“Ooh, so you’re off to the Lake District”.
That’s the first thing anyone will say when you tell them that you’re staying at The Coniston Hotel Country Estate & Spa.
I’m afraid you will have to explain that this destination is actually in the village and civil parish of Coniston Cold in North Yorkshire.
However, the area is just as lovely as the Lakes, and the four-star country house hotel is part of a 1400 acre family estate, which has enough room for a shooting range, a paddock, e-biking and 4x4 driving experience, among other things. It’s owned by Nick Bannister, who is indeed a relation of Roger Bannister of four-minute-mile fame. The Bannister family took over the estate in 1969 and built the current Coniston Hall in 1972.
His ivy-clad 71-bedroom hotel is beside the lake, which is topped by the swans that double as this destination’s logo. We wave to them from our Luxury Double Room, with its huge bed, flat screen telly, Aromatherapy Associates products and balcony.
The whole resort feels fresh, probably because they’ve recently refurbished The View restaurant and opened a new Nadarra Spa.
We wanted to take advantage, so the only time we left the estate was for a quick jaunt to Skipton, which is just 15 minutes away and features plenty of charming attractions, from some good-looking restaurants, to an old-fashioned sweet shop, a dog cafe and a famous pork pie purveyor.
Once we'd returned to our weekend residence, we circumnavigated the lake, then wandered to their Victorian pet cemetery, where you’ll find the graves of Scampi (1967-1982) and other pups who have crossed the rainbow bridge. Our walkies complete, we checked in for an afternoon of being groomed.
Nadarra Spa features a couple of saunas, including an infra-red, Himalayan and Finnish ones, steam rooms and swimming pool, but outdoors you’ll find the piece de resistance - an infinity edge Jacuzzi, which we unashamedly hog while watching the horses down in their paddock. There’s also a bar out here, and fire pits.
Although we’d crossed the border, the spa’s name means natural in Gaelic, which apparently alludes to the Bannister family's Isle of Lewis heritage. To suit the Scottish name, they also offer treatments from the Hebridean seaweed brand, Ishga. We both try the hour-long full body massage, which is joyous, and is followed by a bento box lunch of sweet and savoury goodies in their spa cafe, Blossom Kitchen. We’re also scheduled for a Private Spa Garden Yorkshire Bath Experience.
Earlier, we both chose lemongrass and ginger teas from a selection, without much clue about what would happen next. We soon find out, as huge tea-bags have been steeped in side-by-side roll top baths, which are set behind a private screened area on the terrace outside. As they say in the Yorkshire Tea slogan, let’s have a proper brew.
We bathe like hippos, with the breeze whipping our hair, and enjoy the glasses of bubbly and chocolate-dipped strawberries. There are fluffy towels left for us, and a timer so we know when our 45 minutes is up.
We’re still prune-like at dinnertime, when we head to Macleod’s Bar and Lounge for an aperitif. They’re big on gin here, and have local versions from Masons Yorkshire Gin as well as Cotton, which is sold in their little shop by the reception. I didn't notice this until I’d already ordered a Scottish Hendrick’s. I can’t vouch for them, but I’m sure the local spirits are lovely.
Afterwards, we’re booked into The View, which has wall-to-ceiling vistas as well as a fireplace in the centre of the room.
We go for the venison loin with potato gratin, roasted root vegetables and blackberry jus, and the rib-eye steak, chips and peppercorn sauce. There’s sticky toffee pudding next, as well as pear and almond tart with custard. It’s rib-sticking and classic stuff. This is obviously also a popular restaurant for locals, as we see cars pulling up and lots of birthday balloons tied to the back of chairs. The open plan space is also very accessible for those in wheelchairs, and they allow well behaved dogs. We make friends with an elderly Border terrier, who is prostrate on the carpet.
They keep us well fed all holiday, and we eat a mighty Yorkshire breakfast before we check out, with their Jacksons of Cracoe pork sausages, black pudding, bacon and all the trimmings.
This place is definitely not the Lake District, but it’s just as lovely.
The Coniston Hotel, Coniston Cold, Skipton (01756 748080, www.theconistonhotel.com). Rooms start from £159 per night on a bed and breakfast basis.