A fan of all things furry and everything Yorkshire, I’ve long been borderline obsessed with All Creatures Great and Small, reading all the James Herriot books as a kid, devouring the original BBC TV series and even deciding that I was definitely going to become a vet (turns out I like stroking animals, not cutting them open). I’ve passed on my passion to the kids, who are also keen on the TV series (the new one, obviously, rather than the old ‘fuzzy’ one). So on a recent visit to the Yorkshire Dales, we decided to make a pilgrimage to the ultimate home of all things All Creatures: The World of James Herriot. We weren’t sure what to expect, but loved it. Here’s why we’d recommend it to families.
1. It’s a journey back in time
Housed in the restored home of James Herriot himself (well, the Yorkshire vet Alf Wight who wrote the books), The World of James Herriot couldn’t be more of an authentic representation of life as a vet in the 1940s. Beyond the shiny red door at 23 Kirkgate, Thirsk, are the rooms in which he lived and practised. We loved seeing where he ate, relaxed and even hung his coat. The farmhouse kitchen was our favourite space, and a bit of an eye-opener for our children who now realise how lucky we are to have washing machines rather than mangles! The period features are fascinating, from the food they ate to the unwieldy but beautiful pram. The original dispensary was another highlight, lined with lotions, potions and everything you need to treat a small animal. The house is a gem of a time capsule, and a wonderful way to show how people used to live and how vets used to practice.
2. It’s great for all ages
Thanks to the variety of experiences on offer, there’s something for adults and children at The World of James Herriot. As well as the restored rooms, there’s an exhibition of James Herriot books, a short film about Alf Wight’s life and even reproduced TV sets from the original TV series, so there’s plenty to see. We all enjoyed getting in front of the camera and pretending to be TV vets ourselves. And that’s before we went upstairs and discovered the children’s interactive gallery…
3. The children’s activities are excellent
The children’s area at The World of James Herriot is excellent, with a great selection of simple but very clever hands-on activities, all with a fun animal theme. Our kids loved trying to help the cow to calve (and yes, that did involve putting an arm up its, erm, posterior…), finding the wobbly tooth on the horse and testing their reactions to find out if they’re fit enough to be a Yorkshire vet. They’re activities we’ve never done before, and ones that we won’t forget in a hurry.
4. It’s inspiring
The museum isn’t just a story of one person’s life, it also tells the story of how veterinary medicine has developed over the years. The veterinary science rooms are brimming with paraphernalia from James Herriot’s time, which is quite an eye-opener, and made us feel glad that we’re living in an age of modern instruments and techniques, for our cats’ sake at least! The whole experience is a full immersion into life as a vet and left our kids feeling inspired and asking lots of questions about how they might become a vet when they grow up. We might just have to check that they’re okay with the sight of blood first…
5. It’s in a lovely location
Thirsk is a beautiful market town in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, a short distance from many other family-friendly attractions. We took the opportunity to have a stroll around the pretty market square, check out the independent shops and get something to eat. It’s a really nice place to spent a little time (and we were completely won over by the bollards, which had been decorated with playful knitted creations with a springtime theme). A short drive away is Sutton Bank National Park, with the lovely white horse walk, Lightwater Valley theme park, Fountains Abbey and Brimham Rocks to name just a few.
Good to know
- – Pre-booking is advised but not essential; you can buy your tickets on the day.
- – There’s no cafe, but as it’s in the heart of Thirsk, there are plenty of lovely places to eat and drink nearby.
- – Under 4s go free
- – There’s no car park, but we found a free on-street parking space a two-minute walk away
- – World of James Herriot Ltd, 23 Kirkgate, Thirsk YO7 1PL