Stylist.co.uk writer Elinor Block visits the northern side of her home county to (try to) escape the city heat.
When I told work colleagues I was going on holiday to Yorkshire it was met with profound incredulity. “But you’re from Yorkshire,” was the confused response. “Who goes on holiday to home?” And yes, essentially, they were right, but in other ways they’d completely missed the point.
First of all, I am from Sheffield in South Yorkshire, all hills, converted steel works and terraced streets. Secondly, my boyfriend and I were heading to North Yorkshire, home to the beautiful North York Moors National Park (and probably the country’s share of Barbour jackets and green wellies). If you’re not from those parts, you’ll just have to trust me on this; but it’s like saying Dairy Milk is the same as Galaxy, when clearly they are worlds apart.
So, we set off for the Feversham Arms, a luxury hotel and spa settled in the heart of Helmsley, a market town on the southern edges of the moors. Brilliantly, it was one of the hottest days this summer so we boiled our way up the A1. We’d only got to St Albans when I made my boyfriend promise we’d visit the seaside during the weekend (Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay are a mere 33 miles from Helmsley). I was not enduring this heat without a paddle, especially as we’d be so close to the coast.
On our way up, we passed through the beautiful spa town of Harrogate (we fancied a slight detour) and spotted a sign for the World of James Herriot in Thirsk – dedicated to the life and times of the vet and author.
Finally, two packs of Haribo Starmix and four hours later we arrived in Hemlsley, a village filled with quaint local shops, and no Starbucks in sight (a clear sign you’re in the proper British countryside).
In contrast to the idyllic surroundings, we were hot, sticky and in need of some attention – which was thankfully on hand. The staff relieved us of our bags immediately and ushered us into our poolside suite. Yes, poolside suite. There are not many places north of Watford you can say that about. Pools are for hot climates. Residents of Britain’s northern counties are realists, if nothing else.
Our suite consisted of four rooms, which, quite frankly, were bigger than our London flat by quite a stretch. The bedroom, bathroom, living room and dressing room all had low-hanging beams and lovely touches such as proper antique furniture, which made us feel like Lord and Lady of a large country manor (the first and last time, I imagine). And there was a massive roll-top bath. Call me easy to please, but that’s a marker of a fine establishment in my books.
The Verbena Spa is one of the hotel’s primary selling points and justly so. With a palette of soft taupe and green, it’s like a cocoon, and as I was talked through my chosen treatment (Face and Body Bliss – £85 for 90 minutes – a body scrub, hot stone massage and facial) I could already feel the stresses of the morning’s car journey easing away. I sauntered out of the spa, such was the effect of the hot stones on my cramped, city posture and just about made it to our gigantic bed before dozing off for the rest of the afternoon.
And to be honest with you, I could have stayed there, but we had a dinner reservation at the hotel’s restaurant (you’re expected to make an effort, so alas I couldn’t shuffle along in the suite’s fluffy towelling robes) but lacking the wherewithal to decipher a menu, I was relieved that the waiters were happy to recommend dishes. I went for the crab and pea velouté to start, which was light, frothy and delicious. I also pinched some of the juicy, acidic tomatoes and creamy mozzarella from my other half’s plate, and almost wished I ordered that instead. We had sea bream and pork for mains – both equally tasty – then decided to forsake dessert and opted to drink generous glasses of soft, red wine by the pool in the summer evening heat. If it wasn’t for the typically English church tower poking above the treeline, I could have sworn we were somewhere in Provence.
Of course, south of France-style weather doesn’t come along that often so you do have to make the most of it. The next day the coast beckoned and after a hearty breakfast – Yorkshire portions of Helmsley black pudding and sausage, eggs (and, I’m ashamed to say, croissants too) we hotfooted it across the moors to the sea. There’s so much to see in this part of the world but after an ill-advised January mini-break in Robin Hood’s Bay, we were keen to revisit without the burden of four extra jumpers.
And it’s worth the trip; a charming, peaceful little fishing village perched high up on the cliffs (the beach is accessed by many, many steps), it’s full of tiny tea rooms, old-fashioned sweet shops and those amazing little gift grottos that you only get on the coast. We whiled away the afternoon walking through the narrow streets, worn down by generations of fishermen going to and from the beach, and ended up in a local gastropub – The Star Inn – which stands apart for having a beautifully landscaped garden and a whisky collection to rival any Scottish pub. Oh, and there was that small matter of being proposed to in the grounds… Incredible food, a massage that will stay with me for life, a poolside room and a fiancé. Not bad. Not bad at all. Rooms start at £160 per night including breakfast.
Spa packages can be booked online at fevershamarmshotel.com or call 01439-770766