The substantial castle at Richmond in North Yorkshire was constructed from 1071
on land gifted to a friend of William the Conqueror as a reward for his help in the conquest.
The castle was needed as the unruly Northerners were revolting (!) against Norman rule.
It was built on a hilltop overlooking the mighty River Swale in what is now part of the magnificent Yorkshire Dales.
The town of Richmond sprung up around the castle, an original name derived from the French ‘riche-monte’ or ‘strong-hill’. This was the first Richmond in the world of 48 other verified Richmonds around the globe.
The town grew over the centuries but it was the Georgian era (1714 – 1830/7) which saw most of the development that you see today in this picturesque market town.
The crescent of fine houses, hotels and shops which dominate the hill top adjacent to the castle is a fine example of the work done in this period. The wide cobbled boulevard which sweeps along the frontages and past the central Holy Trinity Church and obelisk is truly outstanding. It provides a superb location for the weekly markets, granted by Royal Charter.
The building which is now the Kings Head Hotel was commenced in 1720 at the behest of a local lead mine owner, the renowned Charles Bathurst. From the outset it was an upper class hotel, operative from 1725, and named in honour of King Charles II.
It was intended for the exclusive use of visiting nobility and gentry. It had pleasure gardens and a cock-fighting pit and was a regular halt for passing coach and horses teams.
Sadly both Charles and his wife died in 1724 before it was fully opened.
The hotel did remain in the family, however.
In 1765, baronet Sir Lawrence Dundas bought the hotel and as he and his family rose through the nobility it became a popular place for the gentry to visit.
In 1813 a grand staircase and first floor ballroom was added. Franz Liszt performed a concert here, amongst others.
To add to the attraction of the town, in 1788 the Georgian Theatre Royal was built close by. It still operates to this day and is said to be the smallest and most complete Georgian Theatre in the world.
All things must change and in 1897, the hotel was sold to a local wine merchant. Since then it has changed hands several times but in 2015, it was acquired by the Coaching Inn group, one of 14 similar historic hotels the group operates around England.
The premises were extensively refurbished in 2016 to cater for modern tastes, although many original features have been retained. The hotel now offers 24 bedrooms whilst the ground floor has an ‘Eatery and Coffee House’ (surely they could have come up with a better name?).
Outside there is a level, decked area adjacent to the cobbled street, ideal for people watching and outdoors dining.
On entering the ground floor it is a very impressive, light and airy room. Light wooden flooring is extensive and comfortable seating offers peace and quiet.
At the bar Black Sheep bitter from nearby Masham and a locally produced Golden Ale were on hand pumps, but on my visit, neither were impressive. There are ranks of keg lagers and ciders.
To the right is a very comfortable and relaxing lounge with easy chairs and sofas. A log burner for colder periods is prominent. Along one wall is a lattice of curved beer barrel staves, which makes an unusual feature.
The restaurant is decorated in light tones too, benefitting from those massive, gorgeous Georgian windows and a number of chandeliers. The tables were resplendent with fresh linen and sparklingly clean glasses. The chairs were assorted versions with creatively beautiful upholstery.
Nothing was crammed in and it was a pleasure to be shown to our table by our friendly waitress.
Our enthusiasm for the dining room was not dimmed as the starter arrived. We shared a tray with pots of mixed olives, chicken and chorizo skewers and red onion bhajiis with a pot of mango sauce. Portions were generous and at 3 pots for £11, good value.
My main was a bbq short rib of beef which came with coleslaw, skinny chips, a blackened corn cob and onion rings. Rather too much of the tangy bbq sauce for me, but decent enough.
My partners King’s Burger was a smoky delight of a chicken and bacon burger with similar accompaniments, which went down well. At around £15 for mains, good value again.
So stuffed were we, that we couldn’t contemplate the mouth wateringly described desserts, though we did see some being delivered and they did look good.
All told, a decent pub meal and a stylish place to dine. We would certainly return.
Afternoon tea is offered as well as a casual coffee and bites.
There is a free Wi-Fi hotspot for customers.
It should be noted that due to the age of the building there is no lift and upper floors have to be accessed by stairs if you fancy a stay here.
There are so many attractions in the area, from heritage railways to castles, stately homes, gardens and beautiful Swaledale walks.
For further information go to www.kingsheadrichmond.co.uk and set the sat-nav for DL10 4HS.