Sally Shalam continues her travels around the UK by car, with the help of leading car hire company Hertz. This month she visits Yorkshire and Cumbria, home to charming independent retailers, dramatic landscapes and glorious overnight pit stops – the perfect mix for a short break this winter.
The minute I left the car a tangy whiff of cheese hit me. Cheese wasn’t the only reason The Courtyard near Settle had been on my trip wish list for some time. This cluster of Yorkshire retailers housed in a converted farmstead is a little bit of independent Yorkshire style right on the A65. It is the location of Abraham Moon & Sons’ only shop, for one thing. Moon, Yorkshire upholder of England’s wool heritage, was founded when Queen Victoria took the throne and its mill, in Guiseley, is now the last in England to produce finished cloth from raw wool. Before I could plunge my hands into the tactile depths of blankets, cushions and tailored sports jackets, though, I was waylaid by the aroma from the Dairy next door.
Say Cheese: Wheel yourself to the Courtyard Dairy for a cheese feast (Image: Courtyard Dairy)
These might have been the only hints that special things can happen beside an A-road, had I not stayed, the night before, at Hipping Hall. Having skirted Kirkby Lonsdale, a Cumbrian town of some elegance on the glorious River Lune, the A65 deposited me at Hipping Hall’s driveway. Here, at this restaurant with rooms (which is, in fact, in Lancashire), chef Oli Martin and the Wildsmith Hotels group (of which Hipping Hall is one of three) have created a pit stop for the travelling bon viveur. With Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire pretty much converging on his doorstep, Martin makes the most of produce at his disposal with set dinner menus of four, six and eight courses. Cumbrian fell-side mutton, Cartmel valley pigeon, sea herbs from the Fylde coast and Hartlepool crab were all on the menu that night at what was a memorable dinner. A tranquil, understated bedroom in converted stables and landscaped gardens more than compensated for the distant sound of traffic when I flung open the door to a small terrace the following morning.
Local wool products from Abraham Moon & Sons (Image: Abraham Moon and Sons)
The Courtyard Dairy was crammed with so many cheeses the only sensible option was to allow the cheery crew behind the counter to pare off samples. ‘This is St James, a Cumbrian sheep’s milk cheese with a washed rind,’ they said, ‘And Fellstone is an unpasteurised Wensleydale, from near Kirkby Lonsdale.’ Off came a sliver of Moorland Tomme next, made on Botton Camphill Farming Community for adults with learning disabilities. The Dairy is moving, they said, and when you read this, will have a café and cheese museum, too, just up the road, near Austwick.
Take a soak at Yorebridge House (Image: Yorebridge House)
A mile or two on from the hotel, at Ingleton Waterfalls Trail, the heavens opened mid-morning, but squelching through ancient woodland to a series of waterfalls on this circular route was worth it. By the time I left The Courtyard, later, heading into the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, skies had cleared. Narrow, deserted roads, hemmed by drystone walls, dipped and climbed through a landscape of pasture and limestone outcrops. In superb driving country my only regret was not having hired a soft top. Then again, the roof would have been up and down like a yo-yo. Parking in tiny Malham, I set off through fields in which cattle grazed peacefully, for the splendour of Malham Cove. This 70-metre limestone cliff rises up, as if out of nowhere, a breathtaking natural phenomenon. Steps hewn beside it lead to a rocky ‘pavement’ of eroded stone at its summit, a sort of Giant’s Causeway in the sky.
The limestone formations at Malham Cove (Image: Yorkshire.com)
A quick cold drink outside The Buck Inn back down in the village, then I set a northerly course to Bainbridge in Wensleydale. This is Herriot country. It is also cocktail country, thanks to House, a boutique hotel best described, perhaps, as a conspiracy of romance and indulgence. Of just 11 guestrooms, the majority are generously proportioned, each created with almost tangible love and attention. Indulgence is what happens downstairs in the light, airy restaurant (and a brand new private dining room in the wine cellar). Here, at dinner, talented chef Dan Shotton delivered works of art, from an amuse bouche of savoury beetroot macarons with fennel to slivers of Longhorn beef with radish and nasturtium, from wild halibut with chervil and smoked eel to a dessert of dark chocolate, pistachio and cherry. Every mouthful was a sensuous discovery, a match for the scenic drama which had preceded it.
For more short breaks by car in the UK, see hertz.co.uk/inspiredbritishbreaks
Pick up your car from Hertz Leeds City Centre, Wellington Bridge Road, Leeds, LS12 2UA. Tel: 0113 246 8207.
Or pick up your car from your local Hertz location. See hertz.co.uk for more details.
A Volvo XC90 from the Hertz Prestige Collection would add comfort and class to this short break.