Natural Retreats

North Yorkshire, Northern England, United Kingdom Book from

A collection of contemporary wood-and-glass eco-cabins, each sleeping 4-6, hidden on a hillside above sweeping Swaledale
Here's how Conran might do camping. Take a leafy hillside overlooking Swaledale - one of the loveliest valleys in England - then plant some cool contemporary cabins among the foliage, each with a cedar deck for alfresco dining, a huge glassy living space with a woodburner for chilly evenings, and 2-3 comfy bedrooms at the back to ensure a good night's sleep for the whole family. Add a parabolic roof planted with evergreen sedum to absorb the rain, throw in a hamper of organic yummies, a proper kitchen, plus a directory of restaurants in case you prefer a takeaway. And Bob's your uncle. Comfy, chic and self-contained - you need hardly step outside.

But, unless it's blowing a hooley, you really should. Nearby Richmond is home to a Norman castle with plunging views over the foaming falls of the Swale. Downstream lie the meditative, neglected ruins of Easby Abbey. Drive upvale and you reach the hunkered stone cottages of Muker and Keld: deep Dale country, laced with hearty hikes and sensational cycle rides.

Highs

  • Wonderful glass-fronted living-dining spaces with woodburners, widescreen TV/DVD and sofas for cosy evenings
  • Great for families and groups of friends - spacious, flexible accommodation and proper kitchens and bathrooms
  • Lovely terraces for summer dining, flowing seamlessly into the 54-acre reserve
  • Richmond is one of Yorkshire's most underrated towns, and the region boasts a plethora of abbeys, waterfalls, caves and footpaths

Lows

  • Some of the lodges are less secluded than others, and glass fronts mean you can be seen - though there are blinds
  • The bedrooms and bathrooms feel a bit plain compared with the splendid living space
  • Being tucked into the woodland, views aren't always long and sweeping (but great for birdwatching)
  • If you're after a traditional stone cottage with rustic interiors, look elsewhere

Best time to go

Swaledale can be beautiful at almost any time of year: green in summer, misty in autumn, frosty in winter. Equally it can rain at any time of year, so come prepared. The most popular times are school holidays, particularly the summer - when all the local activities are in operation and the brave can go wild swimming.

Our top tips

If you're coming in winter, ask for one with an entrance hall for muddy boots and anoraks (very handy in wet weather) and underfloor heating (ditto).

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
Eco
Family
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Cabins
  • 17 lodges for 4-6
  • Self-catering
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Bicycles Available
Room:

Rooms

Tucked above the forested valley of Swaledale, a rollercoaster drive leads down towards a central cluster of eco-lodges, arching around a pair of ponds. We stayed in one of these and, though fairly open to passers-by, we didn’t feel our privacy was intruded on. From here, rough tracks lead on to the more secluded cabins, camouflaged in the woodland - the pick of the bunch.

Each lodge has a large, glass-walled, open-plan living-dining space which, being south-facing, feels like a kind of Scandinavian sunroom. A kitchen island contains all you need for breakfast and simple meals. French windows let you pad straight out onto the cedar decking; in fine weather you can sit at the umbrella'd table and spot rabbits.

The back of each lodge is split into 3 bedrooms (though you can choose to book only 2), which feel a bit boxy by comparison, but are very comfy. Expect snuggly duvets, oak floorboards, trendy touchlamps - and utter silence in the morning (but for the warbling of finches outside). The spacious master bedroom has a French window to the side; the 2 smaller bedrooms are best for kids or short stays.

See resort plan

Features include:

  • Cd player
  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Dishwasher
  • Dvd player
  • Fireplace
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Hairdryer
  • Iron
  • Microwave
  • Oven
  • Toiletries
  • Tumble dryer
  • Tv
  • Washing machine
  • WiFi

Eating

Designed for self-catering, each cabin has a kitchen island with plenty of pots, pans, cutlery, crockery, sharp knives and glasses. There's a cafetiere, a kettle and a toaster for brekkie; a hob, oven and microwave for dinner; and a fridge-freezer for storing it all.

When you arrive, the table for 6 will be waiting with a hamper of bread, milk, jam, wine, cheese etc from Ken Warnes' grocery on Richmond square - a shop which you'll get to know well during your stay. If it's warm you can dine on the deck, and even shelter under a large parasol if it gets too sunny.

If that all sounds too much like hard work, there's a decent choice of eateries in Richmond (a mile away), from Indian (Amantola) to Chinese (New Treasure Garden) via fish'n'chips and the fancy Frenchgate Hotel. Some will deliver to your door - check the in-cabin directory for details. Founder Matt Spence decided against building a restaurant on-site in order to encourage guests to eat out and spread the income locally.

Features include:

  • Coffee tea making
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Microwave
  • Oven
  • Welcome hamper
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Follow part of the leafy Coast-to-Coast trail into Richmond (1 mile), a pretty but not too prettified town with a historic castle, independent shops and a Georgian Theatre Royal
  • Walk a mile downstream to the evocative ruins of Easby Abbey, a perfect spot for a secluded picnic
  • Heading the other way, there's the easy 2-hour Whitecliff Walk circuit through mixed woodland - one of Natural Retreat’s recommended hikes
  • You're just outside Britain's largest National Park, the Yorkshire Dales, a quintessentially northern English landscape of deep green valleys, huddled villages, shaggy sheep, stone walls and dark but friendly pubs
  • With an OS map and a bit of imagination you could plan any number of circuits, combining for example Wensleydale, the Buttertubs (deep sinkholes where butter was once refrigerated), Hardraw Force (said to be Britain's highest unbroken waterfall) and the pretty market town of Hawes (centre of cheese- and rope-making)
  • Or visit one of the area's many cave complexes and ruined abbeys - the most famous and breath-taking of which is Bolton Abbey, 1 hour's drive away
  • Borrow a mountain bike and pedal through some of this gloriously sweeping country - but bring tough clothing and energy snacks, the lanes are steep and the weather fickle
  • The retreat manager (or your directory) can advise on fishing on the Swale, horse-riding on the moors, canoeing, balloon flights, and tours of historic houses

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Hot air ballooning
  • Kayaking
  • Mountain biking
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Trekking
  • Wildlife

Kids

This is a great place to escape with the kids, especially those who are interested in the great outdoors. Our toddler loved watching the rabbits running around outside the windows and the ducks swimming on the pond.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Each cabin has 3 bedrooms (but you can choose to book only 2 for reduced occupancy rates). Parents of toddlers should avoid cabins 2-6 which have a pair of unfenced ponds out front; and generally you will need to keep an eye out, as there are various small drops and sharp edges around the deck.

Baby equipment:

  • Collapsible travel cots
  • High-chairs
  • Sterilizers
  • Plastic bowls
  • Plates
  • Cups and cutlery

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kids Activities on site:

The Sanctuary building has a play room filled with play tents, a wooden kitchen and a pop-up tunnel. It’s a great place for rainy days and for tiring out little legs in a safe environment.

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Pony rides
  • Falconry
  • Shipton Cave adventure playground
  • Castles
  • Big Sheep Little Cow farm - indoor soft play area, outdoor toy tractors and a great farm tour during which kids can hold rabbits and feed lambs

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
9/
Service
8/
Value
9/
Overall

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