Location: The Yorkshire Dales
Perfect for: Relaxing, walking, cycling, birdwatching, fishing
The Yorkshire Dales National Park was created in 1954, when 1,770 stunning square kilometres were proclaimed an area of outstanding beauty for their dramatic crags, winding valleys and stone-built villages. It’s prime walking country, from gentle meanders to scaling the Three Peaks and caving at the Easegill Caverns, the longest and most complex cave system in Britain. It’s also perfect for keen cyclists, like us. There are eight major dales – including Swaledale, Wharfedale and Wensleydale – and are hundreds of smaller ones, along with delicious village names such as Giggleswick, Yockenthwaite, Arkengarthdale and Hubberholme.
Yorebridge House is a gorgeously styled boutique hotel in Yorkshire, with sizeable rooms, memorable cuisine and an intimate, romantic ambiance. Nestled in the heart of Wensleydale, just outside the village of Bainbridge, Yorebridge House is a grand, former headmaster’s house built in 1850 and was converted into an immaculate boutique hotel in 2006 by owners David and Charlotte Reilly. It sits in five acres of land, and is flanked by two rivers – the Ure and the Bain (the shortest river in England) – and rising fells on one side and the valley to Hawes on the other.
Yorebridge House Review
We’ve decided to leave the chaos of London for a few days and head for the hills in the Yorkshire Dales… by bike. After being pampered by the fine folks of East Coast Main Line trains in first class all the way oop north from King’s Cross to Leeds (bikes ‘n’ all), we catch the Northern Rail train from Leeds to Skipton and set out on a 30-mile cycle ride. You get a lot of Dales for your money in Yorkshire. Wensleydale, Wharfedale, Swaledale… I tell Msr 2 we’d worked our way up Dale Winton and he believes me… for a nano-second.
The only problem is we don’t realise how, well, hilly it is here. Puffing and panting, swearing and sweating – and that’s after just two miles – we think of rock-hard thighs to keep going. It works.
We wheel into pretty Grassington, a mini marvel of stone houses, gift shops and cobblestones, and spend a couple of hours bathed in yesteryear bliss (and avoiding getting back on the bikes). We settle for some pub grub and sort a strategy… basically to beg a local with a truck to give us a lift. We’re dropped off on the outskirts of pretty Bainbridge, and cycle past the stocks on the village green. “Nearly there!” I holler to Msr 2.
We pull up to Yorebridge House – its stone stateliness is a welcoming sight for sore calves. Ungluing ourselves from our saddles, we see rising steam: some rooms have private outdoor hot tubs, hence the giggling and clinking of glasses. The hotel is gracious and inviting, but we head straight upstairs to run the tub conveniently placed in a corner of our huge bedroom; it’s strangely not quite big enough for two (though we persevere). Before our toes touch the Molton Brown suds, a knock at the door delivers two glasses of foaming prosecco as a welcome. We likey.
“Let’s go AWOL and explore!” says Msr 2, his eyes glimmering with childish excitement. It turns out that the owners bought the house in 2009 and spent 17 months turning it from drab to delicious. David’s ex B&O, Charlotte’s an interior designer, and it shows. Every space, fork, cushion and morsel in the hotel is impeccably styled, and each of the 11 rooms named after a place the globe-trotters have visited – from the Japanese décor of Nishiki and Moroccan-themed Rahmoune to our own Italian-chic Pienza. And if your gaze falls on anything in the house you like, Charlotte will order it for you.
We head downstairs and plonk ourselves in the chic leather sofas of the Lounge Bar close to the glorious open fire.
The Yorebridgers pride themselves on their carefully chosen wine list, and we tuck in until Damien, the suavely French General Manager, brings a tray of artfully arranged canapés. Eel mousse with bacon or Wensleydale and paprika cheese straws?
“Both, please. Oh, and another glass of that wondrous Bordeaux.”
Henry, our immaculate Zimbabwean waiter, brings us a couple of menus that sounded like they inspired Keats. We greedily pore over them. “Oh, now this wins my vote for the best word combo on the menu,” says I, “Swinton Estate Venison with brambles, chocolate and nasturtium leaves.” Msr 2 agrees, then puts on his serious menu face. I gaze at the five other couples; there was so much romance in the room I get misty. But Head Chef Dan Shotton gets me through it, as various amuses-bouches slide in front of me. Just magical.
“Fancy a snifter in the Master’s Room?” queries Msr 2 (Yorebridge is a former schoolmaster’s house).
“Er, yes please, sir.” I smile. It’s a peaceful place to relax, and we ponder over the extensive list of whiskies, cognacs, armagnacs, rums, bourbons and vintage ports… and the fact that we’re being encouraged to drink in sir’s room. No books down the trousers, either.
Up to bed, and our chic, massive room. The Victorian radiators, original cornicing and white carved furniture are brought up to date with deep, earthy coloured walls and an iPhone dock. And papery crisp sheets. And… zzzzzzzzzz.
There’s no time to slip into the fluffy bathrobes and slippers… Oh no, Msr 2 wants to get me back in the saddle again. He frogmarches me down to the Farrow & Ball-ed breakfast room, and I stock up on energy. He opts for Smoked Whitby kippers with lemon butter, while I go the whole hog: Swaledale sausages, honey-cured bacon, eggs, black pudding, roasted tomatoes and buttered mushrooms… Oh, and some red berry compote, poached apricots and prunes drenched in Greek yoghurt.
We crunch back down the gravel path and into the pretty village – and beyond into the Dales. I quietly muse over the irony of leaving an idyllic boutique hotel to spend a day in unremitting pain.
Now, when I say we’re cyclists, Yorkshire is a bit of a stretch, least of all for our hamstrings. And the slogans aimed at the Tour de Yorkshire cyclists painted on upwardly inclined roads is basically cruelty in my book. By the time we reach the dramatic Ribblehead Viaduct and load our bikes onto the train, we feel a strange sense of pride. That, and an incredible numbness in our buttocks.
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