An idyllic cottage retreat in The Yorkshire Dales-Sleeps 10
“Let’s hire a cottage in the middle of nowhere for a week”. A declaration driven by the idea of getting away from it all. To somewhere in The Yorkshire Dales that looks out onto nothing but rolling hills and green fields as far as the eye can see. Hopefully a little country pub with roaring fire a short walk away. And maybe a rushing river where one can take the kids, a fishing net, and a picnic on a hot summer’s day. Long walks, dry stone walls, plenty of sheep and stiles and a few decent Yorkshire drinking holes. Utter bliss when one is in need of a break from the pressures and pace of everyday urban life.
Of course the cottage itself has to meet high expectations and a long list of perfect scenarios too. Lazy evenings curled up on a Chesterfield with a blanket wrapped around oneself. Sipping on a glass of red, reading a book or watching an old film. Kids playing a board game with Gran and Grandma. The other half putting another local, Yorkshire Dales sourced log on the roaring fire.
A time to catch up on ones sleep. A day of hiking in and around the Yorkshire Dales followed by locally reared, home-cooked food and a few glasses of wine by the fire means bedtime comes earlier than usual – and it can’t come soon enough. Not least because of the super king-size bed made up with expensive white linen, deep, cloud-like pillows and a thick mattress topper that ensures one sinks into it like its quicksand.
But not before a relaxing soak in one of the two bathtubs. The corner bath under the eaves of the bare stone walled en-suite bathroom also accessed from the kitchen staircase or a soak in the traditional oversized roll top in the main bathroom at the top of the main stairs… decisions decisions.
A long, hot bath come to fruition and fresh PJs are on. It’s not long before you’re engulfed in a heavenly cocoon of duck down duvet. A bed so big that the other half is so far away that you can starfish to your heart’s content with no human contact. Bliss.
No street lights and no traffic means utter silence, and a darkness that provokes almost instant sleep. A sleep so deep that nothing can wake you. Other than the smell of sizzling bacon drifting up both staircases from the farmhouse kitchen below – a good ten hours later…
Even the kids slept like the dead. Rather than choosing to sleep in one of the two well-appointed twin bedrooms they choose to cuddle up together in one of the three large double bedrooms. The room next to the master (where mum and dad are snoring contently), connected by two Hobbit-like miniature doors that provided hours and hours of entertainment for the little ones.
Two staircases and these little doors create a thoroughfare through the top of Old School House allowing little people to race around and around. And around and around. Over and over again in one big circle, which, along with the country air and long walks, tired them out and not before time.
Now of course when one congers up visions of idyllic country living, those visions are dominated by an image of a big country farmhouse kitchen with the focal point being a proper Aga surrounded by an oversized black fire place. A beamed ceiling. A heavy farmhouse door opening up onto a breathtaking view of rural Yorkshire. A huge wooden table taking centre stage on the stone floor in the centre of the room with a bench and enough chairs to sit a large group or friends or family members. A French Dresser. Fresh, uncut bread on a breadboard, the smell of freshly ground coffee.
Practical thoughts kick in once the romantic idealism fades. Hopes of every possible kitchen utensil and gadget, plenty of crockery, cutlery, pots and pans and most importantly wine and champagne glasses fill ones thoughts. There is no bigger sin than have to drink one’s decent champagne from a wine glass.
An oversized fridge for the week’s groceries and enough space for lots of wine and bubbles. Microwave and dishwasher. A decent coffee machine and supersized toaster. Hopefully a washing machine, tumble dryer and an iron with ironing board just in case. Because there is no better feeling than going home with a suitcase full of clean, ironed clothes, and somehow it doesn’t seem quite so much of a chore when you’re playing lady of the country farmhouse pile. A little bit of washing is all part of the dream.
What the hell – pass the butter churner and let’s make our own bread!
A few organic egg-laying chickens wouldn’t go amiss outside in the pretty courtyard. Luckily, just down the road, outside a pretty little house by the river was an honesty tin and boxes of fresh eggs for passersby to help themselves to.
Mum was grilling bacon in an apron whilst my stepdad brewed cups of tea using teabags from the kitchen – they sat beside tubs of coffee and tea and a selection of condiments, which meant that we didn’t have to go out and buy a packet or jar of everything just for a couple of days in the country.
School House Gunnerside is everything one wants from a holiday cottage and more. Just the right amount of country chic compliments modern touches. Pieces of antique furniture sit beside up-cycled chests of drawers and original features have been lovingly restored with thought for the period and style of the house, once a school, and then a bed and breakfast before Amy and her husband turned it into the area’s most salubrious holiday home.
Build from Yorkshire stone and featuring beautifully restored sash windows, stone floors, beamed ceilings and two wood burning stoves – the focal point of the two sitting rooms. One of which has been created with family in mind – a TV, a huge coffee table housing an extensive collection of magazines, DVDs and board games. And two large Chesterfield sofas with snug blankets and plenty of scatter cushions.
And a second sitting room is more grown up in style. No TV – an area for quiet time or talking. Maybe to read one of the many books in the collection housed in the bookcase in the adjoining hallway.
There are five good-sized bedrooms which can be made up to suit your party. Three on the first floor – one of which has a small en-suite with power shower. If the power-shower isn’t enough, the oversized bathroom across the hall features a large roll-top – perfect for dumping a gaggle of grubby kids in before bed.
At the rear there is a rolling-hillside facing, twin/double room with bare brick walls and a view to die for and a master suite, which boasts the biggest and thee most comfiest, dreamiest, cloud-like super-huge super king-size bed which is connected to another over-sized double room by that little hobbit-like hatch I mentioned earlier. This room leads into yet another bathroom complete with modern corner bath.
There’s another double room on the ground floor a spacious bathroom with a very large power-shower – perfect for dirty kids and dogs. Now whilst the house is not technically “accessible” for all, for those who can make a couple of steps, but might not be able to make a whole staircase, The Old Schoolhouse in fine and everything that one needs to holiday comfortably, is on the ground floor.
The ample-sized kitchen features a large farmhouse table with benches – big enough to seat 10 comfortably. Modern gadgets and gismos to include state-of-the-art coffee machine, family-sized toaster, microwave and gas cooker sit on top of and alongside antique French sideboards and a beautifully resorted working Aga.
Cupboards are crammed with plenty of crockery and cutlery, pots and pans, wine glasses and those all important champagne flutes. Bake, roast, fry, poach, grill, steam, freeze, blend – whatever floats your cooking boat – you have it all in this kitchen. And adjoining is a large utility room with a family-size fridge-freezer and all the equipment and machinery needed to return home with a suitcase full of clean and ironed clothes. Yes this is the type of shit I get excited about.
Beyond the heavy rear farmhouse door is a pretty little courtyard with parking for two cars and a view that is straight out of a painting. We arrived at Old School after dark. No real concept of where we were. when I woke in the morning after the most blissful slumber, I drew the curtains back and looked out of the sash window of the master bedroom and I sighed .A long, lingering sigh of content. Also a little underlining jealousy that I didn’t get to get up every morning to this view. My thoughts were abruptly interrupted by two screeching kids as they came careering through the trap door that connected our room with theirs.
Located right in the centre of the tiny Yorkshire Dales village of Gunnerside, School House is perfectly positioned for local hikes, lazy days by the river just a short walk down the road. Crucially, there is a decent pub steps away from the house.
The Kings Head is a proper Yorkshire pub – nothing fancy inside – but don’t let the dining room put you off – the food is worth a night off cooking. Possibly even a few nights off. An open fire, a good choice of ales from Yorkshire and beyond and decent Sauvignon Blanc by the bottle, dog-friendly and child-friendly, it’s just what the doctored ordered.
Gunnerside is a typical dales village in Swaledale – just one of the many Dales that make up the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It’s an ideal base for exploring the rest of The Yorkshire Dales. I’ve taken the liberty of compiling my top 10 must-dos in and around Swaledale in The Yorkshire Dales for those of you who are planning your stay at School House already.
This idyllic, luxury cottage retreat in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales is a perfect getaway at any time of year. Take a few mid-week days off the daily grind outside of the summer months and you’ll pay peanuts for a this palace.
If you want to spend your summer holiday in School House, or fancy a winter weekend retreat, book well in advance because the secret is now well and truly out.
Beat those January, February and March blues. Long weekend breaks start from £545 for 10 people – £55 per person for three nights of Yorkshire Dales luxury.
I would like to give a HUGE thank you to Amy and Joe for letting us run riot in their beautiful holiday cottage for a weekend.