For good food and awe-inspiring views the Peak District is hard to beat, but if you fancy a change of scenery there’s another national park that’s only two hours’ drive away.
The Yorkshire Dales has a splendour all of its own. And, as we discovered, there’s plenty to satisfy the tastebuds too.
The Angel Inn at Hetton is the perfect home from home: it has just been listed among The Times’ top 25 country pubs for food and was winner of the White Rose Award for best restaurant with rooms.
The inn is the focal point of a community that has changed little in more than 200 years. Nestled on a hillside above the River Wharfe, between Skipton and Grassington, it’s a typical Dales village: a cluster of honeyed stone cottages, the odd farmhouse and acres of unspoilt countryside.
The ancient pub is said to date back to the 15th century, when it was built as a drovers’ inn. It was later extended and served generations of villagers as a farmhouse pub until being taken over by the Watkins family in 1985.
That was the beginning of a new era and Denis Watkins transformed the place. It retains all its old world charm, with oak beams, nooks, crannies and crackling log fires – but it also boasts a contemporary new guest wing and a menu that wouldn’t be out of place in a top city restaurant.
Denis earned a reputation as the ‘godfather of the gastropub’ and it’s a legacy that lives on today, in the hands of his son, Pascal and head chef director Bruce Elsworth.
Pascal is an endearing host; very much a hands-on member of the team, overseeing the restaurant and serving guests while stopping to chat to those he knows.
“That chocolate dessert is better than you-know-what, my wife says,” he confides with a wink. “But she does have a four-month-old son...”
He’s keen to ensure that everyone loves the place as much as he clearly does – which isn’t hard.
Older rooms are in a converted barn, but ours is in a new wing next door to the pub. It’s called Fell View, for obvious reasons: thick tweedy curtains and cushioned window seats frame a spectacular view over Rylstone Fell and the Dales beyond.
It’s luxurious in a contemporary style, with decor in neutral colours, a comfy king-size bed, a well-stocked bookcase and spacious en-suite bathroom.
Walking is a must for anyone who wants to explore the Dales properly and the Angel has published its own guide to ensure that guests get the most out of their stay.
Written and illustrated by local artist Ian Scott Massie, it takes readers on a series of journeys through the surrounding countryside, flagging up points of interest, quirky stories and even giving recipes along the way.
We set out for a quick tour of the local area. Nearby Fox House Barn was the birthplace of the Quaker movement, we learned, and later scene of a ghostly apparition. A little further afield there are tales of UFOs, a Stone Man monument, a violin-playing schoolmaster and the Calendar Girls from Rylstone WI.
The recipes are all regulars on the menu at the Angel, served in its informal bar brasserie or the traditional restaurant. Our night concluded with a delicious three-course meal, including the chocolate dessert that was every bit as good as Pascal had promised.
And before we left the next morning there was a full Yorkshire breakfast to send us on our way.
The Angel Inn: Hetton, North Yorkshire BD23 6LT
Tel: (01756) 730 263
Gourmet Break: from £260 including bed, breakfast and tasting menu for two
Offer: 2 nights for 1 until March 1, excluding Saturdays, Valentine’s and half term