If you've ever wondered just how good life would be in a castle, Swinton Park will leave you in no doubt as to how much you're missing out on. A grand, ivy-covered hotel in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, the historical estate is surrounded by 20,000 privately owned acres of forest and moorland, offering ample opportunities for country pursuits, relaxation and general lording about pretending to be royalty.
The castle itself is everything you'd expect from the ancestral seat of the Earl of Swindon, complete with gothic turrets, vast corridors hung with gilt-framed portraits and public rooms adorned with chandeliers, dark rugs and plush sofas. It's not all Victorian and Georgian ornamentation however - the new spa and terrace restaurant in an adjoining block are sleek modern additions that ensure you retire to your regal room relaxed and well-fed after a day exploring.
The 32 opulent rooms offer a unique stay, from the fairy-tale turret suite to the less extravagant but equally comfortable bedrooms, each named after a location in the surrounding area, and most offering sweeping views of the estate.
What's for breakfast?
Breakfast fit for a king/queen commences when you take a seat in the stately Samuel's Restaurant with its ornate gold leaf ceiling, wide bay windows overlooking the manicured lawn and attentive staff. Along with a buffet table laden with pastries, yoghurts and other light bites, the morning menu features heartier dishes to order from.
How about lunch and dinner?
You could venture back to Samuel's for lunch to sample their local, seasonal fare, or you could just order a picnic to take with you on your explorations and enjoy a packed lunch in one of the many picturesque spots dotted around the estate. For dinner, The Terrace Restaurant & Bar is perfect for a casual meal, with a globally inspired collection of share plates to tuck into in the chic dining area or out in the terraced gardens.
Is there a bar?
Several. If finishing your visit to The Terrace with G&Ts in the lounge doesn't appeal, ensconce yourself in the house bar (which used to be a chapel - take that as you will). Alternatively, hunt down the billiards room among the maze of sitting, drawing and morning rooms, and enjoy a locally brewed ale.
Despite the bucolic location, it's not just reading Jane Austen novels by the fire - there's also wifi, a private cinema and games room, though we spent much of the afternoon going between the sauna and indoor pool at the spa.
Things you should know
If days spent fishing, riding, cycling, shooting, learning to cook and being pampered don't sound like your idea of a holiday, this probably isn't the hideaway for you.
Within a short walk you can find…
The endless acres of Swinton Park are criss-crossed by trails through gardens, moorlands, forests and even an druid temple.