Visiting the north of England - any good books you can recommend?

netlaFebruary 10, 2014

I've just booked a flight to Manchester in March and will be taking the train from there to York on the same day, to stay for three days, returning to Manchester for two days before flying home. I'm planning to explore York and take a couple of day trips, probably to Haworth or Whitby, and definitely to Durham.

I like to buy books wherever I visit and although I like souvenir photo books, I also like to find something meatier, like local cookbooks, history, travelogues or novels (contemporary for preference) set in the places I visit.

Are there any books of this description you would especially recommend that I look for? They can be either about these specific places or about Yorkshire or the north of England. I wouldn't mind hearing about books about Manchester as well.

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I'm sure you read the class "The Secret Garden", which captures the landscape and accents of the Yorkshire people.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 9:38AM
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Netla, the first book that came to mind, though an old classic was Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life by Mrs Gaskell, written in the time of those 'dark satanic mills'.
Modern writers from that area include Val McDermid, popular crime writer and Jeanette Winterson Oranges are Not the Only Fruit; she has become an increasing angry lesbian so don't know about her other work. ;-(
You will love both Durham and York, both small enough to easily walk around and with beautiful church and other buildings.
There is The Story of Durham by Douglas Pocock which looks interesting (though pricey).
The site below gives some eg's of books set in/about York. Loads of history . . . Roman, Viking, railways, chocolate-making etc.
Whitby is also interesting. Look out for anything from Saint Hilda to Captain Cook . .. and Dracula!
Hope this helps a bit.

Here is a link that might be useful: Books Set in York

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 10:01AM
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My DH Tom and I visited York a few years ago and we just loved it. Talk about walking back through time! The Inn we stayed at had actually been Guy Fawkes's home at one point. In addition to the historical sites, do not neglect to see the excellent train museum if you have time.

We did not make it to Haworth. While I do regret that, we did something else instead. We took a bus in the opposite direction to visit a coast side manor house called Burton Agnes. Remote ancestors of mine lived there nearly 400 years ago before emigrating to the New World in the early 1600's. Our family still remembered stories about them, and I just had to see the place for myself.

I'd love to go back to York someday.

This post was edited by rosefolly on Tue, Feb 11, 14 at 12:02

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 1:23PM
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Netla we love York!
My DH & I visited the Yorvik Centre which is an underground discovered Viking village that was found when they were doing some building & digging, that happens a lot in England. I love reading about each new discovery whether it is about Roman or Viking discoveries.

I love the walks around the town, especially the very narrow streets-whose name escapes me just now.

I also loved our tour of Castle Howard which is a gorgeous estate and was used for the filming of Brideshead Revisited.


    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 4:11PM
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North and South by Gaskell is a good read contrasting sci/art and north/south dichotomies... Or you could go more modern with the Angry Young Men works such as Stan Barstow or Alan Sillitoe...

A more bucolic perspective is Herrott's collection of memories... William Trevor is Irish, but some of his work is focused in the northern towns of England, while Beryl Bainbridge's NF Forever England adds some comparison between north and south family life... H. V. Morton's In Search of England might be a good companion (1920's travel writer going around UK)...

Or perhaps J.B. Priestley's English Journey which might be dated/political but Bainbridge (Beryl) retraces his steps in book of same title but pub'd later (1983)....

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 4:40PM
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Peter Robinson's detective series is set in Yorkshire, and I can't believe Vee's source didn't mention Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. She has written 35 volumes of historical fiction with descendants of an original family from York. I know you said contemporary, and there is no way you could read more than one of those fat volumes before you go, but the first one, The Founding, is set at the time of the War of the Roses and is really good.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 7:22PM
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Carolyn, not only did the 'York Source' not suggest Cynthia Harrod-Eagles' work, but neither did I realise some of her books were set in York . . . in fact, until I started here at RP I hadn't even heard of her.
It may be that Mr York-Source doesn't consider C H-E worthy of consideration because she wasn't born/live in Yorkshire. They really do believe themselves to be the best county in England/Great Britain. ;-)

Here is a link that might be useful: Yorkshire Almost Best in the World?

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 5:13AM
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Thanks for the recommendations so far.

Pat, I visited the Yorvik Centre on a school trip in 1986 and remember being impressed. My other memories of York are sketchy, so it will be fun to go back there. It was such an important city in the Middle Ages and it's easy to imagine that some of my Viking ancestors may have visited it.

Lemonhead, I've read most of James Herriott's memoirs and have always wanted to visit that part of Yorkshire. If I had 10 days and could be assured of nice weather I would visit the Dales and Thirsk, but I think I'd prefer to do it in the summer, with James Herriott's Yorkshire as a guide.

There will be a steam train festival in Haworth on the weekend I'm visiting York, so it will probably be crowded, but I expect there will not be too many visitors to the Brontë museum as a result ;-)

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 6:47AM
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