HORSEHOUSE is a one horse sort of a place. It is a blink and you miss it kink on the single track road which follows the River Cover through the North Yorkshire dale to which the river gives its name.

Out from Leyburn on my bike, I was going so well that although I spotted the Thwaite Arms situated beside the kink, I had no intention of stopping. I had a Taylor’s pork pie for lunch in my saddlebag, and I sped on, noticing only that the hamlet of Horsehouse was full of a powerful aroma of aniseed from the black seedheads of the Sweet Cicely in the grass verges.

But on my way back, having consumed my pork pie at the highest point on the dale before it tumbles down into Kettlewell in Wharfedale, I was still feeling peckish. And on a steep descent into Braidley – an even smaller collection of stone buildings than Horsehouse – I misjudged the bottom corner, just as a car came round it towards me, and with my rear wheel fishtailing, my heart was beating rapidly.

So when the aroma of aniseed indicated I was nearing Horsehouse, I decided to stop.

Horsehouse is a classic dales out-of-the-way settlement, with a spring of clear water inexplicably spouting from a stone wall into a stone trough. It is also classic because the old village school, which has a huge poem of praise carved into its wall, is closed and converted into a private residence. As is the Methodist chapel. As is the post office.

All that remains are St Botolph’s church, and the Thwaite Arms, which is a classic out-of-the-way dales pub: quiet, quirky and quaint with a perfect beer garden.

The main door has “1808” carved above it along with a spoked wheel, which suggests cyclists were welcome long before the pushbike was invented.

The bar was tiny, with room only for two tables. The only other customers that July Friday lunchtime was occupied by the only other customers, a couple of walkers with a large black dog which struggled to turn round.

Next to the bar is a larger lounge area, concealed by a heavy curtain, down a few steps but its slightly musty smell suggested its use was infrequent.

The bar was manned, as it has been for the last 24 years, by bearded Bruce. I ordered a pint – £3.60 – and had a quick look at the simple blackboard menu which may have been unchanged, apart from the prices, in 24 years. It offered reasonably priced homemade steak pie, casseroles (beef and vegetable) and chilli con carne, plus scampi and chicken kiev. Children’s portions were available for £4.95, as was a Sunday roast for £8.75. Food is served between noon and 2pm, and 7pm and 9pm.

From the snacks, I ordered “Yorks (mince and onion)” for £6.25, which Bruce buzzed off to prepare while I negotiated my way around the dog’s wavy tail to find the beer garden.

The garden is behind the pub, down narrow stone steps which open out onto a delightful lawn, fringed with mature borders full of flowering hostas, hollyhocks and buddleia.

And the lawn opened out onto the pasture on the dale’s bottom, the classic scene completed by a stone barn and the steep rise of the land on the other side of the Cover.

I was alone, without even a signal on my mobile phone.

But not without company. There was the distant bleat of sheep and a constant squeak of oyster catchers. Housemartins swooped acrobatically overhead, chattering conversationally as they fed on the wing, while a pied wagtail chased flies across the lawn and a pair of brilliantly-breasted robins patrolled the border checking for their lunch beneath the hosta canopy.

Mine arrived spot on the ten minutes Bruce had promised.

It was a very simple snack: three mini-Yorkshires nicely reheated so that they were crispy and fresh, rammed full of an extremely tasty mince in gravy. It was only mince and it was only gravy, but it suggested that someone somewhere knew how to handle simple food.

I was extremely tempted by the thought of another pint so that I could linger a little longer in that paradise of a beer garden, and I did wonder about a sweet (from £4.25) but the next bit of my journey was all uphill to the foot of Pen Hill.

Next time, Horsehouse will be the focal point of a visit rather than a surprise, stumbling discovery.

The Thwaite Arms, Horsehouse, Coverdale, near Leyburn, North Yorkshire DL8 4TS

Phone: 01969 640206

Ambience: 5/5

Food quality: 3/5

Service: 4/5

Value for money: 4/5