Day 1. Weekend in Wensleydale

We were up bright and early for our road trip to scenic Wensleydale in North Yorkshire.  The area is famous for the cheese to which it gives its name but for lots of other interesting things too as we were soon to discover.

Black Sheep Brewery, Masham
Black Sheep Brewery, Masham

Our first stop was to the village of Masham (pronounced massham) to take a tour of the Black Sheep Brewery, Masham is located 9 miles from Ripon and 8 miles from the A1.

The Black Sheep Brewery, Masham
The Black Sheep Brewery building

This well known brewery was founded in 1992 by Paul Theakston who broke away from the famous Theakston family brewery also based in Masham to create his own company.

The Black Sheep brewery range
Some of the Black Sheep Brewery range

The name Black Sheep was the idea of his wife which is fitting as Paul was obviously thought of as the black sheep of the family for going it alone.  The brewery has now become a household name having developed a distinctive range of craft beers.

Black Sheep Brewery tour starting point
Our tour began with a talk and video

One hour ‘shepherded’ guided tours take place several times each day, standard price £10.95 to include complimentary drinks afterwards.  Our tour guide was Alan who was clearly passionate and knowledgeable having worked in the brewery himself for many years before becoming a guide.  The tour started with a brief talk followed by a short video on the history of the brewery.

Samples of barley hand hops used in the brewing process
Samples of barley hand hops used in the brewing process

We learnt that the four key ingredients for brewing are malted barley, water, hops and yeast.  Samples of barley and hops were then shown around the group and Alan explained that particular barleys were used to obtain distinctive colour and flavours.

Hops being boiled in wort at the Black Sheep Brewery
Hops being boiled in wort at the Black Sheep Brewery

We were then taken around the brewery viewing the entire process from mashing, boiling, fermenting and conditioning through to filling casks.  From overhead balconies we had excellent views of the process taking place and at each point Alan explained the techniques involved using the high tech equipment.

The state of the art equipment used at Black Sheep Brewery
Observing the beer being transferred to casks

At the end of the tour we were invited into the bar as our tickets included either a flight of three Black Sheep beers or a pint of our choice.  Drivers are welcome to select a bottle of beer from the Black Sheep range to take home and enjoy later.  The bar serves a range of home cooked classic pub meals and there’s also a shop with a range of gifts, beers and gins.

Bar at the Black Sheep Brewery Visitor Centre
Bar at the Black Sheep Brewery Visitor Centre

My husband came away with two boxes of ‘The Flock’ each containing six varieties from their range.  Taking the tour was very interesting whether you are a beer drinker or not, good value and a great start to our short break in Wensleydale.

Brymor Ice Cream Parlour, Masham, North Yorkshire
The Brymor Ice Cream Parlour in Masham

On leaving the brewery we turned our attention from beer to ice cream as just a ten minute drive away lies the Brymor Dairy.

It was a warm day and perfect weather for sampling some of their delicious flavours home made on their farm at High Jervaulx just outside Masham.  Brymor was established by Brian Moore in 1984 and after outgrowing its original site in Harrogate, moved to Jervaulx in 1992.

Ice cream production at Brymor Dairy, Masham
Inspecting the ice cream making process

Paul, the production manager kindly offered to show us around the dairy after covering up with white coats, hair nets and overshoes.  We were then taken through the process from the pasteurisation of local milk and cream all the way to stepping inside the huge freezer to view the vast numbers of tubs of ice cream ready for distribution.

Ice cream being stored in the freezer at Brymor Dairy
Braving the cold of the freezer to view the many tubs of ice cream

We’d toured a cheese making dairy before but it was the first time I’d been around an ice cream making one so we both found this very interesting.  Following the tour we were taken into the ice cream parlour which is open daily between 10.00-17.00.  It’s a lovely cafe with candy coloured chairs and large windows.  In addition to Brymor’s 25 varieties of ice cream, light meals including sandwiches, pizzas, cakes and scones can also be enjoyed there or outside on the large terrace.

Some of the ice creams on offer at Brymor Dairy
Some of the ice creams on offer in the ice cream parlour

We sampled a selection of their award winning ice creams including their Riggwelter raisin ripple containing Black Sheep beer and Wensleydale and ginger cheesecake made with the famous Wensleydale cheese produced locally in Hawes.

Our black cherry whim wham ice cream cones at Brymor Dairy
Our yummy black cherry whim wham ice cream cones

If I had to choose though, my favourites would be their sea salted caramel, coffee mochaccino and the Amarena Black Cherry Whim Wham which has just won three stars at the 2022 Great Taste awards.  This flavour was so delicious that we couldn’t resist sitting in the parlour with a large cone each, every lick leaving me in ice cream heaven.

Finding my way through the Maize Maze at Brymor Dairy, Masham
Finding my way through the Maize Maze

To walk off our sweet treats we took a stroll through their maize maze cut from a large field of living maize plants, eventually managing to find our way out.  On site there’s also a children’s play area and an adventure playground offering something for young and old.  I’ll definitely be stopping by next time I’m in the area and looking out for Brymor ice cream stockists on my travels as believe me, it’s delicious!

The Forbidden Corner, Middleham, North Yorkshire
The Forbidden Corner, Middleham, North Yorkshire

Continuing on our way, our next destination was neither food nor drink related and instead was a visit to The Forbidden Corner on the Tupgill Park Estate in Coverham, close to where we would be staying in Middleham.  Its name sounds intriguing and the entire place is just that as it’s a unique labyrinth of tunnels, chambers, follies and other surprises in its four acre garden.  Standard adult admission £14.50.  Entrance is by pre-booked time slots only to ensure that everyone is able to enjoy the site without it becoming overcrowded.

The Giant Woodsman, Forbidden Corner, Middleham, North Yorkshire
The Giant Woodsman indicating the way to go at The Forbidden Corner

The Forbidden Corner was originally built as a private folly for the exclusive enjoyment of friends and family but was later opened up to the public by popular demand.

Finding our way around The Forbidden Corner
Finding our way around The Forbidden Corner

On picking up our tickets we were handed a leaflet indicating numerous sculptures and other interesting characters such as a giant woodsman and a floating griffin.  The idea is to work your way along winding paths, navigating through dark tunnels some leading into deep caverns and others just to dead ends to try and find as many of these items as you can.

One of the sculptures we needed to find at The Forbidden Corner
One of the sculptures we needed to find at The Forbidden Corner

As there are many more sculptures to be seen than those identified on the list, it’s quite tricky as it’s very easy to get lost and confused but entertaining for young and old alike.  We managed to locate more than half the items on the list but it took quite awhile as we kept finding ourselves at doors that didn’t lead anywhere.  Riddles etched into stone provide some clues but hazards await such as hidden water jets which we got sprayed with several times.

Scenic views from one of the elevated walkways at The Forbidden Corner
We enjoyed scenic views across Wensleydale from the elevated walkways

The Forbidden Corner isn’t a maze in the true sense of the word but sort of feels like one.  Although the attraction is mainly geared towards families with young children it’s actually good fun for everyone as it’s so unusual and with a cafe and restaurant on site, it makes for a pleasant outing.

The ruins of Middleham Castle, at Middleham, North Yorkshire
The ruins of Middleham Castle

On leaving the Forbidden Corner behind, history beckoned as the ruins of Middleham Castle came into view.  The castle is open from 10.00-17.00 with standard admission £7 and free for members of English Heritage.  The castle is famous as it was the childhood home of King Richard III.

Ruins of Middleham Castle Keep, Middleham
Ruins of Middleham Castle Keep

Although roofless, extensive remains of the fortified castle survive to this day.  Middleham has the largest castle keep in the north of England and from the viewing platform at the top of its tower we enjoyed excellent views of the village below and of the surrounding area.  There’s also a small museum at one end of the gift shop but no other facilities are available.

Spectacular views from the top of Middleham Castle, North Yorkshire
Spectacular views from the top of Middleham Castle

Back in the car, our accommodation for the next two nights was just down the road overlooking the market place.  After parking on the cobbles we removed our luggage from the boot and wandered across to the gorgeous Grade II listed Wensleydale Hotel.

Wensleydale Hotel, Middleham, North Yorkshire
The Grade 2 listed Wensleydale Hotel

The hotel was once an inn with a neighbouring hotel and provisions store which has been combined to create a charming boutique hotel.  We were greeted by the owner Fiona Merchie who along with her family took over the hotel in 2019, completely renovating it during lockdown.

Superior Double Castle View Room, Wensleydale Hotel, Middleham
Superior Double Castle View Room, Wensleydale Hotel, Middleham

We were shown to our superior double room on the first floor which had views of the marketplace and castle.  The room was decorated in country inspired tones with traditional soft furnishings.

Marketplace, Middleham, Wensleydale
The marketplace lies at the heart of the small town

Before dinner we enjoyed a wander around the small town which is elegantly arranged around two market squares surrounded by Georgian buildings, interesting small shops, galleries and cafes.

Tack Room Restaurant, Wensleydale Hotel, Middleham
The hotel’s Tack Room restaurant

We’d arranged to have dinner in the hotel’s Tack Room restaurant with its race horse theme reflecting Middleham’s horse racing heritage.  Fifteen of the UK’s top thoroughbred racing yards are based in or close to the town producing some of the finest race horses in the world today.

Delicious, well presented dishes at The Tack Room Restaurant, Middleham
Our delicious starters and mains at the Tack Room Restaurant

Menus have a distinctly continental influence blended beautifully with the best of locally sourced produce.  Monty, the owner’s son looked after us for the evening and my dishes of grilled tiger prawns, lamb rump and dark chocolate mousse were all splendid and a credit to their Portuguese chef Rui.

Tack Room Restaurant, Wensleydale Hotel, Middleham
The stylish Tack Room Restaurant at the Wensleydale Hotel

The Tack Room’s well thought out wine list includes a good range of wines and artisan spirits from local vintners and our Pinot Grigio was light and refreshing and a perfect accompaniment to dinner on a warm summer’s evening.  After sipping coffee we retired to our lovely room for the night and were sound asleep in no time at all, nestled between the fine Egyptian bed linen.


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53 thoughts on “Day 1. Weekend in Wensleydale

  1. Always great when a tour starts with a visit to a brewery ☺️ … and even better when it’s followed up with ice-cream! Yummy looking ice-creams … I bet it was a winner on a warm day! The Forbidden Corner sounds like an interesting and fun place to visit – love the views on your walkways. And, as always, your food at the end of an exciting day, really looks delicious (and so well presented).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great day to get to sample some local beer and icecream! Corn mazes are really popular where I am from, especially this time of year, and I’ve seen some really intricately created mazes based on people or movies or things like that. So taking a walk through the corn with ice cream in hand sounds like a perfect activity 🙂 I really loved the Forbidden Corner- so fun to feel like you’ve stepped into a story book.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. it’s amazing actually but not so sure about New Year tho, but there is a company that organizes these trips, group of young guys I did it with them this last summer it went fantastic I can refer you to them if you’d like


  3. ThingsHelenLoves

    Wensleydale- so much more than cheese! Love the story behind the brewery name, seems like the gamble of branching out paid off. A great glimpse into a part of England I’m not familiar with.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love a good factory tour. The brewery would have been up my alley and the ice cream tour looks fabulous. The brewery name is perfect. This area looks well worth exploring for sure Marion. Thanks for your post. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The Digitabulist

    Beer, cheese and ice cream sounds like my dream break! We stayed in Masham last year for our first post-lockdown trip last year and went to the Black Sheep Brewery but their tours were still paused – I keep saying we need to go back! Next time you’re in the area, I’d recommend a visit to the Himalayan Garden and Sculpture Park.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for your interest and comments. Wensleydale is absolutely lovely and we were so lucky with the weather. I recommend the brewery tour when you are back there. My husband is still enjoying the selection of beers he bought to take home. Didn’t know about the Himalayan Garden so thanks for letting me know. Will get there next time! Have a good weekend.


      1. The Digitabulist

        We did visit the Black Sheep brewery and worked our way across the bar to try them all! I did the Theakston tour a few years ago (before I was 18 though!) so we definitely want to go back and do both tours.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Like many, I couldn’t have professed much knowledge about Wensleydale beyond the cheese. I love the exterior of the brewery, a really terrific building. Touring a dairy is something I’d definitely put on my list, plus who wouldn’t want to go and visit a place called The Forbidden Corner? So much to see and do here, making Wensleydale a great base for exploring.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your interest in this post on Wensleydale Leighton. We couldn’t have wanted for better weather and with such wonderful scenery and food, it was a memorable day. I’ve now researched somewhere locally where I can buy Brymor ice cream so I’ll be filling up my freezer in due course with the cherry whim wham! Have a good weekend. M.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. The food and scenery is all a feast for the eyes. My mouth is watering from all this talk about cheese, beer and ice cream. Good thing there are also a lot of interesting sights to see and burn off the calories by exploring. Thanks for sharing. Linda

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I never knew that Wensleydale has so many wonders worth visiting, Marion! I love cheese and I also love ice cream, so it would be a perfect long weekend destination for myself and my family. I am glad to see you had a great time and sunny weather for exploring it. Have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, beer, cheese and ice cream – what a combination Aiva! We were so lucky with the weather and enjoyed a lovely day exploring the area. I’m certain your daughter would love finding all those things at The Forbidden Corner too! Have a lovely weekend. Marion xx

      Liked by 4 people

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