Superbly located upon the historic marketplace of Middleham, with the town’s Medieval castle ruins dominating the skyline, stands The Wensleydale Hotel. This charming place to stay in the pride and joy of the Merchie family, who took over the property in 2019 and completely renovated it over the lockdown.
Grade II listed, the hotel, which was once an inn with a neighbouring hotel, and general provisions shop, is both cosy and welcoming. Its traditional entrance leads onto a small reception area, with a welcoming bar area, complete with a wood-burning stove and an inglenook stone fireplace. The bar opens out onto the ‘Tack Room’ Restaurant, where the interior décor features antique riding boots and saddles, racing silks, sporting prints, and other equine paraphernalia, paying homage to the town’s horse racing heritage. Fifteen of the UK’s top thoroughbred racing yards produce some of the finest equine athletes in the racing world today.
Seasonal fayre featured on the menus is locally sourced, showcasing the best of Yorkshire produce from the North Yorkshire region. Specialties include owner and hotel manager, Fiona Merchie’s home-reared and grass-fed, rare breed pork and lamb, meats from Yorkshire Dales Meat at Hackforth, home-baked sourdough bread, along with the game, when in season, from nearby Swinton Estate, as well as other local delectables, such as cheeses from The Wensleydale Creamery and Swaledale Cheese Company and home-made ice cream.
Menus have a distinctly continental influence too, thanks to Portuguese Chef, Rui, and the Merchie sons, Monty and Hugo’s, French heritage, and their upbringing in Italy; and yet the Yorkshire produce is allowed to reign supreme. The wine list too complements the family’s discerning taste – a well thought out, delightful selection, with several available to enjoy by the glass, and a good range of artisan-distilled spirits including local gins from Mason’s and Leyburn-based Taplin Mageean, with fine whiskies and brandies to appeal to all tastes. Cask ales of course include those from the Black Sheep Brewery at nearby Masham.
The seasonal flavours enjoyed in The Tack Room are only one part of the sensory experience, with the shop window frontage offering views across the elevated marketplace, with the imposing castle ruins, once the childhood home of King Richard III, peeking behind rows of cottages, and elegant Georgian townhouses clustered around, there is always something on which to feast the eye. On warmer days, there is a south-facing terrace of café tables, from which to enjoy this thriving little Yorkshire town, where strings of racehorses happily trot past local passers-by, and a mele of cyclists and walkers gather.
Rooms at the hotel are of simple country-inspired design, enhanced by traditional soft furnishings, which include colourful, designer fabric curtains and blinds, sofas with cushions and throws, to complement the building’s original features which include deeply recessed window seats, Victorian fireplaces, oak beams, and original window shutters. Four rooms enjoy the indulgence of a four-poster bed. Ensuite bathrooms are simple, made more luxurious by the provision of Temple Spa toiletries and fluffy white towels, and crisp bedlinen made from Egyptian cotton.
Dogs are welcome too, both guests and their four-legged friends can enjoy the laid-back, homely atmosphere and extensive ‘off-lead’ walking in the surrounding countryside, where Coverdale meets Wensleydale, and the rivers Ure and Cover meander beneath ancient stone bridges. As well as couples and families, the hotel is also ideal for groups of friends exploring the many outdoor leisure interests in the area such as cycling, walking, fly fishing, and shooting, as well as horse racing enthusiasts.
Stay here to explore the local Dales, or venture further into the rest of Yorkshire – local beauty spots and destinations include the historic town of Masham – home to Black Sheep Brewery, beautiful Leyburn – gateway to the Northern Dales and home to the world-famous privately-owned Tennants Auctioneers and Garden Rooms, which is on the Wensleydale Heritage Railway line; also The Wensleydale Creamery at Hawes, Brymore Ice Cream at High Jervaulx Farm, family-owned Jervaulx Abbey, with its magnificent gardens, and not forgetting The Forbidden Corner, a mystical adventure playground for adventurers both young and old.
FB – The Wensleydale Hotel
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