GETTING THERE: From London, North Yorkshire can be easily reached by car within four hours. For the Yorkshire Dales, take the M1 north to Leeds and the A65 northwest via Ilkley to Skipton. For the Yorkshire Moors and the North Sea coast, there are two possible routes: Take the A1 from London to the A168 (just east of Ripon), then head northeast to Thirsk. Or take the A1 to the A64 (east of Leeds) and go northeast to York, Malton and Scarborough. Regular train service to York and Leeds is also available from London's King Cross Station. WHERE TO STAY: A rich range of accommodations is available throughout the region, from youth hostels and bed-and-breakfast places to country inns.
There also are larger hotels in Leeds, Harrogate, York and the coastal resorts, and a handful of super-splurge establishments, including: Middlethorpe Hall outside York; Holbeck Hall and the Royal Hotel in Scarborough; the Devonshire Arms in Bolton Abbey; the Ayton Hall in Great Ayton; the Black Swan Hotel in Helmsley; Jervaulx Hall in Jervaulx; Grinkle Park Hotel in Loftus; the Wilson Arms in Threshfield; Kirkby Fleetham Hall in Kirkby Fleetham; Solberge Hall in Newby Wiske; the Pool Court in Pool-in-Wharfedale; Kildwick Hall in Kildwick; Holdsworth House Hotel in Halifax; and McCoy's in Staddle Bridge. WHERE TO EAT: While hotel and "pub grub" is usually adequate and even occasionally excellent, there are a handful of expensive but outstanding dining experiences that reflect new high standards in English culinary art, among them the restaurants at Middlethorpe Hall, the Pool Court, Kildwick Hall, the Holdsworth House Hotel and McCoy's. MARKET TOWNS: Around the dales at the juxtapositions of valley and plain are old market towns, which retain active markets selling produce and household goods, among them:
Skipton, at the southern tip of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, with its splendid 14th-century castle and wide main street edged by cobbles, always seems to have a market in progress. Settle, 12 miles to the northwest, is more compact with a twice-weekly market and the unusual Tot Lord Museum of prehistoric finds from Dales caves. Further to the west, Kirkby Lonsdale has a clubby feel of old bowed buildings burrowed through by narrow alleys and passages, whereas Kirkby Stephen, northwest of the park, is Scottish in flavor with crisp lines of neatly painted shops and civic buildings (and excellent fish 'n' chips emporiums) lining the broad market street. Finally, northeast of the park, are my two favorites: the regal town of Barnard Castle clustered on a steep hill above the vast 12th-century battlements overlooking the River Tees (don't miss the outstanding art collection at the Versailles-styled Bowes Museum there) and the robust hilltop huddle of Richmond with its oval market place, 11th-century castle and the Georgian Theatre Royal, built in 1788 and still going strong.
Similar market towns can be found on the moor fringes, also possessing a rather metropolis feel after the cozy charms of the upland villages. The Celtic settlement of "Tre-ussig" began as a motley collection of domed wattle huts by the River Codbeck and somehow became "Tresche" in the great "Domesday Book" compiled by William the Conqueror following his 11th-century invasion of Britain, and eventually today's Thirsk, center of James Herriot's veterinary practice. The cobbled marketplace here, with its Victorian clock tower and old inns, always has a bustle about it. Hundreds of locals squeeze past the canvas-topped stalls on market days, nibbling sausage rolls and pork pies, fish 'n' chips 'n' scraps served in newspaper wrappings, and "bacon buttie" (bacon-and-butter) sandwiches.
Similar scenes are repeated weekly at Northallerton, Stokesley, Guisborough and the charming plains town of Great Ayton, home of famed 18th-century explorer James Cook. There the River Leven eases past groups of Georgian and Victorian town houses in a setting of greens and cobbled enclaves, while in the distance the strange conical profile of Roseberry Topping is a reminder of the moors beyond -- an enticement to climb again into those huge, high emptinesses. DALES DRIVES: Some of the most appealing drives in the Yorkshire Dales -- all extraordinary and memorable experiences and easily undertaken in a day, even allowing for regular pub pauses -- include:
The route southwest from East Witton, past the 2,308-foot Great Whernside and down the notorious Park Rash Hill into Kettlewell and the Wharfe Valley.
The road northwest from Buckden via Hubberholme (with a pause, of course, at the ancient George Inn) and past Dodd Fell into Hawes.
The route northwest out of Reeth, past Britain's highest pub at Tan Hill and down into Brough.
The switchback traumas of the B6270 southeast from Kirkby Stephen to Hawes. INFORMATION: Guidebooks to Yorkshire abound in stores and national park information centers throughout the region. Or contact the British Tourist Authority, 40 W. 57th St., New York, N.Y. 10019, (212) 581-4708. And then, of course, there's always "James Herriot's Yorkshire."