IF YOU were going to recommend one place to visit in the Yorkshire Dales, you couldn’t go far wrong in suggesting the Bolton Abbey area could you?

After all, it’s got everything a village in the National Park could want.

Stunning landscape? Tick

Picturesque ruins? Tick

Great walks? Tick

Fantastic tea rooms, pubs and places to stay? Tick

Things for the kids to do? Tick

And with the area being within easy reach of many thousands of people in lower Wharfedale, Airedale and Bradford, you can understand why it is such a favourite.

You’re unlikely to meet a lot of people early in the year when there is just as much to do for those who love the outdoors and fancy a day out in a beautiful location.

There are many areas to base yourself in along this stretch of the River Wharfe, taking advantage of the facilities provided by the Bolton Abbey estate of the Devonshire family which provides ample added attractions to the natural ones Mother Nature created - car parks, miles of footpaths, eateries and rooms to stay that draw people back to the area time and time again.

The Devonshire Arms, for example, has over the years accommodated visitors from royalty, celebrities and the well-heeled to dog walkers, cyclists and ramblers of all description.

It has recently undergone a £500,000 ‘soft refurb’ that has seen a makeover for some of the hotel’s bedrooms, a new heating system, re-roofing and redecoration.

It has the relaxed atmosphere typical of a country house hotel, with dogs welcome and where nothing seems to be too much trouble for the helpful and attentive staff. That approach is epitomised in the Brasserie where the revamp has entailed extending the laid-back approach into what was a much more formal dining area, doubling it in size.

The contemporary décor is smart without being stuffy, making the most of the building’s features to create a comfortable place to eat and drink, extending outside to the terrace and bar when the weather is good.

Of course, the main attraction of a restaurant should be the food and that hits the spot too – a delicious range of dishes that are excellently cooked and presented and which should cater for every taste (the Sunday Lunch menu at £26 for two courses and £30 for three looking particularly good value) and with an impressive wine list and local beers for company.

We were certainly treated in fine style when we went along recently for Saturday lunch and can heartily recommend the smoked salmon and spring onion fishcake starter, beef cheek main course and trio of lemon dessert which were all full of fantastic flavour and cooked beautifully.

Or if you just want a hot drink or beer, you’re catered for as well and a children’s menu makes it perfect for families.

From the Devonshire Arms, there are plenty of walks to work off the lunch with the Priory ruins themselves only 20 minutes along the river bank and then more attractions like the children’s activity course and The Strid further on.

We live close by and, being frequent visitors, know the area well. Whether we want a relaxed stroll or more challenging hike, there is something for every occasion and ability nearby. The walk to Simon’s Seat through the Valley of Desolation (so named because of a calamitous flood) is well known but still gets you away from the crowds in the main valley – just don’t stop being sidetracked to visit the waterfalls which are stunning and the views from Simon’s Seat are well worth the effort to get there.

A favourite walk is the high route on the right side of the river heading upstream that starts by the famous stepping stones (a popular challenge for all ages if the river isn’t too high). It takes you through magnificent ancient woods and gives you spectacular views down to The Strid and along the valley thanks to helpful viewpoints created by the estate, each of which has a very handy bench!

Take a few minutes to appreciate the views, especially from the stone bothy where you can watch the wild birds come down to eat food provided by volunteers – and, if you’re quiet enough, catch a glimpse of the resident mice who like to share it too!

Bolton Abbey certainly will give you a taste for more.