The Wensleydale Hotel is located in the delightful small town of Middleham nestled on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
It’s just two miles from the bustling market town of Leyburn and 10 miles from Richmond. For those travelling from London or the south, Middleham can be reached by taking the A1 to Junction A6055 and from Scotland and Newcastle the A1 can be followed southbound to the same junction. The nearest railway station is at Northallerton which is on the East Coast main line and a 25 minute drive from Middleham.
Arrival and check-in:
It was late afternoon when we arrived at the hotel and despite it not having its own car park we had no difficulty finding parking on the cobbled market place in front. The Grade II listed hotel was once an inn with a neighbouring hotel and provisions store which have been combined to create a charming boutique hotel.
The entrance leads to a reception area with cosy seating around an inglenook fireplace. Here, we were greeted by the owner Fiona Merchie who, along with her family, took over the hotel in 2019 completely renovating it during several periods of lockdown.
After quickly checking us in, we were shown up to our room on the first floor.
We were booked into a superior double boasting two large sash windows overlooking the market square with views across to the ruins of Middleham Castle, once the childhood home of King Richard III.
All rooms are individually decorated in country inspired themes befitting the area with traditional soft furnishings enhanced by designer fabric curtains, cushions and throws. We knew instantly that we would be very comfortable during our stay as our room oozed charm with its exposed oak beams, original window shutters and fireplace alcove.
Our king size bed was extremely comfortable dressed in high quality Egyptian cotton linen and with deep pillows to rest our heads on, we were sound asleep in seconds.
At the foot of the bed were two armchairs and a small glass topped coffee table incorporating a rack of glossy magazines beneath it. So many hotels I stay in just seem to have one armchair along with a desk chair so it was lovely to find a pair of comfy chairs here to keep us both happy.
Everything had been thought of for a relaxing stay including a hospitality tray complete with a Rington’s wooden tea box filled to the brim with fresh coffee bags, a selection of teas, hot chocolate and biscuits. Several small milk pots had been supplied but it was pleasing to find a card informing guests that jugs of fresh milk were available from reception whenever needed.
The walls featured prints of racehorses to reflect Middleham’s race horsing heritage. Fifteen of the UK’s top thoroughbred racing yards are based in or close to the town producing some of the finest equine athletes in the racing world today.
A wall mounted television was perfectly positioned for viewing from either the chairs or bed, Wi-Fi worked well and the hairdryer supplied was light yet powerful enabling me to dry my hair quickly before breakfast each morning. Bathrooms are traditionally styled with deep baths with overhead rain showers, fragrant Tempke Spa toiletries alongside luxuriously thick towels and bathrobes.
Dinner is served in the Tack Room restaurant with its stylish interior continuing the horse racing theme and featuring antique riding boots and saddles, racing silks, sporting prints and other equine paraphernalia.
Specialities include locally reared grass fed pork and lamb from the owner’s farm whilst beef and other meat and game are sourced locally in the Yorkshire Dales. Menus have a distinctly continental influence thanks to their talented Portuguese chef Rui who blends his style of cooking beautifully with the best of the local produce.
We were seated by the window at a circular table dressed with a starched white tablecloth and napkins. I loved the stirrup candle holders and the beautifully illustrated menus.
Whilst perusing the menu we enjoyed glasses of Pinot Grigio from the well thought out wine list. There are also several wines available to enjoy by the glass and with a good range of artisan distilled spirits and cask ales there is something to appeal to all tastes.
Our starters of grilled tiger prawns and rare breed ham with cantaloupe melon were beautifully presented and tasted just as good as they looked. For our mains we enjoyed cod loin with samphire and my favourite of lamb rump with dauphinois potatoes, green beans and sand carrots. Both were cooked to perfection, flavoursome and of a generous size
We couldn’t resist a dessert and my dark chocolate mousse with salted caramel crisp was rich and indulgent whilst across the table the tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream went down a treat so much so that I didn’t even get a taste. Although meat, game and fish are house specialities, all dietary requirements are well catered for.
Monty, the hotel manager and owner’s son looked after us wonderfully and is a credit to the hotel with his knowledge and youthful charm. The Tack Room serves fine dining standard cuisine in a relaxed atmosphere managing to create a dining experience to look forward to and enjoy without being stuffy or pretentious.
Breakfast is served each morning in the Tack Room with guests requested to complete an order form and preferred dining time the previous evening. I don’t mind this at all but I’m sure that if you wake and don’t feel like what you ordered it can be changed.
I’d set my phone for 8.00 a.m. but a few minutes before then I was awakened by something far nicer. It was the sounds of the clip-clopping of race horses outside heading for their early morning exercise which was lovely to see.
We started the day in the best way possible with bowls of fresh fruit and yoghurt. The lovely Claire was on duty and she kept us topped up with freshly brewed coffee, thickly sliced toast and served us our hot dishes of smoked salmon on scrambled eggs and a traditional Yorkshire cooked breakfast.
These were both delicious and set us up for the day ahead. Relaxing over our breakfasts we were also in the perfect position to view more groups of racehorses setting off from their yards to the nearby gallops.
The Wensleydale Hotel features 14 rooms including two junior suites, rooms with four poster beds and others that are dog friendly.
Dogs are welcome in the bar area and there’s even a tin of cookies for well behaved ones to enjoy.
To one side of reception is an attractive bar lounge which leads on through into the restaurant. There’s also a sunny, south facing terrace overlooking the square that’s perfect on warm days for soaking up the sun and watching the racehorses trot by.
The hotel participates in the Muddy Boots Walking Holidays Scheme whereby hiking enthusiasts can enjoy the beauty of the Yorkshire Dales without having to be weighed down with heavy backpacks.
After a day of walking, it must be a treat to spend a memorable evening and to enjoy a good night’s sleep at the Wensleydale Hotel before heading off again.
Out and About:
Middleham Castle stands proudly over the small town and I’d recommend a visit. It is maintained by English Heritage and famous for being the childhood home of King Richard III. Although roofless, extensive remains of the fortified castle survive.
Not far from the hotel lies the Forbidden Corner, in Coverham. Its name sounds intriguing and the entire place is just that as its a unique labyrinth of tunnels, chambers, follies and other surprises providing lots of fun for all ages.
For beer lovers, take a tour of the Black Sheep Brewery and learn about it’s history, discover how it got its name and after viewing the production process, enjoy a taste in the bar.
If beer’s not your thing I’m sure ice cream will be as also located in Masham is the Brymor Ice Cream Parlour. If you’ve not tried their ice creams before then this is the ideal opportunity as they are delicious to say the least.
Spend a few hours in this historic market town exploring Richmond Castle. Climb to the top of its 30m (100 ft Keep) for panoramic views over the town below. Continuing the history theme, the Green Howard’s Museum located in a former church in the market place charts the history of this famous infantry regiment of the British Army.
Another must see is the Georgian Theatre Royal which runs theatre experience tours around this gem of a theatre that was built in 1788 and is just as popular nowadays with its high quality productions.
Just a 25 minute drive from Middleham and located within the Yorkshire Dales National Park, enjoy a woodland walk to the series of three waterfalls stretching over a mile long length.
Hawes is a bustling market town located in Upper Wensleydale. Its another popular beauty spot with a good range of small shops, pubs and cafes. Visit the Wensleydale Creamery just a short walk uphill from the centre and join one of their Cheese Experience tours to find out how this local delicacy is made. Glimpse the production process and best of all sample some of the varieties produced.
Hawes is also home to the excellent Dales Countryside Museum located in the old station yard with some exhibitions actually inside one of the old railway carriages.
Our two night stay at The Wensleydale Hotel was an absolute delight and faultless. Family run, with the help of a small committed team, they all work together to ensure that everyone enjoys a relaxing stay with the best of Yorkshire produce. As well as for couples and families exploring the scenic beauty and local attractions the hotel is also ideal for groups of friends with varied leisure opportunities ranging from cycling and walking to fly fishing and horse racing.
Details: The Wensleydale Hotel, Market Place, Middleham, North Yorkshire, DL8 4PE
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We were guests of the Wensleydale Hotel and as always, all views and opinions are entirely my own