If you’re looking for a luxury hotel in the Yorkshire Dales, Simonstone Hall near Hawes is right in the heart of some of the most beautiful scenery in Wensleydale. In fact footpaths go right through the hotel’s lovely grounds, and the sign outside says that walkers are welcome.
Enjoy Our YouTube Slideshow of Our Visit
To Simonstone Hall in the Yorkshire Dales
All Photos (c) Donna Dailey
This handsome, grey stone country house sits at the foot of Stags Fell, facing a magnificent sweeping view across Upper Wensleydale and the River Ure to the Pennine foothills. Dating back four centuries, it has had several aristocratic occupants; in the 1880s it was used as a hunting lodge where royalty and leading politicians of the day were entertained.
When we arrived it was rather overcast, but even if it had been pouring down we wouldn’t have minded too much, once we saw our room. Ours was number 9, and it was the kind of room that lifts your spirits as soon as you open the door.
Wow! It was large, with a rather splendid 4-poster bed, and a chaise-longue underneath the window. A row of books on the ledge invited you to curl up for a cozy afternoon's reading. The window looked out across emerald-green fields, dotted with trees, which climbed to the distant hills.
There was a teddy bear welcoming us on the bed, and a beautiful display of lilies in a corner of the bathroom. The décor was mainly beige – walls, carpet, bedding – which is often bland but not in this case as it set off the wooden antique furnishings perfectly.
A grand staircase framed by beautiful stained-glass windows led to more rooms in another wing. There are 18 rooms in all, each beautifully decorated with period furnishings, luxurious linens and modern necessities such as tea kettles and wifi. Six of the bedrooms have four-poster beds, while all enjoy a fine view of the countryside.
Guests can also relax in the spacious lounges, adorned with exquisitely carved fireplace mantels, comfy furniture, log fires on chilly days, and more lovely views.
We went downstairs to the delightful old-fashioned bar, which had several local ales on draught, including my own favourite – Theakston’s Old Peculier. There was a Black Sheep on tap too, but we both opted for a pint of Rudgate Sea Stallion, purely because of the name. It was a rich and creamy ale, and one we both enjoyed.
At the far end was the Wine Vault (left), where they sell an impressive array of fine wines. It also doubles as a private dining room, perfect for an intimate dinner or small reception.
We had a peek in the elegant Four Fells Restaurant, with its shimmering glass and crystal, antique sideboards, another lovely fireplace and of course, more gorgeous views. The three-course table d'hôte menu offers several choices of traditional and modern dishes, made from seasonal, locally sourced produce.
We’d had a long day and preferred the informality of the cheery brasserie. We went straight to the main course, choosing from the daily specials on the blackboard. The Pie of the Day was a Chicken, Bacon and Tarragon Pie, and it sounded so good we both wanted to try it. So we did, and it was. Not only good but an enormous and very filling plate, too. Even though there was a Peach and Almond Bread and Butter Pudding as one of the desserts, we couldn’t manage another mouthful.
In fine weather, food and drink from the bar and brasserie is best enjoyed outside on the terrace, where the fresh air and sweeping views are the perfect complement to the fine fare.
If you want to see current menus for the brasserie and the restaurant, and see the wine list, you can find links to them on the Simonstone Hall website. The menus credit their food suppliers, many of which are local. These include the Wensleydale Poultry Farm and Hammond Butchers of Bainbridge, just up the road, where their steaks are all aged for a minimum of 21 days.
Mike Admiring Hardraw Force Waterfall, near Simonstone Hall
Photo (c) Donna Dailey
Next morning the sky had cleared and we woke to bright sunshine. After a breakfast that was just as hearty as the previous night’s dinner, we headed out for a short walk. You can walk right out of the back of the hotel onto a public footpath that leads down across sheep fields to the village of Hardraw. From here you go through the Green Dragon pub, pay a small fee at the bar, and you can walk alongside a stream through a wooded gorge which ends at Hardraw Force. This is a waterfall with a single drop of 100 feet, said to be the longest above-ground waterfall in England. It’s quite a sight, and was in full flow when we visited.
We loved Simonstone Hall. We enjoyed it because it had great character, and although it had all the country house hotel luxury comforts, it wasn’t at all snooty, shown by the way it welcomed walkers – a big group of them was tucking into Afternoon Tea when we arrived. The staff were attentive and friendly, the food was fantastic, and those Wensleydale views were to die for.
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