Luxury UK weekend breaks in the Yorkshire Dales - my itinerary for foodie fanatics
As luxury UK weekend breaks for food snobs like me go, the Yorkshire Dales is the perfect destination for a gourmet weekender.
Not least because, aside from the plethora of places to wine and dine – from historic pubs dishing up proper locally produced Yorkshire grub, to intimate dining rooms with award-winning chefs creating delicate dishes of farm-to-fork fare – there is quite simply nowhere more breathtakingly beautiful to walk off all those sins than the Yorkshire Dales.
For this particular itinerary – which is ideal for anyone wanting some luxury UK weekend breaks inspiration – you’re probably going to need a set of wheels to explore the area properly. And even then, you’re only touching the sides over a weekend. The Yorkshire Dales is bursting at its dry-stone-wall-seams with off-the-scale culinary culture.
So, pack a pair of heels and a couple of posh frocks. Plus elasticated pants, walking boots and a healthy appetite – Yorkshire folk don’t do small portions.
Check into the Devonshire Arms at Bolton Abbey (fondly known as ‘The Dev’). This is my favourite Yorkshire bolthole located on the southernmost edge of the Yorkshire Dales. It’s quintessential luxury old-English hospitality in the most perfect of country riverside settings.
You’re going to need to make some room for tonight’s tasting menu at The Burlington – the Devonshire Arms’ award-winning fine-dining restaurant – so once you’re settled in your room, and you’ve nibbled the complimentary Yorkshire ginger biscuits, you can walk over to Bolton Abbey, a 12th-century Augustinian monastery now known as Bolton Priory, half an hour’s walk away.
If the weather is on your side, take an hour out to sit out on The Dev’s patio with its picture-perfect views across manicured lawns that lead down to the river Wharfe and sip a Mason’s Yorkshire G&T or three before you head back to your room to get ready for dinner.
You’re in for the treat tonight – get yourself dolled up and ready to dine at The Burlington. This is one of my favourite places to dine in The Dales. Headed up by award-winning chef Paul Leonard, much of the produce served in The Burlington Restaurant is from the hotel’s kitchen garden or reared on the Bolton Abbey Estate, so you can expect to eat an exquisite tasting menu made up of fresh, seasonal plates of Yorkshire fare. Trout from the river, game from across the estate, duck, and of course locally reared Yorkshire lamb.
Breakfast at The Devonshire Arms is something else so it’s worth getting up for. Plus there is the potential to pack so much into today, so rise nice and early and enjoy breakfast fit for a queen in the hotel’s conservatory before you check out.
While you’re in the Dales, Wallace and Gromit would never forgive you if you didn’t pop into Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes. If you love cheese, you’ll love this place and the drive up through the Yorkshire Dales, which is just over an hour from The Dev, is nothing short of jaw-dropping. Make sure your SatNav is set to the route that takes you up through Burnsall, Grassington, and Kettlewell – these gorgeous villages that cling to the River Wharfe are some of the most picture-perfect villages in the North of England.
Once you’re all clued up on the cheese-making process, and you’ve purchased a ring or two of the world-famous Yorkshire Wensleydale (my favourite is the Wensleydale with ginger – a-mazing!) It’s worth having a little wander around the town of Hawes.
With cobbled streets lined with pretty independent shops selling antiques, crafts, gifts and clothing, Hawes is always a hive of activity and tourists come from far and wide to visit it. If you’re feeling peckish, grab some lunch in one of the many cute little cafes. I recommend the Ploughman’s at The Baytee. They have a great selection of homemade cakes to choose from. Alternatively, on the other side of the road is The Chippie. Eat in, or take out – whichever you choose, the fish and chips here are magnificent. Don’t forget the mushy peas – we don’t eat fish and chips without mushy peas on the side in Yorkshire.
The Blacksheep Brewery in Masham is your next destination – aim to be there for 2pm in time to join the last tour on a Saturday at 2.30pm. It’s about a 45-minute drive east of Hawes.
Make sure you set the route to take you past Aysgarth Falls – there are a couple of great spots en-route to take photos. Famous for a big scene in the blockbuster film Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, it’s pretty cool to think that Kevin Costner skipped across the rocks in this very spot 30 years ago.
The 2.30pm tour at The Blacksheep Brewery is just short of £12 each (book in advance to avoid disappointment) and it takes about an hour. This is a fabulous tour around a proper Yorkshire working brewery and ends with that all-important local ale tasting.
There’s an amazing restaurant on-site too; if you didn’t get a chance to grab something in Hawes, you won’t go wrong eating here, either before or after your tour. There’s some proper delicious comfort food on the menu, and if you choose to swap this itinerary around a bit and end up here on Sunday, they do a banging Sunday roast.
You’re now on the far east edge of the Yorkshire Dales and close to one of the North’s most spectacular historical sites – Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden (a UNESCO World Heritage site).
Expect acres of gardens sporting follies, waterfalls, statues, wildflower gardens, and a huge lake, plus the huge ruins of the medieval Cistercian monastery.
If the sun is cracking the flags (that’s Yorkshire for a hot day), then you could always purchase some Yorkshire staples along the way today and enjoy a delicious picnic in these gorgeous grounds.
Nearby Swinton Estate boasts some beautiful woodland walks and a Druid’s Temple – there’s so much history and intrigue around these parts. There’s a cookery school in Swinton Park Hotel – the beating heart of The Swinton Estate – it’s worth checking out their extensive list of courses that range from artisan bread-making to an Indian masterclass, and all sorts in between – if you think you can squeeze one in.
A 20-minute drive south of Masham, just outside the popular town of Ripon, is Yorkshire’s most extravagant hotel. I’d go as far as to say it’s possibly the most impressive hotel in England. This jaw-dropping five-star country mansion hotel really should be right at the top of any luxury UK weekend breaks itinerary.
Grantley Hall is, well, it’s WOW! With great big capital letters.
Yorkshire’s version of Buckingham Palace from the outside, Grantley Hall opened its exquisite doors in 2018 and, if your budget allows, staying here for a night and dining in one of the hotel’s restaurants is the expensive-Cognac-soaked cherry on the top of this captivating culinary weekend away in The Yorkshire Dales.
Reserve a table and embark upon a culinary journey at the Michelin-starred Shaun Rankin. Molly Codyre, a foodie writer for The Independent describes Shaun Rankin at Grantley Hall as ‘Quite possibly the most opulent place I have ever dined’.
If the budget is not quite stretching to an overnight stay at Grantley Hall, there are some beautiful National Trust cottages available to rent on the Fountains Abbey Estate (just a five-minute drive from the hotel). We stayed at Whitefields Cottage on the edge of the estate – this Yorkshire stone-built cottage is perfect for luxury UK weekend breaks for groups of up to six people. Booking one of these gorgeous cottages is a great option if you want to stay around for longer (minimum booking three nights).
Set your alarm to wake up early on Sunday and you might well catch a herd of deer outside your front door just as we did – they roam freely in the grounds of Fountains Abbey.
There are a few good B&Bs and inns with rooms in the nearby market town of Ripon; and a short drive north of Fountains Abbey is The Old Coach House – an 18th-century luxury inn with eight lovely en-suite guest rooms – serving their renowned and award-winning Wensleydale breakfast.
Wherever you wake up, start your Sunday with a proper Yorkshire breakfast – local streaky bacon, black pudding and Yorkshire pork sausage, plus mushrooms, sourdough toast, Heinz baked beans and free-range eggs cooked to your choice, all with lashings of brown sauce.
Take the short drive to Brimham Rocks today. Located in Nidderdale – a designated area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) – it’s another spectacular drive and Brimham Rocks is a brilliantly bonkers collection of weird and wonderful rock formations, sculpted over centuries by ice, wind, and rain. It’s well worth the visit.
If prehistoric rocks aren’t your thing (maybe you’d prefer to be nibbling on a rock cake instead?) you’re only a 30-minute drive from Harrogate. And would a foodie tour be a foodie tour without a visit to the Yorkshire institution that is Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms for a fat rascal (similar to a rock bun) and a pot of Yorkshire tea?
If you want to finish the weekend on a culinary high, and you can make room for one last meal, then head to Three’s a Crowd in Harrogate for a Sunday roast. A modern gastropub overlooking the stunning West Park Stray, the menu features the best British cuisine, served in stunning surroundings, alongside a great range of hand-picked wines and local craft beers.