This week’s destination is something of a closely-guarded secret.

If I gave you a clue by saying it’s a country house hotel close to the upper Wensleydale town of Hawes, the majority of those who might have an idea would, I guess, would go for Simonstone Hall Hotel.

I almost called it the infamous Simonstone Hall Hotel but that would be rather unfair because the reason why many of you may be vaguely familiar with it is the central role it played in the media celeb drama that was Jeremy Clarkson’s last visit to the Yorkshire Dales with his Top Gear motoring show.

If you can’t recall the 2015 saga, the hotel was the site of the altercation between Clarkson and a producer that ultimately led to the irascible star’s – and his top-rating motoring programme’s – departure from the BBC.

Some of you may say that the hotel deserves its place in history for its small but important part in removing the man from our terrestrial TV screens – but let’s not go there.

Instead, I suggest you go to the Stone House Hotel about a mile away on the high road down the dale - because it’s a little gem.

It’s also little-known. It doesn’t seem to do any local marketing and for years I thought it was an upmarket B&B (which, in fact, is how it started out). But it has over the last 30 years or so grown and grown into a 24-bedroom hotel with a rather excellent restaurant.

When I mentioned it to a gastronomic friend who eats out across North Yorkshire and County Durham even more often than I do, he said he’d never heard of it. He has now.

We headed up t’dale on what started out as a glorious summer’s evening near Northallerton, turned to a torrential downpour between Swinithwaite and Worton and then dried up again by the time we reached Hawes.

It was the first rain we had seen in weeks and it was a shame because Stone House Hotel and its garden setting is beautiful in the gloom. In evening sunshine it would have been stunning.

Built as a private home in the early 1900s, it began offering hospitality 30 years ago and has remained in the same family’s hands since then.

Edwardian in style, the interior is heavily panelled with some grand fireplaces and carved oak furniture. Having pre-dinner drinks in the bar with views across the gardens with the Dales beyond, we felt very comfortable.

The traditional feel is very much reflected in the dining offer which featured dishes we don’t think we have seen on a menu since the 1980s (that’s not intended as criticism) but there’s lots of local sourcing and as we discovered the cooking is spot-on.

Having ordered in the bar, we were escorted to our table in the dining room, a rather sprawling collection of spaces, with lots of exposed brick and quite atmospherically lit. In winter it would be very cosy.

These days, in the interests of the waistline, I try to stay clear of bread when out, but the slightly chewy, slightly nutty, treacle bread (a Stone House speciality) was difficult to resist. As was the olive bread and butter which Sylvia particularly enjoyed.

This was not a good start given that we had four courses ahead – starter, main, cheese and dessert plus coffee or tea.

We kicked off back in the 1980s with crispy deep-fried whitebait - classically served with tartar sauce and lemon – for me, and five spice confit duck with plum chutney and more bread Sylvia. The whitebait were plump and fishy in a way they never used to be when this dish was at the height of its popularity. Sylvia loved the sweet-sharpness of the spicy duck.

My sea bass (two fillets, perfectly fried) was presented in a rather contemporary fashion with a pesto and balsamic glaze artfully smeared across the plate. Pretty.

Sylvia pork fillet was, most importantly for this cut, still moist and served with a simple but very good apple, red onion and cider sauce.

Separately served fresh vegetables included new potatoes, sweet potato mash, mange tout and carrots. All excellent.

The cheese trolley was worthy of the description as a separate course. There was almost a full set of Wensleydales – blue, with cranberries, the Kit Calvert premium matured among them – plus brie, cheddar, and a smoked cheese, served with an array of biscuits, grapes and chutney.

I can’t now quite believe I finished with a treacle sponge and super-smooth and creamy vanilla egg custard. Sylvia gave the thumbs up to fresh fruit salad and ice cream.

We couldn’t manage tea or coffee.

Service was old-school impeccable but also very friendly.

The bill was £98. That’s £39.50 each for the four courses plus coffee. Drinks – a GT, sparkling water, a large glass and a small glass of a fruity house pinot grigio - made up the rest.

A trip back in time perhaps but well worth the journey up the dale.


Stone House Hotel, Sedbusk, Hawes, DL8 3PT

Tel: 01969667571 Web:

Vegetarian and gluten-free options

Open for dinner: 6-9pm

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 10, Service 9, Surroundings 9, Value 8