Helmsley Castle and The Black Swan

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The last couple of days have been really fantastic and have encompassed my birthday, fantastic time with the kids, brilliant book club and culminated in a surprise birthday treat to the Black Swan in Helmsley, North Yorkshire.  Helmsley is a quint essential North Yorkshire market town, some nice pubs, book shops for browsing, nice deli’s and butchers and if you cleared out all the people, motorbikes etc it would look like something straight out of All Creatures Great and Small which of course is no surprise as this is Herriot country.  The town is centred around the market square in which stands  a statue of William Duncombe, 2nd Baron Feversham (below)

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Even though I was not riding could not help spot this beautiful old machine, shame that (as pointed out by @Johncyclopunk) there is no chain so it is purely being used to advertise the butchers.

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Where’s my drink ?

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Ah that’s better !  First test was to establish what sort of mojito’s they could rustle up but outrageously the bar had run out of fresh mint, honestly did they not know I was coming ?  So I was forced onto the champagne for this quaffable little number (below) while we perused the menus.

Got to say that the food was top notch, no photos as it was all nice moody lighting so I thought putting the flash on and snapping away might lower the tone even more than me simply being there.  The meal kicked off with a cheeky little amuse bouche of leek, potato and wild garlic ice cold shot; starter was a pumpkin veloute which was silky smooth and beautifully flavoured although perhaps a bit too sweet for my taste buds; main for me was duo of beef (sirloin and liver) with red wine jus, wilted spinach and parsnip puree.  The sirloin was velvety smooth a really beautiful cut although if I’m being hyper critical (or greedy) I could have done with more of it !; finished up with a simply fantastic cheeseboard and overall the meal got a big thumbs up from me, good quality well cooked food with attentive service.

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Rise and shine and a cracking breakfast required a bit of walking off so what better than the castle.  Not sure our castle guru would have forgiven me if I had not given it the walk round.  The first thing that often strikes me about castles is that they are (were) comparatively massive structures protecting who or what exactly?  Helmsley is not exactly the kicking metropolis now surrounded by not very much (well nice arable countryside) so quite what was there when construction started around 1120 I’m not too sure.

The original structure was started by Walter Espec to help protect the area against the marauding Scots but really began to take shape under the Crusader Robert de Roos.  Incredibly despite it’s defenses and structures the castle saw no significant conflict until the English civil war when perhaps the failure to continue to update the castle to take into account the changes in warfare techniques led to it’s downfall.  It was a royalist stronghold during the Civil War but endured a 3 month siege in 1644 before being starved into surrender by one of Cromwell’s commanders Sir Thomas Fairfax.

It was fascinating to wander around the site and get a feel for the history of it’s construction and ultimate demise.

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