With changeable weather and some very exposed rolling hills, the Yorkshire Dales can be both a beautiful and unforgiving landscape. Having somewhere to call home for the night is always a good idea; an even better idea is to head to The Devonshire Arms on the Bolton Abbey Estate for some rest and relaxation. It ticked all of the boxes on our one-night stay; incredible scenery, fantastic food, and (probably most importantly) it was very dog friendly. This former inn can be found on the southern edge of the Dales, a stones’ throw from the city of Leeds, but a world away in every other aspect.
As soon as you enter the reception area of the main building, you immediately get the impression that this is a home more than a house. The cosy fireplace and front of house opens up to a few lounges (one for dogs and one for humans), as well as a restaurant with conservatory and then a number of bedrooms upstairs. The dog lounge is definitely a highlight; complete with dog-inspired wallpaper and plenty of space for your canine friend to relax or meet other resident hounds. For human guests, there is the beautiful Cocktail Lounge which serves an array of light dishes as well as a solid selection of classic cocktails that are the perfect aperitif.
Our room for the night was the Garden Room; aptly named as it overlooks the perfectly manicured courtyard garden below. It was a beautifully furnished room, complete with an extravagant (and very tall) four-poster bed for us, and a very small four-poster bed for Pepi. I don’t think we will ever find a hotel that provides a hand-carved dog bed of this standard, and Pepi was more than happy to call this home for the stay. After unpacking, we made our way downstairs to the Cocktail Lounge for a bite to eat. The Ploughman’s Lunch for Two comes highly recommended; chunks of tasty cheese, ham and pork pie certainly hit the spot.
After finishing our food, we decided to explore the local area. The Devonshire Arms sits on the edge of some beautiful greenery that extends right down to the River Wharfe and it was a great place to take Pepi for a walk. Reaching the water’s edge, we then made our way along a pathway towards the Bolton Priory; the iconic 12thcentury ruined church that dominates the landscape. The sunset walk was absolutely stunning, and if you can tear yourself away from the hotel or the spa, it is definitely worth an hour of your time.
With just enough time back in our room to change, it was then time for dinner in The Burlington. A winner of numerous culinary awards, the on-site restaurant specialises in seasonal and ever-changing tasting menus. The team there take great care in curating menus that really reflect the mood of the weather, and ingredients are sourced locally where possible (some are even home-grown in the Devonshire Arms vegetable garden). We had a specially designed menu for the evening and, being a huge fan of good wine, I decided to choose the wine flight to accompany it.
Dinner was served over eight course, and my selection was paired with eight different wines. While I can’t quite list every wine, there were a few standout favourites that have definitely been added to my “wine cellar list”.
To start, the Wensleydale Cheese Tartlet and Rabbit Croquette were absolutely delicious. The rabbit was sourced locally from the estate and there was so much flavour packed into a very quaint dish. Katie then moved onto the Steamed Stone Bass while I had a Garden Salad in Pea Jus. Again, both dishes were light enough not to fill us up too early on, but had so much incredible flavour.
Next up was a real surprise dish; a Mayan Gold Potato (yes, a single potato) served alongside dill and a potato jus. As potatoes go, this was a new level of texture and taste; I’m not sure any potato dish will ever match the creaminess and fluffiness on offer here.
Then we moved onto what can be best described as three “mains”. The Smoked Venison Tartare with Shallots was incredible delicate and melted in the mouth, and preceded Aroncili Mushrooms with Pasta in a Kohlrabi Sauce. To finish the savoury journey was a Loin of Yorkshire Venison served with Crispy Cabbage and Wild Mushrooms foraged from Glencoe in Scotland.
For desserts, we somehow managed to squeeze in a beautiful Plum dish, finished with raspberry served in several ways. The cheese chariot did beckon, but I decided to err on the side of caution and save my waistline for the evening.
I should mention here that even if you don’t stay the night at The Devonshire Arms, it is well worth a journey for dinner alone. The Tasting Menu is genuinely one of the best culinary experiences I have ever had, and all of the waiting staff and the sommelier were full of knowledge and recommendations. Each dish had such a unique taste and a unique approach to locally sourced ingredients and, with seasonal variations available throughout they year, it is definitely somewhere we are going to head back to in the future.
After a very good night of sleep, I woke early the next morning for a quick sauna and swim in the on-site spa. With Katie and Pepi eventually tearing themselves away from their four-poster beds, we had a few hours left in the hotel for breakfast, followed by a short wander around the grounds. Our stay had certainly been a memorable one, and The Devonshire Arms is firmly on the list as a new stop-off point on any journeys up north.