If I was a greedy person, an unrealistic one perhaps, I’d ask the following of a hotel. Great surroundings be it in a bustling city or a haven of tranquility. Delicious food possibly with a hint of innovation so I feel I’m trying something new. A luxurious spa, I’ve been spoiled in Iceland and New Zealand. And plenty to do whether it’s the theatre and sightseeing or more leisurely pursuits in the countryside. Of course flawless service and comfy rooms and communal areas would be taken for granted.
The Devonshire Arms at Bolton Abbey is just such a hotel and it’s hard to know where to begin with the superlatives. First off it’s situated in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Need I say more. The estate boast 30,000 acres of rolling countryside with crystal clear streams, rugged moorland and eerie forests. The famed three peaks of Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough are nearby encircling the head of the beautiful Ribble Valley. The tallest of these majestic peaks rises to 736 metres and it’s hard to believe some folk actually think it’s fun to race up all three. I’d rather admire the view, well that’s my excuse anyway.
On a much more sedate note, four and a half miles of the River Wharfe pass through the estate and it’s an excellent spot for fly fishing. A resident expert rodsman, dare I call him that, is on hand to teach you the finer points of landing brown trout and grayling. Angling has never been my thing but I can see the attraction in such beautiful surroundings.A day ticket will cost you about £30 and a junior will pay just under half price. Very reasonable I’d have thought, particularly when the days are long.
Slightly further afield and for a change of scene if you’re staying for more than a couple of days are the towns of York, Wetherby, Ripon and Harrogate. The first three boast racecourses if you fancy a flutter while the latter is renowned for its wide open park land, antique dealers and annual flower show. All four are large enough to provide for any supplies that might be needed.
Back to the hotel and that wonderful spa.Without wishing to sound like a reverse snob, I’m well aware that most prestigious spas are in the south. In fact in most lists you read detailing the best, only Gleneagles in Scotland ever seems to be included consistently so it’s a real feather in the cap of the Devonshire to see it rated in the Telegraph as one of the top twelve in Britain. Praise indeed. But I have to say, no more than it deserves.
The spa is set in an ancient barn and has four amply sized treatment rooms along with the usual indoor swimming pool, jacuzzi, well equipped gym, sauna etc. In its own words it highly recommends the world class rejuvenating ESPA treatment as well as a selection of holitic therapies to cleanse the mind and body. I personally found the surroundings and level of professionalism to be ten out of ten. I intend to return in the very near future.
The food is simply exquisite. What else would you expect from a chef that previously worked at the Ritz. Adam Smith is described as one of the finest young talents in the world of cooking and has already amassed a string or awards. Give him vegetables produced in the hotel’s own gardens, meat caught and reared on the estate and other excellent ingredients sourced locally and you have a winning combination. The chef describes his food as traditional but with a French twist, having spent time in Paris perfecting his talents.Yes, we can all get a little pretentious about our food at times. Even moi. But it really was as good as I’ve tasted. The Burlington is slightly too formal for my liking but you do get used to it and it’s all part of the experience I suppose
.Afternoon tea was quite a nice affair also. It cost £28 per person and included such delights as Lemon posset and blueberry compote blackberry and mascarpone choux bun. How’s that for a quite literal mouthful. I have to admit my food education only started a few years back. The first time I entered a 5* eatery they may as well have written the menu in martian. Even nowadays I still think it’s quite a mystery as to what might turn up. Luckily nine times out of ten it does turn out to be a pleasant surprise. Sunday lunch served between 12 and 4pm is a much more predictable but equally enjoyable experience.
We opted for a deluxe rather than a classic room. There isn’t much difference between them as regards to size, furnishings or amenities, you’re paying for the view. The classics overlook the garden, the deluxe give you an outlook of the rolling hills beyond the estate.We don’t tend to let bad weather keep us indoors when we travel. Bear in mind though this is a high point in Yorkshire, even the hardy can be deterred from venturing out if the weather turns. With that possibility in mind, we wanted to maximise the pluses of being confined. There are luxury and superior rooms which boast more space and better beds, super king sized and four posters, and top-of-the-range suites, but our room suited our budget and needs. It was clean, very well decorated, with a nice sized bathroom, TV with extra Freeview channels and a handy fridge with complimentary water and milk. There was a Nespresso coffee making machine, Minibar and even the Wifi was better than expected considering the surrounding hills so all in all we had no gripes.
It isn’t cheap, you wouldn’t expect it to be. We paid just over £400 per night for dinner, bed & breakfast. Parking and use of the spa facilities is free but they do add a 5% surcharge to the bill as a staff tip. So if you’ve been disappointed with the service (we weren’t) or you object to this American style practice, you could find this slightly annoying. We were just pleased it was a nominal 5%, had it been 10 or 12% they might have found themselves snatching defeat from the jaws of victory as far as customer satisfaction went.
Well recommended though and a hotel that ticked so many boxes. Truly a fantastic base to explore the area whilst at the same time being a thoroughly nice place to relax and just let an afternoon drift by. Happy memories.