ON ARRIVING at the main gates of Swinton Park our first impression is “Wow!” Before us is an ancestral castle, set in 200 acres of tranquil parkland, with five lakes and gardens, at the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales.
The building, dating from the 1600s, was castellated in the 1800s and Mark and Felicity Cunliffe-Lister, the current Lord and Lady Masham, began refurbishing it in 2000.
BUDGET OR BOUTIQUE?
Far removed from budget, our Earls category room at £280 per night per room, including breakfast (£350 including dinner), is worth it for the impeccable service, pampering and novelty of being Lady Louise and Lord Ron in our castle. Ours is one of 31 Yorkshire-themed rooms. The top price is for The Turret, a three-storey fantasy at £415 (£485).
In our Haworth room, one floor above the history corridor, we enter Brontë land. Artwork includes a picture of Mr Lockwood arriving at Wuthering Heights and a gilt-framed quote of Catherine’s declaration of love for Heathcliff. We are spoilt for choice with our complimentary drinks – gin, whisky, champagne, or even a mug of Yorkshire Gold tea? Swinton Park excels at surprises. Birthday boy Ron is delighted with his gifts of chocolates and Molton Brown ginseng bath and shower gel. And when we return after dinner, mellow lamplight and soft music greets us. In the enormous bathroom, towels, bathrobes and Molton Brown toiletries are lavish.
WINING AND DINING
In the Georgian Drawing Room, I am handed the Cahill Menu and in Samuel’s Restaurant we enjoy mojitos, garden asparagus textures, salt baked celeriac with puy lentils, honey-baked oats and broad beans, followed by textures of grape with Rustenberg sweet wine, honey sponge and a view of Swinton’s herd of fallow deer bounding past the windows at sunset. On offer are other extensive menus that include beetroot and crowdie, Swinton rabbit, Yorkshire quail and Masham Fell lamb, all testament to the Gold in the Taste of England Award at the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2013 won by Chef Simon Crannage and his 11 chefs. Service from restaurant manager Pedro Bengalinha and his staff is perfect.
WORTH GETTING OUT OF BED FOR
We join guide Mark Reid (www.teamwalking.co.uk) for an afternoon of navigation past cowslips, violets and primroses to the ancient woodland with its wild garlic, edible wood sorrel and poisonous dog’s mercury. We tramp soggy ground to reach the Bivouac (www.thebivouac.co.uk) for afternoon tea, before visiting the Druid’s Temple folly. Another highlight is our Hawk Walk with Sophie Abbott from the Swinton Park Bird of Prey Centre and H the Harris hawk. Later, we wander half a mile to Masham, a historic market town. Alas, no time for a tour or beer at the town’s breweries, Theakston and Black Sheep.
A cornucopia to choose from, including a spa, cookery school, playroom, billiard room, model yacht and coracle racing on the lake, fly fishing, shooting, croquet, golf and horse riding. Dogs are welcome.
Looking forward to returning to meet Sophie’s new barn owls. And to repeat the Quarry Gill Walk with its candelabra primulas, ravine, waterfall and bridge. And another Cahill Menu from Simon.
• Rooms start from £195 B&B and £265 dinner, B&B, based on two sharing.
• Swinton Park, Masham, Ripon, North Yorkshire, HG4 4JH (01765 680900, www.swintonpark.com)