North York Moors & Yorkshire Wolds - Eating and sleeping


Savouring the tastes of North Yorkshire

Beyond Yorkshire pudding and Wensleydale cheese, England’s largest county has never been particularly famous for its food but, in gastronomic matters, as in so many other areas, North Yorkshire surprises with its unexpected mix of rustic, no-nonsense and sophistication. What is certain is that there are some truly talented artisans making the most of locally produced, high-quality ingredients. 

Yorkshire can’t compete in the climate stakes with the West Country and it doesn’t have the fertile soils of the Fens, but what it has in spades is variety. Each area covered in this book has a distinct terrain which often determines food production. The heather-covered hills of the North York Moors produce some of the finest honey in the country. Sometimes for sale at the point of production, honey is usually on sale at farmers’ markets and village shops. Milk from the local dale farm herds goes to produce cheeses, such as those from the Botton Creamery and ice cream to die for made by Beacon Farm and Tearewoods.

The big coastal fishing fleets might be a thing of the past, but top quality seafood is still landed all along the Yorkshire coast. In Staithes, catch your own lobster on a Real Staithes trip before cooking and eating your haul on the beach, or perhaps head down the road to Whitby for some traditional Fortunes oak-smoked kippers. Alternatively, the seafood can come to you: Peter Thundercliffe in his mobile fishmonger van brings fresh Scarborough fish to shops and farmers’ markets all over the region daily. Sea fish are expected, but maybe not local rainbow trout; limestone spring-water near Pickering allows these fish to be cultured at Willowdene Farm, where an unexpected crop of watercress is also harvested.

Well-drained, limey soils, like those in the Howardian Hills and Wolds, favour fruit production. Apples from the orchards at Ampleforth and Suffield produce fine juices and ciders, grapes from Ryedale Vineyards go to make award-winning wines, and the sloe crop from local hedgerows is made into all sorts of delights by the clever folk at Sloemotion. Meanwhile, York has a history of importing cocoa beans from the tropics and converting them into fine chocolate. The glory days of Rowntree’s, Terry’s and Fry’s may be in the past, but small-scale, traditional chocolate-making is still happening at the York Cocoa House.

And the beer? North Yorkshire has more breweries than any other county and some of the best feature in this book. The Great Yorkshire Brewery in Cropton is a large and well-established business that exports so much beer to the Far East that it has a Chinese website; Wold Top Brewery is much smaller, but its beers win awards every year (Marmalade Porter – Best UK Porter of 2017). The Goodmanham Arms does brewing as it always used to be done – in the back of the pub, to be drunk by its own customers and those in a few neighbouring pubs.

Accommodation

The following places to stay in the North York Moors & Yorkshire Wolds have been selected for their good location and because they embrace the Slow mindset, either in terms of their overall feel or because they embody a ‘green’ approach. 

Cleveland & Hambleton

B&Bs

Helmsley Garden Cottage and Railway Carriage Bondgate, Helmsley [tel] 01439 771864; www.helmsley-gardencottage.co.uk. This little oasis is as luxurious as any of Helmsley’s three Market Square hotels but, although still very central, is far quieter and more intimate. There are three choices of accommodation: B&B for two (three at a push) with sole use of the cottage; B&B for four in an amazing converted Victorian railway carriage in the back garden; or self-catering in the railway carriage. What makes this place extra special is the quality of service and attention to detail given by the owners Louise and Richard Craig.

Laskill Country House Near Hawnby YO62 5NB; 01439 798265; www.laskillcountryhouse.co.uk. The tiny hamlet of Laskill in Bilsdale is almost entirely a family run holiday village. Mandy is responsible for the house with its sumptuous B&B facilities (one four-poster and two other doubles) and her mum Sue runs The Grange next door with more B&B and seven self-catering cottages sleeping two, four or six people. You could have a quiet, get-away-from-it-all stay with excellent walks from the door, the ancient Quaker meeting house over the road and fly-fishing on the nearby River Seph; alternatively you could do what I did and take over most of the accommodation for a family event – my wedding, as it happens. Prices are reasonable and dogs are welcome. 

Hotels

La Rosa Hotel East Terrace, Whitby YO21 3HB; 01947 606981; www.larosa.co.uk. This classic early Victorian hotel once frequented by Lewis Carroll has been given the ‘La Rosa’ treatment and is furnished almost entirely with curios and antique finds from auctions, flea markets and car boot sales. All eight double rooms are themed, with Stoker for instance full of Dracula memorabilia and Arabesque like a sultan’s boudoir. The attic is a self-contained flat for six people called the Crow’s Nest and featuring three double bedrooms and a dressing-up box.
Middlethorpe Hall Hotel Bishopthorpe Rd, YO23 2GB; 01904 641241; www.middlethorpe.com. The National Trust owns three historic hotels and this is one of them, restored and opened in 1984. It’s not just a perfect William and Mary country house but a high quality hotel as well. There are 29 bedrooms, ten in the house and 19 in the courtyard. Twenty acres of garden and parkland have also been restored. You might expect to pay through the nose for this historic opulence and you would be right, but this is a special place.

B&Bs

Laskill Country House Near Hawnby YO62 5NB; 01439 798265; www.laskillcountryhouse.co.uk. The tiny hamlet of Laskill in Bilsdale is almost entirely a family run holiday village. Mandy is responsible for the house with its sumptuous B&B facilities (one four-poster and two other doubles) and her mum Sue runs The Grange next door with more B&B and seven self-catering cottages sleeping two, four or six people. You could have a quiet, get-away-from-it-all stay with excellent walks from the door, the ancient Quaker meeting house over the road and fly-fishing on the nearby River Seph; alternatively you could do what I did and take over most of the accommodation for a family event – my wedding, as it happens. Prices are reasonable and dogs are welcome.
The Wolds Retreat Kilnwick Percy YO42 1UF; 01759 305968; www.thewoldsretreat.co.uk. This is a separate building within the grounds of Kilnwick Percy Hall which offers B&B (two doubles ensuite, one twin ensuite and two singles). Prices are reasonable but there is a two night minimum stay. If you wish to stay only one night the alternative is a more basic room in the hall itself which doubles as the Madhyamaka Kadampa Meditation Centre. This Buddhist organisation owns the whole estate so wherever you stay you will benefit from the relaxing sense of peace and tranquility that seems to pervade everywhere.
Troutsdale Lodge Near Hackness YO13 OBS; 01723 882209; www.troutsdalelodge.co.uk. Troutsdale is a wonderful secret valley that many people in nearby Scarborough have never even heard of, and this charming timber-framed building sits on a hillside overlooking the heart of the dale. Originally built in the early 1900s as a shooting lodge it is now a private house, still with a distinctly Edwardian feel, which the owners offer as B&B accommodation in five comfortable rooms. Its location, tucked between the huge forests of Dalby and Wykeham, is magnificent but very isolated (nearest village four miles away). Prices are very reasonable, evening meals are available and dogs are welcome.

Self-catering

Cold Harbour Shed Hovingham YO62 4NF; 01924 502256; www.theshedcoldharbour.co.uk. Never was a place more unfairly named. Cold Harbour is an old-fashioned term meaning ‘comfortless shelter for wayfarers’ and this cosy little self-catering barn conversion  is certainly not that. With one en-suite double bedroom, kitchen and living room it sleeps just two people but there is no shortage of space, especially outside in the garden and orchard. What makes staying here a particularly special experience are the little thoughtful extras like complimentary wine on arrival, real coffee- and tea-making basics provided, bikes to borrow and fruit and herbs to pick from the garden. All this and reasonable rates – a welcoming shelter for wayfarers after all (except dogs).
The Boathouse Whitby harbour YO22 4BH; 01947 893201; www.welovewhitby.com. You could hardly get more central to town than this as The Boathouse is actually ‘afloat’ in the harbour (by the lifeboat pier) and accessible only by walking along a gangplank straight into the living room. This room also has a dining area that could seat six, a task that would involve four guests as the building only sleeps two. The one bedroom, with a double bed and en-suite bathroom, is upstairs. The seaward side of the building is surprisingly private and has a sizeable decked area, ideal for watching boats coming and going. A fully fitted kitchen lies below deck.

Campsite

Jollydays Luxury Camping Village Farm, Scraylingham YO41 1JD; 01759 371776; www.jollydaysluxurycamping.co.uk. What the Van Outersterp family set up here in 15 acres of woodland in 2008 is camping but probably not as you’ve ever known it – more like staying in a hotel in the woods except that your walls are made of canvas and you hear owls in the night, not cars. Jollydays have 22 tents ranging in size and opulence from basic bell tents (sleeping four on two sofa-beds with a small stove and heater), to top of the range luxury tents (six-berth, ensuite with four-poster beds!). It’s not cheap to stay here, but there is the option of paying in kind with 20 hours’ work in the woods, collecting firewood, planting seedlings and such-like, earning a week’s free stay in a bell tent. No dogs.

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