I had been keen to visit even before I knew that this Great Inn of Britain would host a local cheese-tasting event during my time there. Given that the hotel is situated in the bucolic region of Wensleydale, it was a highly appropriate activity, and a very pleasant way into learning more about this little Yorkshire treasure.
The Blue Lion
started out as a coaching inn during the eighteenth century, and is situated in the impossibly pretty village of East Witton, all Gothic stone windows and cherry blossom. They have made a great effort with the 12 pretty bedrooms at the inn. As a parent, I was pleased to notice both a relaxed vibe and a child occupancy rate of just £15.
The main bar merits singling out for praise here, as the owners have taken the trouble to make it as welcoming a space as their dining rooms. It’s roomy but cosy, with a stone floor, open fire and a very inviting hand-pulled ale and wine selection. If you do opt for the restaurant, The Blue Lion has been named Dining Pub of the Year three times. Despite my rhapsodising about local game later in this piece, The Blue Lion
should also be commended for the effort it makes on imaginative vegetarian dishes.
I’m converted to meat-free dining myself if the cheese –tasting is anything to go by. The Wensleydale was creamy and full-flavoured, with none of that chalky supermarket dryness. They also served a wonderful blue cheese, Jervaulx Blue, named after a picturesque nearby ruin, formerly a Cistercian monastery. Initially wary of the local tradition of serving the white cheese with sweet fruit bread, we were all soon returning for second helpings.
The owners, Paul and Helen Klein, are passionate and articulate about what they do. During an informal q&a session with representatives from the Great Inns of Britain
and Historic Hotels of Europe
, Paul talked us through his decisions around the ambitious menu, extensive wine list and local bolt-on leisure activities. One of the most compelling of the latter, if you’re so inclined, is the shooting.
There are several major shoots nearby and Paul is more than happy to arrange pheasant, grouse or partridge shooting with them. It is also possible to go deer-hunting, pony-trekking and fishing in the vicinity. Driving around the local countryside, the sheer amount of game on display is overwhelming, with so many pheasants, ducks and rabbits capering around in every field you start to feel as if you’re featuring in a Disney movie.
The Blue Lion
is also near The Forbidden Corner at Coverham, one of Yorkshire’s more unusual attractions and self-styled Strangest Place in the World, with follies, tunnels and visual tricks in a pretty, albeit weird, four acre garden. For more conventional cultural experiences, it is an easy drive to Middleham, Richmond or Castle Bolton. All in all, it’s an ideal base from which to explore the incredibly broad range of activities that Yorkshire has to offer.