Sometimes, you just want to get away from it all and jump into an entirely different world.
It turns out you can do just that - by taking a trip up the road to a charming corner of North Yorkshire.
Welcome to the postcard-perfect Coniston Hotel Country Estate and Spa, situated a short drive from Skipton in Coniston Cold.
The 1,400-acre estate is owned by the Bannisters, best known as the founding family of the Boundary Mill retail chain. Michael Bannister – Coniston’s chairman – acquired the estate in 1969 and the first venture was to convert a barn into a farm shop. Fast-forward a few decades and this gorgeous part of the world is now an adventure playground the family is happy to share with visitors looking for a proper, Yorkshire countryside experience.
We arrived on a winter’s day while the grass still sparkled in the morning frost. The hotel - full of roaring open fires, cosy seating areas and walls covered in pictures of hunting dogs - is sat at the top of a hollow overlooking a huge lake.
Outside you could hear the pop of gunfire in the distance; a reminder that hunting is not just part of the artwork here. In fact, the hotel makes no apologies for upholding Yorkshire traditions. Here, ladies come before gentlemen and the game ends up on your plate (grouse tikka masala, anyone?).
You could, of course, make yourself comfortable in the Huntsman’s Lodge and gaze out at the beautiful view all day. But if you’re feeling more adventurous, this estate has plenty to offer outdoors.
First up for us was a 4x4 off road driving experience. The estate boasts its own course, which was designed by Land Rover to showcase the abilities of its Defender models.
Although Land Rover is no longer based at the site, the course has been preserved and visitors such as I can drive up flights of steps, slide down mud banks and zoom through deep pools of water under the close supervision of an off-road driving expert. What an adrenaline rush - I was Indiana Jones (if he were a giddy female and squealed during the steep bits).
Over on another corner of this vast estate is the falconry centre, which houses more than 20 majestic birds of prey including owls, hawks, falcons and eagles. Our informative - and thoroughly entertaining - guide introduced us to a number of characters including Barney the barn owl, a beautiful bird with fluffy white feathers and a heart-shaped face, and a spectacular African Bateleur Eagle, which looked straight out of a Disney animation.
The falconry experience is very hands-on here and you get plenty of opportunities to fly the birds yourself, wearing a leather glove and holding out food (pieces of dead chick - a little gruesome but it’s an authentic experience) for the birds to swoop down and eat as they perch on your forearm.
These magnificent birds of prey are even more breath-taking close up, I assure you.
With all this fresh air, you’re bound to work up an appetite and luckily, the food at Coniston is top notch. Diners can eat in the Huntsman’s Lodge or in the more formal Macleod’s Restaurant.
From the traditional Yorkshire breakfasts and beautifully presented afternoon teas to the fine dining-style evening meals, the chef’s team clearly puts a lot of thought and love into every single one of the delicious creations. The afternoon tea was a particular highlight - and comes with your body weight in cake. Don’t be shy to ask for a doggy bag.
The final treat for us during our stay was a visit to the estate’s spa. Boasting a pool, saunas, a steam room and offering a whole selection of ultra-soothing treatments, this is relaxation heaven.
My facial treatment was divine, and the outdoor infinity hot tub overlooking the estate’s glistening lake even more so. Relaxing in the water, breathing in the crisp, fresh air and gazing out at this magnificent view really does transport you to another world. But this is just Yorkshire at its best.
Find out more
- Website: http://www.theconistonhotel.com
- Instagram: @Theconistonhotel
- Facebook: @Theconistonhotel
- Twitter: @conistonhotel
Signpost has been recommending the UK’s top privately owned hotels since 1935. All Signpost members are visited every year, to make sure top standards are maintained. Most are near areas of outstanding beauty with plenty to do or see in the area; many are hidden gems, all have award winning cuisine. For more details and to receive news about great hotel offers visit www.signpost.co.uk.