Day 1. A winter break in Bolton Abbey

The Yorkshire Dales offers some beautiful scenery and walking trails so we packed our walking boots and set off bright and early one late January morning for an overnight visit.  We decided to stay in Bolton Abbey nestled in the heart of Wharfedale.  It’s a picturesque village located between Skipton and Harrogate in North Yorkshire.

Untitled
The Devonshire Arms Hotel & Spa, Bolton Abbey

We’d reserved a room at the Devonshire Arms Hotel & Spa which has been a landmark of the village since the early 17th century.  The hotel came into the ownership of the 4th Duke of Devonshire in 1753 as part of the Bolton Abbey Estate.  Over the years, the hotel has been further developed and in 1981 underwent a major refurbishment under the supervision of Her Grace the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire with many of her personal touches still in evidence today.

Untitled
The cosy entrance lobby at the Devonshire Arms

As soon as we had parked our car, the concierge, smartly attired in country tweeds came to greet us and carried our luggage into the elegant yet homely hotel lobby with its log fire, stone flags and beautiful antique furnishings.  Our luxuriously appointed room was located on the ground floor, its windows perfectly framing the magnificent views across the estate to Beamsley Beacon which rises to 328 metres above sea level.

Untitled
Our attractive room
Untitled
A hamper of Yorkshire snacks to enjoy

There was a Nespresso coffee maker and thick slices of traditional Yorkshire parkin, which is northern England’s answer to gingerbread, differing as it is made using oats.  Lifting the lid of a little dish we also found home made cookies, a treat for our afternoon tea.  Next to the bed there was a small wooden hamper containing a selection of Yorkshire delicacies to enjoy.

Untitled
The Dog Lounge, Devonshire Arms Hotel

Being curious to see more of this former coaching inn, we went for a wander around the hotel and found several cosy lounges with original art work from the Chatsworth collection.  After admiring the paintings, we settled down for cups of coffee in the Dog Lounge with its gorgeous dog themed decor and life size ornamental dog sitting by the fireside.  Relaxing on one of the comfortable sofas, we felt warm and cosy and could easily have been tempted to linger longer.  As we wanted to explore the surrounding estate, we popped our coats back on and headed outdoors.

Untitled
Yorkshire stone buildings in the village centre

The Devonshire Arms provides guests with complimentary parking permits for use in all of the estate’s car parks making it easy to explore the stunning Yorkshire Dales National Park countryside.  It was only a short drive to the centre of Bolton Abbey from where we walked through a stone archway to the ruined Augustine priory.  The land was given to the Augustinian canons in 1154 who worshipped there until 1539 when the dissolution of the monasteries took place, stripping the priory of all its assets.  The ruins are located in a stunning setting, overlooking the River Wharfe.

Untitled
The ruined Augustine priory at Bolton Abbey

Next to the ruins lies the Priory Church of St. Mary & St. Cuthbert which is one of the finest medieval churches in the north of England.  Despite the loss of most of the Priory buildings, the western half of the original nave was preserved, allowing the local parish to continue worshipping there.

Untitled
Footbridge over the River Wharfe, Bolton Abbey next to the stepping stones

In front of the Abbey are the stepping stones which were originally laid as a crossing point for the lay workers of the priory.  Nowadays the 60 stones offer a fun way to cross the river.  Unfortunately, the river was high during our visit, submerging the stones beneath the water so we made use of the adjacent wooden bridge which offers a safe crossing point throughout the year.  After strolling along the river bank a little further, we retraced our steps so that we could return to the hotel in time for lunch in the hotel’s Brasserie.

Untitled
The Brasserie, Devonshire Arms Hotel, Bolton Abbey

The Brasserie has a contemporary feel with wooden floors and vibrant, striped furnishings.  We were shown to a window table and whilst we were looking at our menus a helicopter arrived on the lawn.  The passengers came into the Brasserie for lunch – now that’s definitely the way to travel!

Untitled
The way to travel! Guests arriving for lunch by helicopter

The menu had lots to tempt us, but I finally settled on the Devonshire Fish Pie which was filled with king prawns, salmon, cod and smoked haddock, topped with creamy mashed potato – delicious comfort food for a winter’s day!  For dessert, I was again spoilt for choice but was delighted with my Trio of Lemon, comprising baked lemon cream, lemon parfait, lemon cake and a refreshing raspberry sorbet.

Untitled
My Trio of Lemon dessert at the Devonshire’s Brasserie

After cups of coffee we needed more exercise, so we strolled through the hotel’s grounds for a wander around the south facing vegetable garden which was established in Victorian times and reinstated more recently.  The garden is designed in tiered sections with low box hedges and traditional dry stone walls providing shelter.  As it was mid-winter there wasn’t too much to see, but during the warmer months it provides a plentiful supply of seasonal produce for the hotel’s kitchens.  Up in one corner, we spotted some bee hives, no doubt a source of honey for the chefs.

Untitled
The Kitchen Garden, Devonshire Arms Hotel

Returning to our room, we unpacked, picked up our swimwear and then made our way over to the Devonshire Spa which is housed in an ancient barn just a few steps from the hotel.  On arrival, we were handed fluffy aubergine dressing gowns and towels with pairs of matching flip-flops.  After changing, we took a dip in the good sized pool where the water was lovely and warm.  After our swim we spent some time relaxing in both the jacuzzi and sauna before returning to our room to prepare for dinner.

Untitled
The Devonshire Arms Spa
Untitled
The pool at the Devonshire Arms Spa

In addition to the Brasserie where we had enjoyed lunch, the Devonshire Arms also has an award winning fine dining restaurant called the Burlington.  I’d taken two dresses with me and had to have a little fashion parade in the room before deciding which one I wanted to wear!  Decision made, by 7.30 p.m. we were both sitting comfortably in the cocktail lounge enjoying pre-dinner drinks and canapés served on a Westmorland slate.

Untitled
The Burlington FIne Dining Restaurant

We’d heard that Paul Leonard who joined the Devonshire Arms last summer is one of the UK’s most talented chefs so we decided to opt for his 8 course seasonal tasting menu.  The restaurant uses some of Yorkshire’s finest ingredients with meat and fish reared or caught on the Duke of Devonshire’s estate.  After selecting from the extensive wine list, we were shown to our table in the elegant restaurant.

Despite the formality, we received a warm and friendly welcome which created a relaxed atmosphere during this special dining experience.  As each course was delivered to the table, the waiters would describe the dish and were more than happy to answer any questions we had.  You might think that an 8 course meal would be over-facing but the portion sizes were just right to be able to enjoy each course comfortably.  The combination of flavours and textures were sublime and coupled with the beautiful presentation we were both in food heaven!

Untitled
The fine dining seasonal tasting menu at the Burlington Restaurant

We rounded off the evening relaxing in on one of the cosy lounges which oozed country house charm.  Here we enjoyed a cafetière of coffee and some petit-fours reflecting on what a lovely day we’d just had.

If you have enjoyed reading this post, you may also be interested in reading about nearby places of interest:

Feeling nostalgic at the Ilkley Toy Museum 

A Walk on Ilkley Moor

Skipton, Gateway to the Dales

Ripley Castle Gardens and Village

Harrogate and its Turkish Baths

Advertisements

Day 2. Exploring the Bolton Abbey Estate

It was such a peaceful start to the day, being able to wake gently and admire the countryside views as we pulled back the curtains.

Untitled
View from our room overlooking the Bolton Abbey Estate

Breakfast was served in the conservatory which was bathed in sunlight as we took our seats.  We helped ourselves to some cheese, fruit and yogurt and then chose hot dishes from the extensive menu to set us up for the day.  I don’t know how we managed a full breakfast plus toast and marmalade after the previous evening’s feast but it was all so tasty that we were unable to resist.

Untitled
Pampered pets at the Devonshire

As we past the reception area on the way back to our room, we spotted these two lovely dogs waiting patiently whilst their owners finished their breakfast.  The Devonshire Arms is a dog friendly hotel offering a pet-concierge service and those dog beds looked very comfortable.

Untitled
Stone archway in the village centre

Wrapping up well against the winter chill, we drove the short distance to the Bolton Abbey Estate’s main car park overlooking the river.  After passing through a stone archway, the turn off to the car park is next to the imposing Cavendish Memorial.

Untitled
Cavendish Memorial, Bolton Abbey

At the starting point of the walking trails lies the Cavendish Pavilion which includes a large cafe and gift shop.  During the warmer months, this popular beauty spot is filled with walkers and families enjoying a riverside picnic but on our mid-winter visit it was fairly quiet.

Untitled
The Cavendish Pavilion, Bolton Abbey

We followed the green walking trail through the Strid Woods on the West Bank of the River Wharfe.  This path is suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs and is a gentle 1.7km (1 mile) walk, taking approximately 30 minutes.

Untitled
Footbridge at the Cavendish Pavilion, Bolton Abbey

It was a pleasant morning stroll through the woods where we found the first signs of spring with clumps of snowdrops along the way.  A variety of birds frequent the woods, including red kites, skylarks, kingfishers and short-eared owls.  Sadly, we didn’t spot any of these but we did see this cheerful looking robin.

Untitled
Robin on the Bolton Abbey Estate

The trail follows the meander of the river with picturesque views, which have inspired many artists including William Turner, who enjoyed painting here.

Untitled
The Strid, Bolton Abbey

Soon, we arrived at the famous Strid which is a narrow and dangerous cleft formed by the river cutting its way through a soft band of limestone.  Here, the river suddenly narrows, forcing water through at great pressure.  The chasm has claimed the lives of people who have tried to jump over it, so we took heed of the warning signs and I used my camera from a safe distance.  We retraced our steps back to the car but for those preferring a shorter walk, there is an additional car park near to the Strid.

Untitled
Snowdrops in the Strid Woods

Back at the hotel we gathered our belongings together and as we were returning to reception to check out, we were invited to view one of the hotel’s holiday cottages located nearby.

Untitled
Stank House Farm, Bolton Abbey

We were taken in an electric car and learnt that the hotel has four electric vehicle charging points for guest use and was awarded the gold award for Green Tourism in 2015.  Stank House Farm is tucked away in a secluded spot on the estate just one mile from the hotel.  It’s a traditional stone built farmhouse that has been lovingly restored to the highest standards and oozes rustic charm.

Untitled
The Sitting Room, Dining Room and Kitchen

The living room, with its deep filled sofas is perfect for relaxing in front of the fire.  Whilst in the dining room, I could just imagine family gatherings around the huge table.  The property sleeps 6 with each of the three ensuite bedrooms being individually furnished.  As well as using the fully equipped farmhouse kitchen, guests are able to arrange transport in the hotel’s electric car, enabling them to enjoy a drink to accompany their meal out.  Outside, the landscaped gardens even include a hot tub and offer far reaching views across the valley.

Untitled
Interior of Stank House Farm with a view from the hot tub in the garden

We returned to the hotel and decided to make a final visit to the spa before leaving.  After a dip in the pool we had a relaxing time in the steam room leaving us with a warm glow.  Our short winter break at the Devonshire Arms had been the perfect way to beat the winter blues.  We’d enjoyed scenic countryside walks, delicious food and very friendly hospitality.

Untitled
The hotel coat of arms

I would like to thank the Devonshire Arms Hotel & Spa for arranging our visit. As always, all views and opinions are entirely my own.

If you have enjoyed reading this post you may also be interested to read my posts on nearby attractions:

Feeling nostalgic at the Ilkley Toy Museum 

Ripley Castle Gardens and Village

RHS Harlow Carr Garden

A Walk on Ilkley Moor

Skipton, Gateway to the Dales

Harrogate and its Turkish Baths