Room at the inns

Room at the inns

It’s a Sunday afternoon, my splendid lunch has been washed down with a couple of halves of Black Sheep bitter and my wife Diane is sitting opposite me in an armchair in the warmth and comfort of the reading room upstairs in the King’s Arms at Askrigg in the Yorkshire Dales.

I have worked my way through the Sunday papers, Diane is still enjoying the colour supplements, and I can feel my eyes getting heavy as I enter that wonderful, dreamy state where I know this is going to be no “power nap”, just a delicious Sunday afternoon snooze.

Our comfortable bed in our equally comfortable room is just a couple of dozen paces away but there is no way I can leave this armchair right now – nor do I want to. This is one of my favourite spots in the whole of the HPB portfolio.

Over the years we have had some wonderful times in some truly memorable places with HPB, but in the flexibility of simply having rooms available at the King’s Arms, and Ivy House at Braithwaite in the Lake District, we have managed to have several great weekends when time pressures ruled out a full week away.

On our first long weekend at Askrigg several years ago, we got chatting to a couple of fellow Bondholders by the huge log fire in the flagstone-floored bar.

The couple we spoke to lived down in the garden of England, Kent, but were on their way north to experience the wonders of Tigh Mor in the Trossachs, so they had decided to break their journey with a couple of nights’ stay at Askrigg.

The hotel-style experience is very different from the HPB norm as you don’t even have to set foot outside when you’re off to bed. Simply tap the security code into the pad and climb the spiral stairs up to the Land of Nod. Then follow a similar route down the next morning but turn left at the last minute to go into the dining room for a leisurely breakfast, which is part of the package.

Just make sure that you book beforehand if you want to eat there in the evening too and particularly if you want a Sunday lunch. The front lounge area is a great place to enjoy a bite to eat, as is the in-house restaurant.

All the rooms have very individual “feels” to them and are named after particular Yorkshire Dales. We have stayed in several of them and have never been disappointed in the facilities.

Walking is big in the Dales, obviously, and the reception has a great pack of 15 maps and routes available for purchase, or you can simply download them to your computer directly from the HPB website and print out the ones you would like to try. We’ve done two or three of them and they’re easy to follow.

Both places have excellent en-suite rooms which can be booked on the basis of individual nights. That can have some great benefits and not only when you are looking for a weekend away.

The steep path down through to the water falls at Mill Gill Force takes you through some magical woodland scenery before you return to open ground and back to Askrigg itself.But if you’re not quite up to all that, there are plenty of places to go out in the car – Aysgarth Falls, Bolton Castle or even pop down to Hawes, which is the home of Wensleydale cheese.

When we visited Ivy House in Braithwaite we again enjoyed that extra pampering of having breakfast and an evening meal in the on-site restaurant. Painted dark green, the building really stands out in the village and inside the HPB standard is as high as ever – comfort without ostentation, clean, warm, welcoming and a real home from home. Dinner in the restaurant was excellent with a great choice on the menu.

Again, walking is big in The Lakes so we thought we would join in. Heading up out of Braithwaite on a bright Sunday morning towards the looming heights of Barrow and Stile End, the views proved to be worth the effort.

Wonderful sights were all around us – snow-capped peaks close by and in the distance, Braithwaite village laid out below, Bassenthwaite Lake glimpsed through the hills back towards the Whinlatter Pass, with views of Keswick and Derwent Water plus Catbells and Causey Pike promised later in the walk.

A grey and wet Saturday morning had given us the chance to enjoy the delights of Keswick and its market.

Plenty of town centre pubs and coffee shops vie for the tourist trade, but it is nice to see a good number of independent shops too.

With the sun out at last on Saturday afternoon, we took a drive out past Bassenthwaite Lake towards Cockermouth before detouring down through the lovely Lorton valley, turning down a quick route back via the Whinlatter Pass in favour of enjoying some beautiful views alongside Crummock Water and Buttermere.

The four-and-a-half miler which opens the pack takes you up from Askrigg across the fields through Newbiggin, then along farm tracks below the rocky outcrop of Ellerkin Scar and offers fabulous views up and down Wensleydale, including the arrow-straight line of the Roman road on the opposite side of the valley.

Our Saturday night “dining experience” consisted simply of a sandwich and a couple of welcome beers in the Royal Oak, a really friendly, down-to-earth village pub which offers reasonably priced food, a choice of Jennings ales and has the great advantage that it is only 30 yards from the front door of Ivy House. If you want a table at this very popular hostelry, either book early for a restaurant table or arrive early for a table in the lounge bar or you could be out of luck.

A Sunday morning swim in Braithwaite Court’s pool set us up for breakfast before spending a happy hour quietly reading in the Ivy House’s comfortable lounge. It is always a real treat to book the extra night and stay over until Monday, feeling smug and snug in an armchair while other visitors drag their cases off to the car park – even if you do have to make your own bed on Sunday!

This summer we shall be experiencing Askrigg from the other point of view as we’ve booked an HPB property in Lodge Yard for the week – but I’m still looking forward to my Sunday afternoon snooze in the King’s Arms reading room.

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