Should you have been listening to the weather forecast prior to setting out for our second Short Break for Collectors at the Devonshire Arms Hotel at Bolton Abbey, you would probably have cancelled the venture, so foul was the anticipated weather. In actual fact our party enjoyed serene autumnal weather which enabled us to visit Newby Hall, Skipton Castle, and two World Heritage Sites, coatless and umbrella-less.
The castle at Skipton has stood in the centre of this market-town for a thousand years and is immaculately run under private ownership. We were shown round this former stronghold of the Clifford family by the highly entertaining guide, Jack Beck, who, a veteran of the Atlantic convoys, was as much an attraction as the castle itself. His take on the ìguided-tourî was as engrossing as his subject, with its tales of Cromwellian sieges, and the indomitable Lady Anne Clifford. It can also be revealed that ìportion-controlî is unheard of in the cafÈ where our ìlight-lunchî was not only delicious but certainly enough to have sustained a number of defenders during a siege! After that, a short trip to Saltaire to marvel at the 19th century enterprise and foresight of Sir Titus Salt who created this model village to house his workers. A hospital, a reading room, an assembly hall and a church are all centred around a mill which contains the largest room in the world, over 400 yards long. In this room thundered the machinery which gave Sir Titus his fortune. Silent now, it contains an extensive collection of the work of David Hockney, as well as an excellent book-shop, various business enterprises and an extensive collection of Burmantofts pottery. The whole building is pervaded with the scent of lilies which are disposed about the vast interior in voluptuous bunches. Not your standard shopping-mall!
Salts Mill, Saltaire built 1853
As always a visit to Newby Hall is an unmitigated delight, set in the midst of its 8000 acre estate this late 17th century house is still the cherished home of the Compton family, and replete with one of the finest collections of Grand Tour purchases in Britain, and so, probably, in the world. Chippendale furniture, Gobelins tapestry and ancient sculpture set off by interiors by Robert Adam all give this house a very special appeal. Although the gardens are not at their finest in November, their form and shape enhance the setting which all added to the pleasure of this visit on a perfect autumn day. The good weather also enabled us to walk through Willaim Aislabieís water gardens at Fountains Abbey, the adjacent estate to Newby and to admire the interior of William Burgesís church at Studley Royal.
So, David Hockney, Robert Adam, Titus Salt, quite a spectrum of characters to be crammed into a short visit to Yorkshire, not to mention two World Heritage Sites, but ensconced as we were in the delicious comfort of the Devonshire Arms the visit was accomplished without rush and, most importantly, without umbrellas!
THE DEVONSHIRE ARMS HOTEL AND SPA