TRAVEL REVIEW: 18th century splendour at The Devonshire Arms, Skipton, West Yorkshire
The distinctive whir of helicopter blades hummed in the background as a tweed-clad porter collected my bag from the car.
In my room, a freshly-baked parkin, that most classic of Yorkshire sweet treats, was begging to be eaten. Arrivals don’t come much more welcoming than at The Devonshire Arms.
Why the helicopter you may ask? This most extravagant of travel options may not seem an obvious feature at this tranquil strikingly-green unspoilt corner of Yorkshire, but its helicopter afternoon teas have really taken off. Pardon the pun.
Those with a head for heights can take a ride over the Yorkshire Dales to enjoy a bird’s eye view of this 33,000 acre estate and sights such as Bolton Abbey and Skipton before landing for afternoon tea.
But for patrons who prefer to keep their feet on the ground there’s plenty to capture your eye too. Attention to detail is key here, from the aforementioned parkin, to the manicured gardens so neat you’d think they’d been trimmed with nail scissors, to the orchids so perfect you’d be forgiven for thinking the bona fide blooms are fake, to the immaculately laid-out Burlington restaurant.
Even four-legged friends are catered for at this four-star hotel. Man’s best friend can have their own four-poster bed-cum-dog basket in their master’s room. There’s even a pet concierge service - this is pure pooch luxury. However, rigorous housekeeping means there’s not even a whiff of dog for other guests.
Rooms all have their own distinctive character. In the older parts of the building - which has been owned by several Dukes of Devonshire since 1753 - there’s grandiose four poster beds, William Morris style wallpaper and stately home-esque fireplaces that would have been befitting the influential guests which have stayed here over the centuries, including Wordsworth and Turner who were all said to be inspired by this quintessentially English setting.
The air of grandeur has been echoed in the newer wing and its tastefully-themed rooms. I stayed in the artist room which echoes the picture-perfect gardens outside with its botanical-themed artworks.
Art is a theme which flows throughout the hotel which has plenty of talking points, many of which have come from one of the finest private art collections in Europe: the Devonshire Collection at Chatsworth, the magnificent home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire in Derbyshire.
As you’d expect from an older hotel, the rooms are huge, none of your pokey not-enough-room-to-swing-a-cat rooms here. Capacious luxury extends into the bathroom with its huge walk in shower and roll top bath straight from one of those Flake ads.
As well as its luxury lodgings, The Devonshire Arms has become famed for its food and it’s got the plaudits to prove it with awards such as The Yorkshire Post Best Hotel Restaurant 2015 and 4AA Rosettes under its belt.
Talking of belts, you’ll probably need to loosen yours if, like us, you choose the tasting menu.
We took our seats under the gaze of stately portraits in The Burlington Restaurant - but there’s also a less formal offering in the colourful Brasserie next door.
Ahead of us were nine courses of food which uses seasonal classic British ingredients and gives them a modern twist.
Wonder where they get the ingredients for their menu? You don’t have to look very far, just out of the window, in fact, at the kitchen garden in which the chefs - who have recently been headed up by new head chef Paul Evans - cultivate everything from courgettes to edible flowers. Guests are welcome to tour the gardens if they’re interested in seeing the baby beets, strawberries and more pre-plate.
Our evening of edible indulgence featured jellied tomato consommé; marinated scallop; English asparagus; duck liver pressing; celeriac risotto; native lobster; Yorkshire lamb; Makins strawberries and Amadei chocolate.
Each dish was beautifully executed with pin point precision - there’s that keen attention to detail again - to form a kaleidoscope of textures and flavours.
Tasting menus are made for grazing and the splendour of this dining room, that wouldn’t look out of place in a Jane Austen novel, is the perfect place to do just that.
Hard to choose a favourite course from this mighty feast but the celeriac risotto packed a real punch with its goats cheese and wild garlic, while the richness of the duck liver pressing contrasted spectacularly with the sweetness of the apricots and parkin in the previous course.
For those who really want to take their palate on a further tour-de-force there’s an optional wine flight where the sommelier pairs your tipples to your dishes. It’s a lot easier than choosing for yourself from the wine list, which is a weighty tome of options.
Just to ramp up the relaxation, Devonshire Arms also has its own spa, accessed by a hop and a skip across the road where you can take a dip in the pool under the rafters of a former stone barn.
There’s also treatment rooms for those who want to completely switch off from the hullabaloo of daily life.
Devonshire Arms? More like Heavenshire Arms.
•For more details on The Devonshire Arms, Bolton Abbey, Skipton, West Yorkshire, visit http://thedevonshirearms.co.uk