And his wife travelled to a boutique bolthole in a beautiful corner of Northern England for a short break
ENGLAND is blessed with stunning scenery. From the Lake District to Dartmoor via the North York Moors and the Peak District, so much of the country offers luscious landscapes. But one corner of England often slips under the radar of the tourist guides, the wonderful Western Dales.
Sitting at the top of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and straddling equally entrancing Cumbrian countryside, it’s an area slightly off the beaten track.
Yorkshire folk often describe their county as God’s Country – and you can see their point, what with the vibrant greens and golds colouring the fields and trees.
To the right sit the hulking Howgill Fells; to the left are cosy farms and neat fields bordered by traditional stone walls that give way to the higher lying moorland. When the sun shines a certain way, it’s heaven on earth.
We were staying at the lovely Black Bull Inn, on Sedbergh’s narrow, picturesque Main Street. Our room was light and airy thanks to windows on three sides and a tastefully restrained colour scheme. The bed was huge and comfortable.
The en-suite bathroom had a large, standalone bath as well as a walk-in shower but was still spacious.
Described accurately as a ‘boutique bolthole’, the hotel has everything a discerning traveller could wish for.
A cosy bar and an impressive restaurant dominate the ground floor, while there are 18 lovely rooms of varying shapes and sizes upstairs, all of which are named after local fells.
The Black Bull has been lovingly renovated by partners James Ratcliffe and Nina Matsunaga and they can be justly proud of their efforts.
Prior to our evening meal, we enjoyed a tipple in the bar and discovered a tempting choice of beers including several Black Sheep brews.
The meal itself was a treat, high end cuisine with friendly service. Nothing too snooty or st, I chose rabbit with black pudding, root vegetables and mustard. The meat tender and tasty and the flavours complemented each other perfectly.
For the main course I was tempted by the venison and the grouse but opted for Mansergh Hall pork with artichoke, salsify and purple sprouting broccoli, plus a side order of dauphinoise potatoes. It was a wise choice. The flavours burst on the tongue with every bite.
For dessert I plumped for the baked egg custard with raspberry and gingerbread and, again, was rewarded with a mouth-watering treat.
My wife was equally impressed by her meal so, all in all, we enjoyed a very special night.
The day had been pretty special too. Blessed by lovely Indian summer weather, we wanted to explore the countryside around Sedbergh – now in Cumbria but once in the West Riding of Yorkshire – and came up with a cunning plan.
We would take a bus from the town to Dent and walk the five miles back, which we estimated would take a couple of energetic hours and allow plenty of opportunities to soak up the magnificent views.
Dentdale feels like it’s a long way from anywhere and, bathed in sunshine, Dent itself looked pretty as a picture. After a leisurely look around the village, we enjoyed a cup of tea and slice of cake at the Heritage Centre before heading back.
The walk will live long in the memory. The views of the hills, the meandering River Dee and the valley stretching away in both directions; picking a bramble or two and generally enjoying the silence and solitude; it was bliss.
Next day, after a peaceful and restorative sleep, we tucked into a full English Black Bull breakfast that set us up nicely for another day of exploring, with an enjoyable look around Sedbergh, known as ‘England’s Book Town’ for stores such as Westwoods, which has more than 70,000 books on two floors.
We headed north out of the town along Howgill Lane and encountered yet more lovely landscapes.
But then everything about our short stay in Sedbergh and the Black Bull was lovely.
The Black Bull, above and below, is a haven of sophistication to return to at the end of a day enjoying rural delights