This handsome stone inn stands proudly in the small village of Ben Rhydding set amid leafy lanes and in the shadow of the famous Cow & Calf Rocks on Ilkley Moor. The hotel lies 18 miles north west of Leeds and just one mile from the Victorian spa town of Ilkley which oozes charm and sophistication. Ben Rhydding has its own railway station on the Wharfedale Line with regular services from Leeds taking just 25 minutes.
The hotel was built in 1863, originally opening as a coaching inn for the former Ben Rhydding Hydropathic Hotel. Its success led to the establishment of the local railway to enable people to travel more easily to the spa town. The Wheatley later fell on hard times forcing it to close in 2003 and the building was in serious danger of being demolished and replaced with an apartment block. Thankfully, a group of local residents got together and formed an action group campaigning to save their local inn ‘Save Us Pub’ (SUP). Their hard work and efforts paid off with a fully refurbished Wheatley Arms re-opening in June 2009 and after continued success as a pub, restaurant and hotel, The Wheatley is now celebrating its tenth birthday.
Arrival and check-in
The forecast promised good weather, hopefully ideal for exploring picturesque Wharfedale. All packed up and ready, we travelled by train and it was then just a four minute uphill walk from Ben Rhydding station along Wheatley Lane to the hotel entrance where we were warmly welcomed by one of the friendly staff. Our first impressions were promising with its light, airy interior and mix of traditional and contemporary styles. It only took a matter of moments to check-in and we were soon being shown to our luxurious room on the second floor.
The Wheatley Arms has twelve rooms which are all individually designed and I’m certain, equally beautiful. We stayed in a luxury room which I fell in love with the minute I opened the door with its bold red and gold wallpaper along one wall and decadent stylish furnishings. At the foot of the king size bed was one of those huge, free standing baths which are becoming increasingly popular.
The statement bathtub gave the room a real sense of luxury, just perfect for a long, relaxing soak. Alongside the bath, there was a marble shower room with monsoon shower head, thick white fluffy towels, dressing gowns and fragrant Bath House toiletries to pamper ourselves with later.
Everything had been thought of including a Nespresso machine with a selection of pods, fresh milk and bottles of Harrogate spa water waiting for us in the fridge, not to mention some delicious flapjacks to accompany our cups of tea.
Following our afternoon in nearby Ilkley (see below) we returned to our gorgeous room to relax and what could be better than a long, luxurious soak whilst watching the tennis from Wimbledon on the perfectly positioned television and taking in the scenic moorland views.
Not only are hairdryers supplied but on the dressing table there was a pair of those wonderful Cloud Nine hair straighteners, so there was absolutely no excuse for any frizz and my hair was, for once, perfectly styled going down to dinner!
It may come as a surprise to some, but Yorkshire does in fact get its fair share of hot weather but with one of those stylish remote control Dyson tower fans provided, we didn’t overheat. Another thoughtful gesture was a neatly folded flat sheet left on top of the bed with an attached note suggesting we might like to use it if we were too warm under the duvet.
We actually slept exceedingly well on the deep mattress our heads resting gently on the large feather pillows and although other guests were staying at the hotel and the pub was still crowded when we went up to our room, it was perfectly quiet. Hanging on the inside of the bedroom door we found an adorable teddy bear with a luggage label attached bearing the message ‘Do not disturb’. How cute is that! It beats a piece of cardboard to hang on the door handle any day.
A range of bar snacks are available during the day in the attractive open plan lounge bar with its cosy seating areas beside inglenook fireplaces and bay windows upholstered in different fabrics that work well together.
As it was a Friday evening we had reserved a table for dinner which was definitely a good idea as it was already quite busy by 8.00 p.m. when we arrived. From our window table we enjoyed some good moorland views in the soft, evening light and whilst sipping refreshing glasses of beer we studied the menu.
This featured a mix of traditional pub favourites, a daily special and à la carte dishes. Noticing some mouthwatering fish and chips being served to a nearby table, I couldn’t resist the temptation, and my generous sized portion of haddock and chips served with a side of mushy peas tasted just as good as it looked, traditional pub food at its best.
Breakfast is served from 7.00 – 10.00 a.m. midweek and from 8.00 a.m. at weekends and as we were in no rush to start the day, we allowed ourselves a little lie in. The dining room is in two sections, both of which are attractively furnished. On a large oak table a selection of juices, cereals, yoghurts, cheese, cooked meat and fresh fruit were ready and waiting for us alongside copies of the weekend newspapers.
This seemed a very civilised way to start the day and after bringing ourselves to life sipping some freshly brewed coffee we ordered cooked dishes from the menu. An extensive choice is available including smoked salmon, kippers, smashed avocados, etc. etc. but as we were in Yorkshire we felt duty bound to opt for the ‘Full Yorkshire’ minus the black pudding. This was prepared to order and arrived cooked to perfection with both our poached and fried eggs soft and runny, just as we like them. We rounded off our breakfast with toast and preserves then lingered awhile over more cups of coffee whilst reading the papers.
Rooms are all of a high standard and categorised club, luxury and suite with several having their own terrace from where guests can sit and take in the stunning Wharfedale scenery. Due to the age of the building there is no lift access so do bear this in mind if mobility is an issue.
The Wheatley Arms has a large open plan bar lounge and adjoining restaurant. To the rear of the property is a large Garden Room seating up to 80 people which can be used for a variety of purposes. At the time of our visit a family birthday party was taking place and peeping through the open door everyone appeared to be having a good time in the spacious room that opened out onto the terrace.
There is a large enclosed rear garden equipped with tables and chairs and a further outdoor seating area to the side of the building. In one corner we spotted a boules court with sets of balls available from the bar. For guests arriving by car, a large car park is located to one side of the hotel just off Wheatley Lane which is conveniently just up the hill from the main A65 road between Leeds and Kendal in Cumbria. The hotel is dog friendly and although we didn’t actually see any of our four legged friends it’s nice to know that they are welcome visitors to the hotel.
The Wheatley Arms is just a five minute drive to Ilkley or a 15 minute stroll along tree lined residential avenues. We opted to walk rather than be lazy and take the train and enjoyed a gentle amble into the town centre. Opposite the railway station stands the town’s Victorian library which houses a small tourist information office at one end where town maps and other useful leaflets can be obtained.
We continued along to The Grove, a tree lined avenue filled with high end small shops including the wonderful, independent Grove Bookshop and a branch of Betty’s famous cafe tearooms.
Not far away, down at the bottom of New Brook Street lies the River Wharfe where we strolled through the riverside gardens as far as the old bridge. It’s from here that the long distance Dales Way footpath starts which links Ilkley with Bowness in Cumbria, 82 miles away. Not planning on walking quite so far, we turned around and followed the riverside footpath back towards Ben Rhydding.
The following morning, after checking out of the hotel we walked off our breakfast with a hike on the beautiful Ilkley Moor towards the ancient White Wells. If a flag can be seen flying outside the distinctive old white cottage then visitors know that the small cafe and ancient plunge pool are open to the public.
We loved our stay at the Wheatley Arms which manages to successfully combine its role as a pub favoured by locals together with its high quality restaurant and luxurious accommodation. An advantage of staying in a small boutique hotel is that guests tend to enjoy a more personal experience and this was certainly true for us during our visit.
We were guests of The Wheatley Arms and as always all views and opinions are entirely my own.
If you have enjoyed reading this post and might be considering a visit to Wharfedale then the following posts may offer more ideas of places to visit in the surrounding area: