Charming sought-after village with Saxon imprint 'not classed as Yorkshire for millennia'

Crayke Castle, former home of the Bishop of Durham
-Credit: (Image: Dave Himelfield)

As you approach Crayke, it's clear why the Bishop of Durham selected this location for his castle. Despite being only 112m above sea level, it offers a commanding view over the expansive, flat Vale of York. But wait a minute it's situated right in the heart of Yorkshire.

So, how did the Bishop of Durham end up building his castle in God's Own Country?

The answer lies in the fact that this village, perched on the edge of the Howardian Hills Area Of Natural Beauty, was an exclave of County Durham until 1844. For those scratching their heads, an exclave is a piece of territory that, while surrounded by foreign land, still belongs to a larger main territory.

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This differs from an enclave, which, although also surrounded by another territory, isn't politically connected to the larger main territory. But let's move on from these dry definitions, reports Yorkshire Live.

Crayke has been under the ownership of the Bishop of Durham since Saxon times, predating the Viking invasion that led to the establishment of Yorkshire in the ninth century. During this invasion, the monks of Durham fled south with the remains of St Cuthbert, who had been interred in their monastery.

Once the dust had settled following William the Conqueror's invasion, the Bishops of Durham returned to Crayke. Spurred on by ancient tales of brutal northern invaders, they decided to construct a fort atop the hill at Crayke. All that remains of the original castle are the foundations of one wall, the outline of a hearth and the lower walls of what would have been a five-storey fortress. The 15th-century castle on the site today is a private residence.

It was the former home of Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake. Crayke became part of Yorkshire for political purposes in 1832 and fully part of the North Riding in 1844. The only real clue of its former geopolitics is the name of the village pub, The Durham Ox.

Nobody I met thought it was in County Durham; if you are that one person get in touch. Today, it's affluent overall although it's more of a socioeconomic mix than equivalent North Yorkshire villages. There are some seriously well-heeled residents including (so I'm told) the former Sunderland AFC chairman Sir Bob Murray.

But there are also council houses within a few metres of the pricey, private properties. Crayke still has farming families who have lived in the village for generations. One such person is Jan Wilson who has lived in the village all her life.

"Everyone knows each other," says Jan, 78. Helen Taylor, moved to Crayke from Sydney, Australia, six years ago. Her husband is originally from the village of Husthwaite, five miles away.

"It's lovely," says Helen, 50. "It's a very sought-after village." Indeed, it is. It's a rural gem within easy reach of York, Harrogate and, at a stretch, Leeds, with not an unattractive building in sight.

Highlights include the Grade I-listed Crayke Castle, St Cuthbert's Church, Crayke Hall and a mock Tudor house. Although the hill isn't exactly Mickle Fell, the southern view is quite something - on a hazy afternoon, I believe I spotted Drax power station 35 miles away.

All this beauty comes with a price tag. A four-bedroom period semi will set you back around £500,000. However, you can 'try before you buy' by staying in one of the village's holiday rentals, including this AirBnB.

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Crayke, North Yorkshire, but previously part of County Durham. Really.
Crayke, North Yorkshire, but previously part of County Durham. Really.