A birthday weekend in the Dales

It was dark when we arrived. Being born just a few days before the winter solstice means daylight is in short supply and so planning to do anything requires thought to whether there will be light. Of course I should have remembered that the house was over the road from a castle but I wasn’t quite prepared to wake to see a purple pink sky streaked across a dark ruin from the window.

I grabbed my camera and ran downstairs. “Have you seen the castle? Have you seen the sky?โ€œ

Sleepy, weary parents looked back at me. Only those with children were awake and currently occupied in attempts at feeding toddlers breakfast. “What castle?”

I reached for the shutters and pulled them open, spilling the weak new light into the kitchen.

“I’m going outside to take photos.”

And so on the morning two days before my 30th birthday I stood in my pajamas in the middle of the street in a small village photographing the sunrise over the ruin of Middleham Castle.

I’d given a lot of thought to planning my birthday. As I have learnt over many years planning a birthday party a week before Christmas isn’t easy. But much to my surprise, with enough notice hosting a get together in a rural cottage in December is possible.

Once the sun had risen the castle provided the perfect open space for the children to explore, getting most of the group out of the house and allowing me to organise my actual party (i.e. ice some cakes) and get ready.

There was gin, there was cake, there was a warm fire and my favourite people.

The next day we walked off our hangovers, ate leftovers and (some of us) went to the local Carol service (it was almost Christmas after all) before whiling away an evening chatting beside the fire.

A most excellent weekend, but despite all my planning some moments you can’t plan for. Like an unexpected winter sunrise that takes your breathe away.

Where we stayed: We booked Yorkshire Dales House in Middleham for three nights. The house is huge but cosy and absolutely gorgeous inside – the photos on the website don’t do it justice.

What we did: visited Middleham Castle, walked across “the Gallops” where race horses are trained, enjoyed singing carols, eating mince pies and drinking mulled wine at Coverham church.

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