When an invitation dropped into my inbox inviting me for afternoon tea at the Devonshire Arms Hotel I couldn’t have been happier as it’s such a beautiful country house hotel. It’s located on the Yorkshire estate of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire in Bolton Abbey lying in a tranquil setting along the banks of the River Wharfe within the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
The hotel was a former coaching inn and on arrival we were greeted by one of the front of house team who was smartly dressed in country tweeds. He led us through to the attractive conservatory which overlooks a formal Italian garden. Seated on comfortable chairs at a table with starched white linen, it was the perfect location to enjoy one of the Devonshire’s traditional afternoon teas.
We were introduced to Danni who would be taking care of us and after enquiring if we had any dietary requirements, she returned to the table to pour each of us a glass of Laurent Perrier champagne, a luxurious start to our afternoon tea.
Whilst sipping our champagne, a tray of delicate finger sandwiches and savoury treats was served. Danni explained that the Devonshire liked to do things a little differently by serving savouries first, followed by a traditional three tier tea tray of scones and cakes. The idea being that the scones would be warm from the oven when we were ready to eat them.
The freshly prepared finger sandwiches contained generous fillings of cucumber and cream cheese, smoked salmon with lemon and dill, roast ham and chutney and chicken Caesar salad, all tasting delicious. Accompanying the sandwiches were slices of pork, apricot and apple sausage roll which were also very appetising and of just the right portion size.
It was then time for the star of the show to arrive, the traditional cake stand. As with the savouries, our server carefully explained what everything was and enquired of our hot drink preferences. A large selection of teas and coffees were available and being afternoon, it had to be tea. I selected a black Darjeeling with milk whilst my dining partner opted for Earl Grey served with lemon. Large tea pots soon arrived with a jug of milk for me.
We dipped our fingers beneath the white starched napkin keeping our scones warm where we found a fruit and plain scone each. To accompany these were pots of clotted cream, home made strawberry jam and lemon curd, I kept to the traditional theme topping my scones with jam and cream whilst my husband opted for cream and lemon curd. Neither of us had tried this combination before but he assured me it was delicious, and it must have been as he selected the same for his second scone.
From the cake stand we then both tucked into the Devonshire Chocolate Bar which comprised a light sponge coated with chocolate ganache which we followed up with dainty Blackberry choux buns and mini strawberry cheesecakes which looked almost too beautiful to eat. All the cakes and pastries are made in-house by the hotel’s pastry chef and I adored them all.
Afternoon tea at the Devonshire is a relaxed, decadent affair not to be rushed so we settled back in our chairs with a second pot of tea lingering awhile enjoying the surroundings. Glancing around the conservatory, everyone seemed to be having a lovely time. From a daughter treating her mother to a birthday celebration to a couple on the next table who told us that they were on holiday from South Africa and adoring this quintessential English experience.
Before leaving the hotel, we had a little look around the restaurant, brasserie, cocktail bar and lounges which we noted had all undergone a makeover since our last visit.
They were beautiful before but even more attractive now with their mix of contemporary furnishings and decor blending perfectly alongside elaborate period furniture and paintings from the Duke of Devonshire’s Chatsworth collection.
To walk off some of the calories from our afternoon tea we enjoyed a leisurely stroll around the charming village and estate. Setting off on foot from the hotel car park it’s possible to follow a path along to the picturesque village centre that leads onto the priory. For a longer walk, one can then continue along the banks of the River Wharfe to the Cavendish Pavilion and slightly further to the Strid. There are three car parks within the Bolton Abbey estate so if you don’t feel like taking too long a walk but still wish to view the main sights you can park in one of the car parks and then use the same ticket to change location.
Bolton Abbey Priory Church and Ruins
The priory church and ruins of the Augustinian priory in its beautiful riverside setting is a lovely sight. This is where the canons lived and worshipped until 1539 when the dissolution of the monasteries stripped the priory of its assets. The nave was saved as a place of worship and continues to this day (visitors are welcome into the church and admission is free).
The Stepping Stones
You can either walk across these photogenic stepping stones or be like us and cross the river by means of the nearby footbridge and watch others trying to keep their balance and not fall in.
The Strid – a famous spot on the River Wharfe where the river is forced through a narrow gap in the rocks. The Strid (meaning one stride) is a pinch-point where the rocks on either side are close enough to stride over. There are signs by the rocks warning people not to be tempted to do this though as the rocks are very slippery and the water is often fast flowing. Surprisingly, the water levels were quite low at the time of our visit so we didn’t see it in full force.
To summarise, spending time enjoying afternoon tea at the Devonshire Arms and enjoying a walk in its surroundings is an absolute delight and an occasion long to be remembered. If you are planning a visit to this part of North Yorkshire do consider adding the hotel to your itinerary either as a place to stay or to call in for a delicious afternoon tea as you won’t be disappointed.
Details: The Devonshire Arms Hotel and Spa, Bolton Bridge, Skipton BD23 6AJ
We were guests of the Devonshire Arms Hotel and as always all views and opinions are my own.
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