Don’t fancy roughing it and pitching up a tent in the Yorkshire Dales? Perhaps you want to avoid a crooked neck and chilblains if visiting over the colder months, or maybe you’ve always clashed with camping. Truth is, you don’t need an excuse to stay in luxury Yorkshire digs; discover the rugged beauty of the Yorkshire Dales National Park by day and retire to comfort by night. And if you accidentally forget hiking boots, no one is stopping you from soaking up countryside views while alternating between the sauna and steam room. Planning your trip to the area? Consider the Coniston Hotel Country Estate & Spa near Skipton. These are its highlights.
Months could be lost exploring the Yorkshire Dales, the third-largest national park in the UK. A fraction of the size in comparison, but sprawling nonetheless, at 1,400 acres the Coniston Hotel Country Estate & Spa will hold your attention for the duration of a weekend-long trip. Such was the case with my visit earlier in the year. Aside from ambling around its grounds, which rub up against the market town of Skipton, time can be split between saunaing, sipping, shooting and squealing. I’ll explain.
Champagne, countryside and peace collide at Nàdarra Spa. You’ll have front-row seats to rolling Yorkshire hills from this recently renovated destination. Soak it up as you turn prune-like from behind the spa’s floor-to-ceiling windows, or plump for a private outdoor nook, and soundtrack the sights with birdsong and the odd peep from your other half. Given the locale, it’s only fitting the Garden Bath Experience incorporates tea – though not strictly Yorkshire tea and not for drinking. Climbing into a copper clawfoot bathtub, I was met with strings of seaweed and bobbing tea bags. This wasn’t a mishap: these bathtime extras were designed to nourish my skin and leave me silky smooth. Herbal blends filled the air with a sweet aroma as I blissed out with a fizz in-hand and emerged new, donut glaze-like in seaweed sludge.
You’ll find a change in tempo elsewhere on the grounds. The Land Rover Experience gives you a pass to drive through lakes and over rocky terrain just for the thrill of it. Discover the estate from a different angle as an off-road expert gets you up to speed with the SUV’s capabilities. Don’t expect to race off: you’ll only drive at a few miles per hour, though it’s enough to give you “the fear” as you ascend and decline sharp inclines. Much to my passengers’ humour, I let out a series of squeals as I panicked at toppling over.
Cruising around the grounds, you might pass owner Nick Bannister in his Land Rover. The Coniston has been in his family’s hands since the 70s and Nick is passionate about its heritage – but with one eye firmly on the future. There are ample rural pastimes to enjoy, with minimal harm to the environment. Down to the shooting range – recognised for its excellence by the Clay Pigeon Shooting Association – you’ll fire off disposable, ecofriendly pellets that mimic pheasants, partridge and rabbits. Under full instruction, shoot up to 50 clays before making like a local and opting for a bacon roll at the lodge. It’s so popular, I didn’t get the chance to see off any rounds – but it certainly looked like a thrill. As did archery, available for all ages.
There’s an indulgent theme at the Coniston Hotel Country Estate & Spa, but no need to feel guilty about it. The kitchens keep their carbon footprint low – the spa’s Blossom Kitchen and hotel’s main View Restaurant cook with local produce, which is as varied as pad Thai to fish and chips. The property operates as sustainably as possible under the Green Tourism Business Scheme, so stay at the Coniston Hotel Country Estate & Spa in the knowledge that it’s invested in preserving the surrounding landscape and supporting local community initiatives.