Wednesday, 9 January 2013 8:25 AM
Holly Tuppen visits The Devonshire Arms Hotel, satisfying a longing for a wintry weekend of fine food, breathtaking walks and whisky by the fire.
I have to say I felt quite middle-aged when seeking out a country weekend in Yorkshire. I’d never visited The Dales before but had strong images of wind-swept wilderness littered with foodie boltholes and cosy fireplaces. Thankfully I was not wrong and when describing our weekend to friends, I was rest assured this wasn’t middle-aged at all.
Almost everyone I know has a similar longing or love of the Yorkshire Dales. So it turns out that a weekend combining stunning countryside and fine food is a brilliant use of time and money, whatever your age.
Choosing a base for our Yorkshire retreat was pretty easy. I’d long ago heard about The Devonshire Arms as one of the most classic country house hotels in the region. Owned by the Duke of Devonshire, who also runs the impressive Chatsworth Estate, the hotel is renowned for its luxury but friendly character, with excellent eco and foodie credentials to boot.
The Devonshire Arms
The hotel itself has been extended over the years, with the oldest part dating back to 1757. In this part of the hotel are 11 rooms including the most impressive and elegant suites, featuring four poster beds, roll-top baths and oak beams.
In 1982 The Wharfdale Wing was added on to the side of the old house and 25 of these rooms were refurbished in 2009. We stayed in one of the ground floor rooms overlooking the Italian box garden, which the hotel surrounds on three sides. Whilst not as grand as the old house rooms, our room was very comfortable and included nice touches like china teacups and teapot, fresh fruit, homemade biscuits and water bottled in the estate.
The Devonshire Arms sits within the Bolton Abbey Estate, home to fast running rivers (popular with both serious and amateur anglers), ancient woodlands and pretty pasture lands. Needless to say, the dramatic ruins of Bolton Abbey itself are a pleasant 15-minute ramble from the hotel.
Malham, Yorkshire Dales
For the more ambitious, The Devonshire Arms sits on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and so it is very convenient for exploring the region’s moorlands, gorges, rivers and cobbled-street villages. A couple of our favourite walks included heading up and over Bardon Moor and exploring the gorges (and teashops) of Malham. If we had more time we would definitely have taken advantage of the hotel’s free mountain bike rental too. Yorkshire is renowned for its wet weather and so I would strongly recommend a sturdy pair of walking boots and a healthy attitude towards the odd rain shower!
If that all sounds a bit too rustic for your liking then fear not. Once you’ve taken in the Yorkshire air from the estate itself you can quite easily hole up in the hotel for an entire weekend. As you would expect from a country house hotel of The Devonshire’s class, food and relaxation are high on the agenda. Three grand lounges offer plenty of space and choice when it comes to reading or chatting on plush sofas by crackling fireplaces. One of these lounges is dog friendly, giving it a relaxed and informal feel whilst the other two are more boutique-chic, perfect for cocktails and canapés.
Across the road, The Devonshire Health Barn provides guests with complimentary facilities to get both fit and pampered. Fitness facilities including a pool, gym and tennis court complimenting the more relaxing sauna, steam room, Jacuzzi and spa treatments.
Breakfast at the Devonshire Arms
And last but not least is the food, undoubtedly The Devonshire Arms’ forte. The Burlington Restaurant is one of six Michelin Star restaurants in Yorkshire, with not only a Michelin Star but also four AA rosettes. The Burlington is classical in style – crisp white linen, antique pictures and mirrors, dimmed chandeliers and a grand conservatory. The head chef, Steve Smith, has impressively won a Michelin Star in every establishment he’s worked in during the last 11 years. Innovative dishes have a local and seasonal bias; game is often from the Bolton Abbey Estate whilst herbs and vegetables will be from the kitchen gardens.
For something a little less formal, we dined in the Devonshire Arms Bar and Brasserie, a bright restaurant with modern artwork and exposed brick walls. I’m often nervous of second-rate restaurants in country house hotels, but the food and service here was brilliant. Arriving late off a train from London the hotel staff were more than happy to accommodate a late dinner of Rabbit Gnocchi and Sea Bream, before we retired to the lounge for a digestif.
The next morning gave us the chance to sample décor and atmosphere of The Burlington’s conservatory room, where we indulged in a long breakfast of fruit, cereals, poached eggs and smoked haddock. Watching the autumnal sun rise onto the estate’s dew covered fields over a hearty breakfast gave us just the motivation we needed to spend the day exploring Yorkshire’s breathtaking countryside.
By Holly Tuppen
A room in the Wharfdale Wing at The Devonshire Arms including breakfast costs from £250. At the time of writing The Burlington was offering a 3 course Sunday lunch special for £35 per head. Use of the spa and fitness facilities are free for guests but treatments are paid for separately. See www.thedevonshirearms.co.uk for more details.
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