Perfect for: Tradition-seekers and excellent food, hiking, walking, fishing, cycling, and birdwatching.
Placed in trust by the Duke of Devonshire, the Bolton Abbey Estate’s 28,000 glorious acres within the Yorkshire Dales National Park are pure bliss for ramblers, anglers and nature lovers. The estate contains eight miles of river, 84 farms, 84 buildings of architectural interest, four Grade I listed buildings and is currently home to 27 businesses, from tearooms to bookshops.
The Devonshire Arms spa hotel in Yorkshire is a comfortable historic inn in the glorious Dales, and although some of the decor isn’t quite to our taste, the food is. In fact, it’s outstanding which is why The Devonshire Arms’s restaurant – The Burlington – is the most highly acclaimed in Yorkshire, boasting an impressive four AA Rosettes!
The Devonshire Arms Review
Since the Tour de France went all Yorkshire, Msr2 and I decide to don our lycra and get with the peloton. We’ve always been a fan of choppers and chains, so it was just a matter of time. At King’s Cross, we strap our hybrids up in the guard’s van and plonk ourselves in front of Birchers pancakes and coffee courtesy of East Coast’s warm and friendly first-class service. One easy change at Leeds for Skipton, and we’re seriously in the saddle.
After mooching around beguiling Skipton, we pedal past the Norman castle through five miles of countryside straight out of James Herriott; stunning open terrain with sturdy grey-stone buildings that catch the light.
The pretty Devonshire Arms Hotel and Spa is an easy find on the main road, owned by the family since 1753 and voted Yorkshire Hotel of the Year in 2012.
The rambling stone coaching inn sits at the edge of the 28,000 manicured acres of Devonshire-owned land. Each of its 40 bedrooms has its own character, style and decoration, with the Old Wing’s Bishopdale rooms boasting four-poster beds made by the carpenters at Chatsworth; we opt for the newer Wharfedale Wing, built under the watchful eye of the late Duchess of Devonshire in 1982. The room’s a bit small but beautifully decorated, with lovely views over the Italian box garden.
Exploring the chic public areas – a combo of antiques and modern furniture, old paintings and new technology – we bump into the hotel’s Head Chef Adam Smith, who lets us tag along to the kitchen garden to help harvest some of the veggies and herbs for tonight’s dinner. He’s big on the garden to plate concept, as well as using responsible suppliers and farmers from the local area.
Call us overeager but afternoon tea might just take the edge off our saddlesore-ness. In the dog-themed Lounge – check out the wallpaper and paintings – we tuck into some seriously tasty finger sandwiches, mini gâteaux and rhubarb crumble, washed down with acres of traditional Yorkshire tea.
Msr2 tries for a power nap in preparation for dining, while I nip over the road to the Health Barn for an ESPA treatment.
It’s a toss-up between a facial, manicure, aromatherapy and Indian head massage, using pampering Elemis scalp mud and replenishing moisturisers. Melanie in the spa is a poppet, and gives me a blissfully rejuvenating massage. The pool looks lovely, but no trunks make me a no-show.
We sweep into the Burlington restaurant, an intimate but formal space where real men wear jackets. We’re pretty excited about dinner; Adam Smith won the prestigious Roux Scholarship before a stint at The Ritz. Now the Burlington’s 4 AA Rosettes and Michelin star make it the most highly rated restaurant in Yorkshire, voted Best Hotel restaurant in 2013.
We order the Tasting Menu, and it’s something to behold. Adam plays with textures and flavours like a master, producing a classic-contemporary mash-up that delivers an ‘adventure of tastes and textures’, in his own words.
We roll back up the stairs to our boudoir, happy as overstuffed sofas. Msr2 pops the kettle on and wrestles with a packet of herbal tea, sinking into the king size bed with a groan; I make for the shower and the Temple Spa products. The bathroom’s a bit cramped but the shower’s a doozy.
Awakening in papery cotton sheets is always a joy, especially when you fling open the curtains and find an Italian garden bathed in sunshine outside. A knock on the door and breakfast and papers are delivered to our room, slowly savoured in fetching fluffy bathrobes.
Concierge Eddie offers to take us for a tour of the Priory next door. He’s the Bear Grylls of the hotel, bronzed and sporty in his flat cap and tweed jacket. Marching us through fields of grass-chomping sheep to the splendid crumbling pile, he gives a terrific historical commentary. The Dev are keen to make each guest feel like they’ve had an experience, not just a hotel stay.
Back on the bikes, feeling refreshed and full of beans. Er, no one mentioned how hilly the Yorkshire Dales are. Taxi?
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