Travel review: Finding an oasis of calm in the North Yorkshire countryside
Ducks are incredibly exciting when you are a year old - especially when they are right on your decking, making a pitch for a bit of your apple.
If babies could write travel features, my one-year-old would definitely hold the ducks right up there as the best thing about Cedar Retreats.
And while I wouldn’t disagree that the flock residing on the peaceful lake are indeed a highlight, there is so much more to the luxury lodge development near Ripon.
We headed to West Tanfield for a weekend of quiet relaxation after a busy few months and an even more hectic year after becoming parents for the first time.
We weren’t disappointed. Driving in on a Friday afternoon, one of the first things I set eyes on was a couple making the most of their private hot tub. And why wouldn’t you?
Even on the crispest of Autumn afternoons, the water is a welcoming 38 degrees and the jets are strong enough to ease away the biggest of stress knots.
Sadly, with the above mentioned one-year-old keen to get to know her new neighbours on the pond, our hot tub would have to wait for later.
The cedar-finished lodges are designed to meet the highest of specifications and opening the door to our home for the weekend you could tell that every fitting had been selected for the maximum comfort with relaxation in mind. It certainly lived up to the name ‘retreat’.
Inside, there was everything you would expect from a ‘home from home’, fully fitted kitchen with the all important dishwasher (who wants to be elbow deep in a washing up bowl on holiday?), dining table and living room area with two of the squishiest, comfiest sofas I’ve ever experienced, and a flat screen television.
One of the best points of the lodge for me was the open plan design. Once we’d closed the doors to the bedrooms, family bathroom, and the entrance hall-come-bootroom, the little one was free to explore as much as she liked - and full length windows and French doors leading to the decking area meant she could get her duck fix from the safety of the lodge without us worrying about where she was heading.
Founded by James and Sarah Gawthorpe, who escaped big city life in London to set up in the tranquil North Yorkshire countryside, the lodges are billed as holiday homes to provide an escape from the stresses and strains of everyday life - but also an investment. When you’re not able to make the most of your lodge, the on-site management team can take care of renting it out. The return on investment is upwards of 9.1 per cent.
As a holiday maker, you are left to enjoy the lodge in peace, but safe in the knowledge that maintenance is quietly been taken care of in the background. Every day, a member of the Cedar Retreats team checks the hot tub is in full working order, so it’s hot and bubbly whenever you fancy a dip - including when you’ve finally managed to get an over excited toddler to sleep.
If you’re wanting to explore beyond the hot tub, West Tanfield village is just a short walk away from the retreat. While we were unable to make the most of the two award-winning pubs the village has to offer during our stay, I’m told they are worth the trip. The Bruce Arms and The Bull Inn are traditional country pubs with great reputations for locally produced food. If we’re ever back in the area, we’ll be popping in for a pint of a Black Sheep ale.
Situated just on the edge of the Dales, there are plenty of good walks nearby, but with relaxation at the top of our agenda, our plans for weekend were kept relatively few.
After as great night’s sleep on Saturday we headed to the Forbidden Corner, just 30 minutes’ drive away on the Tupgill Park Estate near Middleham.
Open to the public since 1994, the Forbidden Corner was originally built as a private folly, with its labyrinth of tunnels, chambers, follies and surprises. Prepare to be surprised, entranced - and soaked - as you make your way around the four acre garden.
Food in the large cafe was tasty and reasonably priced, but if you’re looking for something more upmarket, the Saddle Room restaurant next door looks worth a trip.
On the way back to the lodge we stopped off in Masham for supplies. While West Tanfield has a small shop, it was worth dropping in for a bigger shop. For those wishing to explore, there’s plenty to do in the town, including its main attractions, the two rival breweries, Theakstons and the Black Sheep Brewery, both of which open to visitors.
Sunday saw us venture off in the opposite direction, towards Ripon, and Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Gardens. Yorkshire’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, it really is one to experience.
As you walk from the visitor centre, the Abbey’s tower rises above the trees, coming into view as you round your way down a wooded slope. It is easy to see why the Cistercian monks chose the spot for their home in the 12th century. Even when it was seemingly busy with tourists, the enclosed valley was so peaceful, with a river winding its way to the Water Gardens.
Created by John Aislabie when he inherited Studley Royal the ponds, statues and follies are a feat of design and the green lawns lead to a deer park, which looked stunning in the autumn sunshine.
Then it was back to lodge to make the most of our last night relaxing in luxury.
It was tough packing up in the morning knowing we were leaving this little oasis of calm. Even without venturing further afield it would be easy to spend a week away from the stresses of everyday life, but for those seeking to explore the Dales, Cedar Retreats would be a perfect base.
The only thing that would have made it even better for us were if our dog had been welcome. Dogs are not allowed at any of the lodges, but for the sake of our new friends the ducks, it’s probably best that he had to stay at home.
One, two and three bedroom luxury lodges are available to purchase at Cedar Retreats (01677 470284, www.cedarretreats.co.uk) with prices starting from Â£125,000.
Set in tranquil surroundings and providing views of a central lake from terrace decking and hot tubs, the retreat gives property investors the chance to own one of 37 exclusive holiday homes that can supplement their income and provide a return of up to 9.1 per cent per year.
The lodges, which come with stunning fitted kitchens and bathrooms, are designed to the highest specification to offer a spacious and light filled retreat.
Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Gardens is open daily, 10am to 6pm until November, when it closes on Fridays until January. Entry for adults in Â£13.60, children Â£6.80. National Trust and English Heritage members go free. For more information visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/fountains-abbey-and-studley-royal-water-garden
Pre-booking for The Forbidden Corner is essential by calling 01969 640 638 or visiting www.theforbiddencorner.co.uk. Adults Â£12, children aged 4 to 15 are Â£10. Under 4s free. It is open everyday 12pm to 6pm from April 1 to October 31, then Sundays only until Christmas. Sunday opening is 10am to 6pm.