Travel review: Pure indulgence at The Wheatley Arms, Ben Rhydding
Oh my goodness, there's a bath tub in our bedroom.
I love accommodation with character - and the character in this gorgeous room above a country pub in West Yorkshire would win an Oscar.
This is the Wheatley Arms, in the village of Ben Rhydding near Ilkley. The Wheatley is one of six country inns across the North of England run by Individual Inns, which has been named
Pub Group of the Year 2018 by the Good Pub Guide. I'm therefore expecting good things from this place.
After a warm welcome at check-in and excitedly hopping from one leg to the other when I discovered the bath tub, my partner and I headed straight out to get a flavour of our surroundings.
Ben Rhydding was originally called Wheatley until the opening of the Ben Rhydding Hydropathic Hotel - the first of its kind in the country - in 1844. Its tremendous success led to the establishment of a railway station in 1865 to bring visitors from far and wide. The Wheatley Arms - formerly the Cow and Calf Hotel - was built in 1863. The elegant, honey-coloured stone building stands in the shadow of the famous Cow and Calf rocks in nearby Ilkley Moor.
Ben Rhydding has a few little shops and amenities, but the more bustling spa town of Ilkley is only a brisk 20-minute walk (or leisurely five-minute drive) away.
Ilkley is a bit of a tourism honeypot. The town centre is full of Victorian architecture and there are a number of destination eateries including Betty's Tea Room (a Yorkshire institution) and the Michelin-starred Box Tree restaurant.
We opted for a bite to eat at the Filmore and Union restaurant and bar, which has a menu packed with imagination and exciting ingredients. I went for the Union Street Veggie bagel. At Â£8.50 it's pricey for a veg-filled bagel, but it was fresh and ultra healthy...so healthy, in fact, that I simply had to balance it out afterwards with one of the venue's popular chocolate brownies. It was rich, delicious and the size of a baby's arm.
Ilkley has an array of quirky, independent shops perfect for mooching and that's how we spent most of the afternoon, with a pit stop at the lively Crescent Inn for some refreshments too. Wine lovers should certainly pay a visit to Martinez Wines for a round-the-world wine tour in one store.
Getting hungry again, we jumped in a taxi back to The Wheatley Arms, where we had a table booked for dinner. Bath tub aside, we're in a lovely room. The en suite bathroom has a tall, beamed ceiling, the furniture is luxurious dark wood and there are a number of nice little touches, including snacks of Yorkshire flapjacks with the tea and coffee making facilities and a set of hair straighteners provided for frizzy-haired guests including myself.
We're lucky The Wheatley is still here. Formerly a popular pub with a reputation for hearty Sunday lunches, it closed in 2003 and was in serious danger of being demolished and replaced by a block of flats. Thankfully, local residents knew what a tragedy this would be and set up the 'Save Us Pub' group to campaign for its survival as a public house. Their valiant efforts paid off and the Wheatley Arms reopened in June 2009.
Food is served downstairs in the venue's lounges, dining rooms, garden room and (Yorkshire weather depending) patio area. We're in the dining room, which is lovely and cosy with a huge selection of wines and hand-pulled ales available from its bar. We opt for a bottle of Santa Luz Chilean Carmenere - pure joy on the taste buds.
For starters he goes for the Mary Jane soaked garlic mushrooms (Â£7) with delicious herbed Parmesan shards, while I have juicy chilli, ginger and lime tiger prawn skewers (Â£8) from the specials menu. The main courses are the winners. My grilled fillet of Sea Bream (Â£16) melted in the mouth while his spectacular 14oz Barnsley Chop (Â£20) - a Special of the Day and sourced from the Devonshire Estate - in his words, 'would have been perfect if it had been called the Sheffield Chop' (we live in the Steel City so it's easy to see where his South Yorkshire loyalties lie).
We didn't need dessert - but who can resist sticky toffee pudding? His cheese board was very generously stocked too.
Despite being full to bursting, we slept well in our comfortable room and the next morning I eased myself into the day by watching some daytime television from the bath tub. It had to be done and was just as much of a novelty as I'd hoped. I highly recommend it.
Before check-out he squeezed in a hearty full English and I some delicious kippers before we headed out for a walk around Ilkley Moor from the Cow and Calf. A beautiful spot to work off a weekend of indulgence.
The Wheatley Arms is run by Individual Inns, which also runs the following establishments:
The Fountaine Inn, Linton, Nr GrassingtonThe Tempest Arms, Elslack, Nr SkiptonThe Spread Eagle, Sawley, Nr ClitheroeThe Wheatsheaf Inn, Bigsteer, Nr Kendal and Lumley Fee BunkhouseThe Mason's Arms, Strawbery Bank, Cartmel Fell
Visit www.individualinns.co.uk for more details.