WITH its picturesque market square, interesting little shops and stone-built pubs, Helmsley offers the perfect Dales getaway. There’s a well-trodden walk to Rievaulx Abbey; Kilburn’s White Horse is a short drive away.
Yet given the choice, at this time of year you’d most likely get out of the cold, take a swim in a heated pool, feast on fine dining or enjoy that simplest of pleasures, a pint of Yorkshire ale beside a roaring fire.
Each of these possibilities is offered at the Feversham Arms, which sits just off the town’s market square in the shadow of the 12th century parish church. From its attractive but modest Yorkshire stone frontage, you might easily think this a village inn pure and simple, but as you step beyond the bar and deeper into the building, its luxurious character gently reveals itself.
This hallway leads past the bar, past the library with its comfy chairs, past the pool shimmering beneath a light fog of steam, to the reception, where those lucky enough to be staying here are given a genuinely warm welcome before being shown to their beautiful bedrooms, either in the main building or around the attractive enclosed courtyard outside.
Originally an coaching inn, known variously as the Guest House, Board Inn and Bay Horse, the hotel was rebuilt in 1855 by the Earl of Feversham. At the same time, three cottages next to the hotel were built by the Earl in matching Yorkshire stone. When the de Aragues family took over in the 1970s, they bought the cottages to extend the hotel, adding the pool and gardens. It has since had a series of different owners before Feversham Arms Limited in 2008.
Characteristically, I start at the bar where as well as the ubiquitous Black Sheep, I find a handpull dispensing Howardian Gold, an easy-drinking, refreshing, moderately-hoppy ale from the Helmsley Brewery, established about a year ago on the south side of the village. This is my first encounter with their beers and on this showing, they are well worth seeking out.
At over £4 a pint, the beer isn’t cheap here, and I’m sure that other pubs around the market square could beat the Feversham on price. But here you’re also paying to drink it in an intimate sumptuously-furnished bar of comfortable sofas and the kind of interesting contemporary artwork which would be equally at home in a stylish city gallery. In this context, the price isn’t unreasonable.
Beyond here is the sumptuous skylit dining room where a modern predominantly-British menu draws heavily upon the local landscape to offer the distinctive tastes of Yorkshire game and fresh seafood from the North Sea. The inclusion of Scarborough Woof on the menu has at least one of my fellow diners seeking clarification from the waitress.
We treat ourselves. After starts of scallops and artichokes, my partner enjoys a hunk of juicy fillet beef, perfectly pink in the middle, while I go for the subtle flavours of the halibut. Strong dark coffees and a cheeseboard, from which a soft blue absolutely dazzles, round off an evening of first class dining.
That should come as no surprise. With two AA rosettes the restaurant here is renowned for its à la carte and seasonal menus. Tasting menus allow diners to graze on a selection of dishes, while afternoon tea here is a really special experience.
Further experience is offered in the spa, where among the treatments available is something called ‘Rocks of the Mediterranean’ which I can only assume is where white-coated therapists chase you around the building throwing hot basalt stones at you. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
THE FEVERSHAM ARMS
Address: High Street, Helmsley
Host: General Manager Charles Merchie
Type: Village inn, hotel and restaurant
Beers: Draught Black Sheep (£4.15), Howardian (£4.25), San Miguel (£4.10) and choice of bottled beers
Wines: High quality wine list
Food: Breakfasts served from 7.30am; afternoon teas available; dinner served 6.45-9.30pm
Disabled: Ramp access and lifts available throughout
Accommodation: 33 guest bedrooms. Swimming pool and spa treatments available.
Entertainment: Occasional themed dining events Beer garden: Outdoor tables close to the swimming pool
Parking: On-street parking and underground pub car park
Telephone: 01439 770 766