Yorkshire coastline was thought to be Freya’s tears.
The UK’s best source of this beautiful fiery jewel is the coastline near York and Ryedale and it was highly-prized in York’s ancient Viking City of Jorvik. Today, York and Ryedale’s passion for this unusual jewel - the ultimate love-stone - has not faded. You can buy handcrafted, locally-sourced amber at boutique jewellers in York, and Ryedale’s market towns of Helmsley, Malton and Pickering. As amber is much cheaper than diamonds, you can even create your own bespoke designs at W Hamonds on York’s Shambles, or commission your own jewellery masterpiece with husband and wife team at Helmsley’s Saltbox Gallery. For a little piece of history, you can also find unusual amber jewellery in the Antique Emporia of York, Pickering and Kirkbymoorside.
Or, to beachcomb for your own amber, start by taking a romantic steam-train ride on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, from the market town of Pickering across the rugged moorland to the gothic coastal splendour of Whitby.
Get starry-eyed as you wish upon a star
This little corner of Yorkshire boasts the UK’s most impressive starry skies, where lovers can escape on romantic trips to the Milky Way (much better than Gretna Green)! This rare star-gazing phenomenon can usually be experienced only in the most secluded landscapes when there are dark skies, but Ryedale’s five market towns of Helmsley, Kirkbymoorside, Pickering, Malton and Norton shelter right on the southern edge of the North York Moors National Park, their proximity making them unique in the UK: within just a few miles you can be gazing at the edge of the Galaxy – experiencing something breathtakingly beautiful and unusual. To dig a little deeper into universal truths, there are observatories in York’s Museum Gardens, Sutton Bank close to Helmsley and Kirkbymoorside or Dalby Forest close to Pickering, Malton and Norton – all have an exciting programme of events, including annual Dark Sky Festivals in February, coinciding with Valentine’s Weekend. Dark, clear nights are the best time to see the starriest skies in Britain, including Winter Solstice in December.
York and Ryedale make the best starting points for a Brontesque romantic adventure, because at their northern edge are the wildest moors in England. But don’t think bleak and desolate: in summer and autumn the moorland is clothed with colourful carpets of heather, stretching to the horizon – a spectacle of global importance, because there is less heather in the world than tropical rainforest, and this is the best place in the world to wander through it. From Ryedale’s market towns of Helmsley or Kirkbymoorside, you can easily cycle or horse-ride up the ancient roads onto the moor-tops; or you can experience the splendour of the heather moorland from the comfort of a vintage train carriage on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway from Pickering. The purple blush of the distant moorland can be seen from miles around: find a viewpoint during a country walk along one of the 1400 miles of footpaths and bridleways in the area, especially from the hill-tops of the Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, around Castle Howard or Nunnington Hall; or from York Minster’s West Tower, the city’s highest point. The heather is at its peak in August.
Kiss under the ‘Heart of Yorkshire’ and you’ll remain together forever
‘The Heart of Yorkshire’ window, Britain’s answer to The Blarney Stone and one of the most famous stained glass windows in Europe, sits in the Great West Window of York Minster, northern Europe’s largest gothic cathedral. The distinctive heart shape of the window is becoming a destination in its own right as love-struck couples put faith in local legend that kissing your partner beneath the window means you’ll stay together forever. Visit in November and you’ll also be able to experience Illuminating York, where the city streets come alive with evening light projections and displays.
Want to inspire your Knight in Shining Armour?
There’s only one place to go – Helmsley Castle is celebrated as the ‘Cradle of English Chivalry’ and the fairy-tale ruins, now in the care of English Heritage, evoke the golden age of medieval romance, with its ancient jousting field overlooked by the lords and ladies’ gallery. There are many more secluded romantic ruins across York and Ryedale, perfect for popping the question, including Newburgh Priory – now a picturesque stately home and luxury wedding venue - and the secluded riverside ruins of Kirkham Priory. Or there’s Rievaulx Abbey, once one of Europe’s greatest monasteries, and within easy walking distance of Helmsley Castle via the Cleveland Way National Trail – you might even hear ghostly bell-ringing to wish you luck. The monks of Rievaulx Abbey also loved their medieval romance, hiding Arthurian tales in their monastic library alongside their religious manuscripts.
On a bicycle made for two….
Find out how well matched you really are by riding a tandem. York and Ryedale have some of the UK’s most tandem-friendly country, with cycle paths meandering along riversides, and quiet country lanes through traditional farming villages - and barely a hill in sight. Pedal at a lazy pace with plenty of secluded picnic stops, or tea-rooms with delicious home-baking. Alternatively – and if you’d like something with a few more downhills (and uphills) - you can enjoy a romantic escape by cycling through some of the UK’s most breath-taking scenery. The countryside around famed stately home Castle Howard, is an undiscovered treasure: called the ‘Howardian Hills’, officially designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with secluded by-ways you won’t be sharing with anyone. There are memorable viewpoints over the historic parkland of Castle Howard and nearby Nunnington Hall, which are perfect for a passionate proposal… Detailed route suggestions – for both road and off-road biking - are available at http://visitryedale.co.uk/see-do/activities/cycling/cycle-routes. You can hire your bicycle made for two from Get Cycling in York.
Romantic Places to Stay the Night: Live in the lap of luxury with your own butler at the Grand Hotel; book the Marmaduke Hotel’s Loft Suite in York and not only can you enjoy a two person double ended bath but also a large double shower and even a barrel sauna! Or share a spa experience rated as one of the UK’s best by Tatler magazine, at the Feversham Arms in Helmsley. Enjoy roaring log fires and four-poster beds, rooms with views, rooms steeped in history, cosy cottages, city mansions, secluded treehouses, leave-the-world-behind glamping, and even a train station.
The Food of Love: In York and Ryedale, you can satisfy any appetite or desire. This is an extraordinary food-producing region, which inspires chefs to the highest standards: enjoy fine dining in award-winning and Michelin-starred restaurants like the Star Inn at Harome near Helmsley, or the most exclusive hotels like the Park at Marmadukes in York, or Hudsons at the York’s Grand; cuddle in a cosy corner of a historic pub – there are 365 in York alone; or create your own fantasy picnic hamper at one of the many farmer’s markets, farm shops and food festivals taking place throughout the year across the area, to be enjoyed in a secluded spot. You can even share a candlelit platter in the intimate boudoir of a former brothel, at the Blue Bicycle in York.
To plan the romance of a lifetime (or a day of hearts’ desires), visit www.visitryedale.co.uk or www.visityork.org, consult an expert at York’s Visitor Information Centre on Museum Street (near York Minster); for ideas while you’re already out and about in North Yorkshire, there’s free WiFi, maps and guides at Visitor Information Points in Helmsley, Malton and Pickering.
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