In winter 2021, TV producers flocked to Yorkshire’s rolling hillsides. As Londoners craved an escape from Covid Headquarters, and the nation craved relief from, well, everything, the trend was clear: England’s biggest county (and chintzy shows about it) equals elite escapism.
From the romantic simplicity of Our Yorkshire Farm to the homey delights of Our Big Yorkshire Christmas, we were smitten with the North’s jaw-dropping scenery, and world-class produce. So we hopped on the M6 to start a winter adventure. Here’s our pick of the best places to eat, play and stay…
Superbly stylish: Middleton Lodge, Richmond
Clandestine courtyards, walled gardens, farmhouse-style cottages and sprawling 17th century parklands surround this lovingly restored – and super modern – Georgian house.
Though built in 1777, the beautiful main building never feels stuffy, thanks to artful decor, outdoor fire pits and a seriously vibey cocktail bar. Think crackling log fire and *very* sexy lighting: Soho Farmhouse vibes.
Our visit was all about lazy mornings and board games, rounded off with a sensational dinner at The Coach House.
Star dishes include foraged wild garlic & potato soup, roasted hartlepool hake, Halperby Farm lamb ragu and Waterford Farm chargrilled steak. No fussy nouveau cuisine here; expect hearty bar snacks and plates full of flavour. The restaurant’s sustainability efforts must be applauded: waste is recycled into garden compost and all water on the estate is heated via renewable energy.
If you’re staying in the Dairy cottages, a short (and chilly) walk across a field takes you back to your digs after meals. Even freezing temperatures are bearable with the promise of a long soak in your private outdoor tin hot tub.
Popping something bubbly with views across the Yorkshire moors, jazz tinkling on the Roberts radio, you wonder what you did in a past life to deserve such a treat. Pro tip: set your alarm extra early pre-checkout, for a strong coffee and a misty morning soak.
What to do nearby: Less muddy, the market town of Richmond is delightfully quaint. Park near the bank of the River Swale, then follow the Little Drummer Boy walking trail through sheep-filled fields. Marvel at the eerily beautiful Easby Abbey, then warm up with an indulgent hot chocolate at Mocha cafe.
Don’t forget to pack: Your walking boots. The Yorkshire Moors and the Yorkshire Dales National Park are right here.
Full of surprises: Absoluxe Suites
One of those places you can’t quite understand until you get there, we’ll go on (and on) about the kooky charm of Absoluxe Suites until you take a punt and book.
Every element of this stay has been thought through in minute detail. As you climb the communal stairs, faint music tinkles from subtle ceiling speakers. Rooms feature the very best new technology: mood lighting has almost 10 settings, and there’s a huge TV perched above the freestanding bath.
Room themes range from princess pink and palatial (The Parisian) to jungle-like (The Oasis, featuring a private hot tub).
What to do nearby: Slap in the middle of stunning market town Kirkby Lonsdale, your front step leads directly onto old-wordly cobbled streets that take you to Christmas markets, cute shops and cosy pubs. You can while away several hours buying trinkets, sinking mulled wine and soaking up the atmosphere, before wandering back to your digs to order a takeaway from the Indian or Chinese restaurants down the road (like we did!).
Don’t forget to pack: Your dryrobe – perfect for warming up instantly after a rainy run or cheeky wild swim. We never leave for a staycation without ours! The Ingleton Waterfall trail is just 11 minutes drive from Absoluxe, with a ton of tempting plunge pools.
Perfect for foodies: The Black Bull, Sedbergh
Mention The Black Bull around these parts and you’ll be met with knowing smiles: every local who’s passionate about food has made a pilgrimage to this place for Sunday dinner, and a sleepover. Offering British, European and Asian-inspired dishes in a ridiculously cosy pub setting, The Black Bull tempts you to plot up and stay for as long as possible.
Rooms upstairs are luxurious and tastefully done: smooth Japanese design contrasts with hearty additions from local makers. British wool blankets are created by Laura’s Loom of Sedbergh, and the bathroom’s lotions and potions hail from The Sedbergh Soap Co.
Freshen up, then rush back downstairs to start the best meal of the trip. We gorged on mackerel pâté with cucumber & linseed Sourdough, followed by wild Lakeland venison and Hereford beef pie.
Welsh Rarebit is on the menu for breakfast and we implore you to order it.
What to do nearby: Sedbergh is England’s official Book Town, and as such, the bookshops are pretty special. Westwood is our favourite – grab a well-thumbed classic for a few quid, that’ll always remind you of a fab trip up North.
Don’t forget to pack: Your running shoes. The Black Bull sits at the foot of the splendid Howgill Fells.
Glamping with all the mod cons: Howgill’s Hideaway
Arriving late, in a blizzard, navigating winding country roads with a sheer drop to one side? We had our reservations. Unpacking our car in a pitch black field, freezing cold… our reservations held steady.
But then we found our glorious glamping pod, and turned the key in the lock. Kettle on, curtains drawn, and a Christmas movie serendipitously starting on the TV, we immediately felt at home. Having planned ahead and brought provisions to cook dinner on the hob, we soon adored the simple charm of seriously posh camping, surrounded by nature. Waking up to uninterrupted views of undulating green hills, a hamper of locally sourced eggs and bacon delivered to our door, we wished we could stay forever.
We adored the smallest pod of the bunch, but larger ones come complete with a hot tub and living area. There’s an adorable tuck shop stocking anything you might’ve forgotten, and a modern shower and toilet block ensure you never feel too grizzly. There are caravans perched at the top of the hill for bigger families to fill up, too.
Things to do nearby: With it being mid-winter, we didn’t spend much time enjoying the glorious countryside literally all around. But the magnificent mountain views, and falling asleep to the sound of the adjacent stream, won’t be forgotten in a hurry.
Don’t forget to pack: Talk turned to a repeat excursion in summer, this time armed with lawn games, BBQ food and as much hiking gear as we could fit in the car.
Golf & spa heaven: Rockliffe Hall
If you prefer your holidays to offer pure luxury, might we draw your attention to Rockliffe Hall‘s top notch spa facilities, and world-class 18 hole golf course. Set on a magnificent 18th Century estate on the banks of the River Tees, this sprawling 365 acre pile subscribes to proper old school luxury.
A little outdated in parts, but super modern in others, the Old Hall rooms feature traditional furnishings with contemporary updates, while New Hall rooms enjoy a magnificent views over the rolling resort gardens.
Book a night here if you’re serious about some relaxation time: the 50,000 sq ft spa area boasts a Hydro pool, monsoon showers and thermal suite among its charms.
Things to do nearby: The treasures of Durham and the rugged topography of the North East coastline are close by. Then of course, you’ve got the wild plains of the North Yorkshire moors to explore. Don’t miss the tasting menu in The Orangery. We gorged on sourdough with Marmite butter, hand-dived Orkney scallops, and salt-aged Ripon lamb.
Don’t forget to pack: Your swimsuit and a magazine or two. For just £25 per person you can have 90 minutes in the dedicated Spa Garden, a more private section of the spa with special features. There’s an infinity pool perched in front of the estate, a glass-fronted sauna and tepidarium beds to relax on – with free-flowing tea, coffee and juice.