Walking in the Yorkshire Dales is a true test of your vigour, and my three-year-old didn't disappoint. Racing ahead along a path on the River Swale, she stopped to peer down into a rabbit hole and, looking up, exclaimed: ‘it's beautiful here mummy!' Visitors to the Yorkshire Dales often remark how stunning the landscape is and despite our short stay, we were quickly converted. Whether hiking, eating, or lounging in our beautiful retreat house, just being in the middle of the stunning dales was a luxury that's not easy to replicate.
Yorkshire Dales Natural Retreats are fortunate enough to be set in 54 acres of pristine countryside in Swaledale, one of the most northerly of the National Park's 40 dales, and a short country walk away from charming Richmond. When we arrived, we were greeted, on turning into the estate, by numerous rabbits: peeping out from behind rocks, frolicking in the lush green grass, blissfully unconcerned about humans.
A stay at Natural Retreats is made top class by the concierge service. Before the trip, we were asked which kinds of things we were interested in: walking, mountain biking, horse riding, fishing, visiting local towns, eating and were given a duly personalised listing of ideas for day trips, restaurants and walks - ranging from half day to full day, including maps outlining attractions. The concierge service runs throughout your stay so really comes in handy for last minute restaurant bookings or cancellations and saves you the headache of a frantic internet search for contact details.
We were spoiled for choice with so many local attractions but figured the fresh air is what we needed most. So off we went for a beautiful stroll along the River Swale, England's fastest flowing river. The concercierge service had recommended a hearty meal at the scrumptiously cosy Bridge Inn, with its sign inviting those with ‘wet boots and dogs' inside. We ate a home-cooked Sunday dinner next to a roaring log fire, finished off with locally made cheeses including the local Old Peculiar and Wensleydale. Our next stop was Richmond, to get a bit of history with the castle, one of the oldest Norman stone fortresses in Britain.
The Natural Retreat residences themselves are equipped with all you could ask for: a practical and modern open plan living room and kitchen, wood burning stove, washing machine and dishwasher. The buildings melt into the landscape, with the sedum ‘living' roof both eco-friendly and seamlessly connected to its surroundings. The residence screamed good, environmentally sensitive architecture. All other details, including low energy lighting, natural spring water and renewable energy, added up to luxury and comfort that doesn't cost the earth.
When we arrived and settled in, the ‘e solar glazing' passiv house design had generated enough warmth, even for a chilly autumn day, without turning on the heat. The glass walls enabled us to keep an eye on the kids as they played outside in the surrounding hills and on the wooden deck.
Need to know:
Natural Retreats, Aislabeck plantation, Hurgill Road
Richmond, North Yorkshire, DL10 4SG
You can offset your journey there using a calculator on their website. Offsets contribute towards planting of indigenous tress on the Yorkshire Dales site and other Natural Retreats sites. If you're in the market for a fully luxurious stay then they also go the whole hog with private chefs, private beauty treatments and baby-sitting services.
In the area:
The Yorkshire Dales National Park is 1,700 square kilometres straddling the central Pennines in North Yorkshire and Cumbria counties. You are spoilt for choice: whether you are looking for a walking break or you are a culture vulture - or both - it's easy to indulge yourself. The park has provided a map of the best places to see wildlife - from wildflower meadows and waterfalls to kingfishers, wood warbler and redstarts and even the rare and elusive red squirrels. There is even an official iPhone App from the Yorkshire Dales National Park to help you get the most out of your visit.
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