Yorkshire: reasons to stay after the Grand Depart

The Coniston Hotel and Lake
The Coniston Hotel and Lake

Yorkshire has become a lot more famous in the last few weeks.

Its much-celebrated hills and dales have been beamed live to millions of international television screens - mostly from a gorgeous, sweeping elevation - as the Tour de France’s Grand Depart traversed its best peaks and dips.

Ox Pasture Hall suite

Ox Pasture Hall suite

But, while seeing one of the Great Sporting Events may be exciting enough for some, there’s more to keep you.

And, naturally, there are a whole lot more options in the summer sun, when the open and rugged charm of the area really reveals itself.

Heading for West Yorkshire, our first destination was a convenient stopping-off point, the open-air Yorkshire Sculpture Park, which is handily just off the M1.

Not only is the art genuinely impressive, but the sloping nature park, which leads down to an attractive river, makes for what is surely the best-looking ‘gallery’ in the country. You only need to pay for parking too.

Falconry at The Coniston Hotel

Falconry at The Coniston Hotel

Onwards, and without really trying, we found ourselves intermittently on the route of ‘T’Tour’, swooping and rising through what you might call ‘building society country’, following the yellow -painted bicycles affixed to walls through Halifax and its luscious green surrounds and the road winding its beautiful way through Bingley, and, finally, Skipton.

Just north west of this West Yorkshire town on the cusp of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, was our destination, The Coniston Hotel.

Sat on a vast lake surrounded by hills and fields, this modern hotel in 1,400 acres of grounds advertises itself as the perfect venue for leisure activity breaks.

The Coniston offers packages of country pursuits that seem perfect for urban dwellers keen for a taste of tweed. Clay pigeon shooting, Land Rover off-road driving, archery and fishing are all on the menu.

Ox Pasture Hall's courtyard restaurant

Ox Pasture Hall's courtyard restaurant

But we chose to take part in falconry and spent a spellbinding hour ‘flying’ a light-as-a-feather harris hawk and a sturdy eagle owl, which we still can’t quite believe were allowed to sit on the end of our arms looking so wild and primitive.

Two nights here gave us the chance of dining in one of The Coniston’s two restaurants, with its floor-to-ceiling windows looking down on the lake, to which most chairs were turned.

It was so good that, meaning to use the other restaurant on our second night, we broke our own rule to take in the view once again.

The next day, after hiking in the National Park - driving single track lanes where sheep were the only traffic between craggy stop-off points - we were reluctantly on our way once more, this time eastwards towards Scarborough.

The Coniston Hotel

The Coniston Hotel

Having a National Trust membership really pays off on these trips. Instead of stopping at the usual services or coach parks, the cards - and a bit of planning - can make the drive become as much about some extra sightseeing as simply ploughing motorways and main roads from A to B.

Fountains Abbey, near Ripon, was one such waypoint, although such a functional term does a pretty serious disservice to the magnificent ruined abbey set by a river, water garden and deer park. The guided tours of this World Heritage sight were a treat on a balmy day.

Our ultimate destination that day was Ox Pastures Hall: a former country farmhouse surrounded by barns and out-buildings that lives up to its billing of friendly luxury.

Set in 17 acres of picturesque Yorkshire countryside in the North York Moors National Park, the charming 32-bedroom luxury retreat has spectacular views over the dale.

A range of accommodation is available, from classic doubles to deluxe bedrooms and four posters. In the converted outbuildings are luxury suites that provide your home comforts and a bit more, including an astounding lounge-sized bathroom.

Each of the outbuildings have a secluded courtyard, or other semi-private area, with perfectly-presented gardens surrounding the property on all sides.

Ox Pasture Hall afternoon tea

Ox Pasture Hall afternoon tea

We were welcomed to Ox Pastures Hall in one of them with a sumptuous high tea of cream scones and sandwiches in the sunshine, and we could gladly have stayed all afternoon.

The staff are efficient and endearingly informal and they looked after us magnificently, particularly in the quality courtyard restaurant, and we were once more sorry to leave.

As an epilogue to our scheduled trip, having originally intended to drive back to Northampton directly, we had been so put in the holiday mood by the warmth of the weather and hospitality that we decided to stay an extra day in the area, plumping for a classic homely B&B on the Scarborough seafront.

Not having considered Scarborough for a holiday before, we were all the more pleasantly stunned by its combination of striking landmarks and seaside charm.

A leisurely day walking along the coast and up side lanes, punctuated by frequent cups of tea, was a fantastic end to a wonderful trip.

The sight from our window of surfers still trying to catch waves under a purple evening sky is one of the many Yorkshire memories that we will treasure.

Even after the Grand Depart, there’s much to detain you in this diverse and stunning area.

A finalist in this year’s Welcome to Yorkshire White Rose Awards as “Hotel of the Year”, The Coniston Hotel & Country Estate offers special short break and holiday packages throughout the year.

This summer, The Coniston’s one and two nights “Dales Dash” short breaks are aimed at people who don’t want the hassle of flying abroad. They cost from just £169.00 per room (for two people sharing) per night, and include accommodation in a classic room, with a wonderful A la Carte dinner in the Macleod’s restaurant and a Deliciously Yorkshire breakfast the following morning.

Telephone 01756 748080 or visit www.theconistonhotel.com for more information.

The Coniston Hotel & Country Estate, Coniston Cold, Skipton, North Yorkshire BD23 4EA

For all current offers at Ox Pastures Hall visit: www.oxpasturehallhotel.com