I ONCE had afternoon tea with the Calendar Girls at the Devonshire Fell.

It was a charming afternoon - a press conference held by the ladies of the Rylstone and District WI, who shot to worldwide fame with their nude calendar which raised more than £6 million for Leukaemia Research. As I left, with my complimentary lemon drizzle cake, I decided I’d like to stay at this Dales hotel one day.

I recently did just that - and it was even lovelier than I’d imagined.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The Devonshire Fell Hotel is on a hillside overlooking Burnsall The Devonshire Fell Hotel is on a hillside overlooking Burnsall (Image: Devonshire Hotels)

Perched on a hill overlooking the Burnsall, the Devonshire Fell has spectacular views of the picturesque village, surrounding fells and the River Wharfe, weaving through like a silver ribbon. Every window looks out to a gorgeous Dales vista.

Built as a gentlemen’s club, the Devonshire Fell later became a hotel. Taken over by the Bolton Abbey Estate in 1998, it was restored by the Duchess of Devonshire. Admiring the vibrant colours and striking interiors, we were told the designs were chosen by the current Duchess.

The hotel has a fresh boutique feel, with bespoke designs for the bedrooms, bars and dining areas. The quirky charm - bold colours, chic artwork and funky floral prints - blends with country house features, not least a crackling open fire and beams.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The hotel's chic interiors blend contemporary designs with original featuresThe hotel's chic interiors blend contemporary designs with original features (Image: Devonshire Hotels)

Two decades ago the hotel’s location attracted the producers of the Calendar Girls film, starring Dames Julie Walters and Helen Mirren. Burnsall appears as a Dales backdrop in the much-loved film.

After checking in at the Fell, we wandered down to the village. Standing on a bend of the River Wharfe, Burnsall is a gem of the Dales, with pretty stone-built cottages, a 1602 grammar school and 13th century St Wilfrid’s Church, where you’ can find local Viking and Anglo-Saxon carved stones.

The Dales Way footpath runs through the village, over the landmark five-arched bridge, on to Grassington, via Loup Scar, and southwards to Appletreewick, Barden Tower and Strid Wood on the Bolton Abbey estate. Guests at the Devonshire Fell can use a free parking pass for Bolton Abbey, a few miles up the road. Also nearby is the Cavendish Pavilion riverside attraction, and there are walks leading to Cracoe, Hebden, Parcevall Hall Gardens and the mystical Troller’s Gill.

My sister, Sophie, and I have a soft spot for Burnsall because we often came here as children for a Sunday afternoon family ‘run out’. We’d paddle in the river, tiddlers tickling our ankles, and sit on the sandy riverbank with a flask of tea.

Memories came flooding back as we wandered by the river, on a sunny January afternoon, to the bridge that takes walkers on to Grassington. Along the way, we passed a group of canoeists on the water.

With the river high, and the bridge closed, we headed back to the hotel and relaxed in our spacious room, fusing vibrant soft furnishings and Hockney prints with rustic charm. I loved the quirky painted beehive on the landing.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The bedrooms blend vibrant designs with country charmThe bedrooms blend vibrant designs with country charm (Image: Devonshire Hotels)

After a drink in the bar, we dined in the stylish restaurant, where the menu offers seasonal dishes made from fresh estate-picked and local produce. Starter choices include haggis and black pudding croquettes and oxtail ravioli, but I couldn’t resist the cauliflower cheese - served with goats cheese croquettes in a tasty puree, it was a delight. Sophie enjoyed crab and smoked salmon salad, with avocado and wasabi puree and crackers.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Cauliflower cheese with goats cheese croquettesCauliflower cheese with goats cheese croquettes (Image: Devonshire Hotels)Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Oxtail ravioli is one of the menu choicesOxtail ravioli is one of the menu choices (Image: Devonshire Hotels)

Main course choices include sirloin steak, Duo of Eshton Herdwick Mutton and Stone Bass with scampi and spinach dill. I went for Leek Potato Gnocchi, with wild mushrooms, confit garlic butter and roasted shallots - a hearty dish with layers of rich flavours - and Sophie had Confit Duck Leg with Jerusalem artichoke, caramelised plum, crispy kale and a port sauce, which she said was delicious.

We were spoilt for choice with the dessert menu. Chocolate fondant and peanut butter ice-cream?Yorkshire parkin with black treacle ice-cream? In the end we shared two choices: Baked Yoghurt, which came with poached Yorkshire rhubarb and ginger crumble - a creamy, zingy and crunchy treat - and the to-die-for Caramelised Lemon Curd Tart and raspberry sorbet. Each dish was beautifully presented, and served by friendly staff.

After dinner we reclined in the bar with a liqueur coffee. With sink-into sofas and the lovely, wintry aroma of wood smoke, we felt very cosy in our Dales retreat.

Next morning we enjoyed a hearty breakfast - full English for Sophie and eggs florentine for me - and all too soon it was time to leave. We’d been so well looked after, the staff felt like friends by the time we checked out. “Bring your dog next time!” they cried, as Sophie showed them photos of her beloved pooch.

Dogs are very much welcome at the Devonshire Fell - they’re even treated to a breakfast sausage. Several guests had dogs with them. Others included fell walkers, Dales tourists and couples enjoying a romantic break.

The hotel is also popular for afternoon tea and Sunday lunch.

With fabulous food and stylish interiors, this is a chic boutique hotel experience with the Dales on the doorstep. There’s nothing else quite like it. We loved it.

* The Devonshire Fell, Burnsall. Call (01756) 729000 or visit devonshirehotels.co.uk/devonshire-fell-burnsall

* A Valentine’s tasting menu is available from February 14-18 and a Mother’s Day menu is served on March 10. 

Go to https://devonshirehotels.co.uk/offer/valentines-day-at-the-devonshire-fell/