Review by Fiona Duncan, published 15th August 2010.
Never is it more important to stay in a good hotel than during one of our friend's (we call him The Belted Earl) annual walking weekends. That's because they invariably involve quite a bit of freezing, a great deal of soaking, a dash of fear, a dollop of exhaustion and a deep yearning for warmth, good food and bed.
This year, he both devised the walk and chose the hotel. The weather was not his fault of course, and the walk was, as always, magnificent, but as our little group of five crouched on the fell beside a dry stone wall in a vain attempt to shelter from the driving rain, munching on lunchtime buns, we reflected on how our hikes have the habit of taking place during a laughably atrocious downpour. Yesterday, for heaven's sake, the country was basking in sunshine. Today, entirely unprepared and eccentrically dressed, we are literally soaked to the skin.
But do we care? Not a bit; we're used to it and think fondly of our friend, The Eminent QC, who last year, lacking a hood, trudged around Exmoor with a Tesco carrier bag on his head. A shame he's not with us, especially when we reach our goal, that great, romantic curved crag of ice age limestone, Malham Cove. As we arrive, two pairs of Peregrine falcons wheel and screech in the sky above.
So to the hotel, dripping but triumphant. The Traddock (the name derives from the trading paddock that once stood here) has been owned and run by Bruce and Jane Reynolds, their son, Paul, and daughter-in-law, Jenny, since 2002. Like so many successful hoteliers, they were entirely new to the game, having spent years working overseas. There have been ups and downs, but the family has held fast.
The Belted Earl chose well. The Georgian house sits comfortably in the beautifully sited edge-of-Dales village of Austwick, with a comforting, settled atmosphere, not dated but pleasantly old-fashioned with a cosy parlour opening onto the handsome dining room distinguished by William Morris wallpaper, white napery, good glass and cutlery. A second, smaller dining room stands across the hallway and a narrow, awkward throughway alongside the bar leads to a further large sitting room and a smaller one. The large sitting room is oddly furnished and needs a rethink; sofas, pictures and wall lights all drew puzzled comments, as did the heavily patterned blue stair and landing carpet that makes upstairs feel dowdier than it is. Bedrooms vary in size, furnished partly with the Reynolds' own antiques. Bathrooms could do with upgrading. Only six have showers as well as baths; ours was cramped with a weedy showerhead.
But the prices are fair. More importantly, the food was excellent and easily lived up to a celebratory dinner that night: 30 years of unbroken happiness for two of our party, Hallam and Lal. All in all, a delight. "We get such nice comments," says Jane Reynolds modestly. "They humble me."
- Austwick, near Settle (01524 251224; www.thetraddock.co.uk); Doubles from £90 per night, including breakfast. Access difficult for guests with disabilities.