Get stuck into scones, exploring castles and river paddling in captivating Yorkshire

IT'S funny, the things that stick with you.

I still remember the Skipton Castle badge and rainbow pencil souvenirs that I persuaded my mum and dad to buy me on a family holiday to Yorkshire as a little kid – but not really anything else about that adventure.

So, with much of the world still locked down, it was time for a revisit.

We settled upon Washburn Valley, in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

It sits just south of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and is all stunning reservoirs and forests, while the bustling market towns of Harrogate and Skipton are around 30 minutes’ drive away.


With the British weather unlikely to be able to compete with sunnier Europe, picking the perfect place to stay feels even more important.

Silver Birch Lodge is one of two chalet-style holiday lets on a pretty plot of land complete with stream and a pond.

There are rolling hill views from both the hot tub on the deck and the master bedroom balcony – both also handily under cover.

Expect pheasants and deer to pass by, as well as the cows and sheep from the neighbouring farmland.

It’s also been decked out in plush velvet beds and sofas, fine china crockery and handsome glass goblets from Joules.

Throw in the floor-to-ceiling views and it really is dreamy – if this was Cornwall or the Cotswolds it would cost triple.

Although this trip was just me, my husband and our two-year-old Poppy due to lockdown restrictions, the lodge sleeps up to six.

The top floor has a beautiful master bedroom and huge bathroom with egg bathtub and rain shower, perfect for exhausted parents to escape to, while grandparents could enjoy a lovely double next to their precious grandkids downstairs, alongside the shower room and spacious open-plan living area with wood burner, Smart TV and Bluetooth radio.

Unsurprisingly, walks start from your doorstep. A local secret is Dob Park Bridge, a 20-minute stroll, which wouldn’t look out of place in a fairy tale and offers fantastic paddling in its waters come summer.

But, 30 minutes’ drive away is Hesketh Farm Park – which was a total winner for Poppy.

The usual array of farmyard animals, huge outdoor xylophones, go karts, ride-on mini tractors and two giant tortoises freely roaming the fields truly delighted her (and hubby Andy). Entry costs £7 (

It also sits five minutes’ drive from Bolton Abbey, where you can hop across 60 stepping stones through the River Wharfe, then explore the priory ruins, dip your toes in the river at the sandy beach and stroll the pretty ancient woodland.

Grab a chicken, chorizo and cheese melt, £5.95, and home-made cake, £3, from the Tea On The Green cafe for your ambles. Entry costs £10 per car (


As well as Skipton’s 900-plus-year-old castle, complete with dungeons and watch tower – £8.90 for adults, £5.70 for over fives ( – it’s well worth taking the two-hour walk through Skipton Woods (

Refuel at The Three Sheep Tea House & Kitchen on the high street for posh hot dogs from local butchers Drake & Macefield, £4.50, huge cherry scones, £1.50, and iced coffee, £3.50.

A few doors down you’ll also find The Chocolate Works, which serves insanely good hot chocolate, from £2.75 a mug.Just 15 minutes’ drive out of Skipton is The View Restaurant, part of The Coniston Hotel, with its glorious lake vistas.

Classics, such as fish pie, £15, are served up alongside more interesting choices – like succulent partridge spring rolls with port reduction, £8.

Wine isn’t badly priced, from £5.95 a glass, but it’s worth trying a non-alcoholic G&T, £3.50, from local brand The Temperance Spirit Company, too (

Closer to home is RHS Harlow Carr – a great find for smaller kids, just 15 minutes from the lodges.

Its huge treehouses will entertain while you tuck into a legendary Betty’s Tea House picnic for two, £23.95, with sarnies, fab Wensleydale and watercress quiches, fondant fancies and scones.

Entry costs £12.15 per adult, over fives, £6.10 (


Some final words of advice: if you’re travelling to Yorkshire from the south, stock up on meat boxes, local condiments and yummy rocky road from nearby Crag House Farm Shop (

Meanwhile, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, just 10 minutes off the M1, is an oasis from the motorway slog and just 50 minutes from Washburn Valley.

Set in gorgeous grounds, it has more than 100 sculptures dotted across its landscape – we particularly loved the giant hare, a theatrical mask made of ornate mirrors and a new fave, the Bag of Aspirations – a huge steel Birkin handbag that looks like worn leather.

Entry costs £6 (

After this trip, I’ll remember Yorkshire for far more than a rainbow pencil. Although there were plenty of rainbows after the generous downpours of rain, too. I guess it wouldn’t be a proper staycay otherwise!


Stays at Silver Birch Lodge, which is part of an exclusive collection with Joules, start from £1,056 a week for six people.

Book your stay at


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