Monday, July 11, 2011

The Rabbits, the Pheasants, the Hill & the Dale - Sleeping in the Coolest Cabins on The Continent

After a full day of discovery from Edinburgh to The Natural Retreats in Yorkshire Dales with stops to look for Hadrian's Wall (Never Found It), exploring Kielder Forest and Water Park (A must see that I will post about another time) and getting lost and almost running out of gas, we arrived in the pastoral Yorkshire Dales, only four hours north of London. Upon arriving at the stone entrance to Natural Retreats, discovered while searching the internet for places a discriminating Nomad might find interesting, I was filled with great anticipation. This was the one place that we would stay that placed design front and center in the creation of this unique property.

Remember Watership Down, the fantasy about the world of Fiver and his fellow rabbits by British writer Richard Adams? As we drove down the gravel lane to our cabin, I  thought I was invading the warrens of the fabled North Hampshire Hill. Rabbits were everywhere!!  This was the first indication that we had arrived at a place that is completely off the well worn path of the typical tourist. Located in Yorkshire Dales National Park, Natural Retreats is surrounded by rolling hills and valleys, rivers and forests and diverse wildlife - pheasant, geese, birds of every color and the aforementioned rabbits. And it's less than a mile from the very cool little market town of Richmond with great restaurants and an organic grocer. A must if you stay here, as the cabins are self catering.

I have previously posted about how helpful the online concierge was when I was making the reservation. Well, the high level of service is seamless, once you arrive on site. Like most rural properties, there is no normal check-in process as in a hotel. We knew we were in Cabin No. 15, but that was about it. With excellent signage to guide us, we found our cabin quickly and the on site manager showed up as soon as we arrived. He assisted us with our luggage and explained all the various activities that were available to us at Natural Retreats, as well as where to eat in town and where to purchase groceries. We actually needed very little to supplement the welcome basket and stocked refrigerator complete with organic milk, local cheese, bread, eggs, a great local wine and homemade brownies to die for. He left his cell phone number in case we needed anything. Great service is always a hallmark of a great place for a Nomad to sleep.

One piece of advice that Rick Steves gives in his books is the need to have a "down day" and do absolutely nothing. Natural Retreats is the perfect place to do just that. First - the landscape is perfect for simply sitting and watching nature in all its beauty. Second, the cabins are a creative combination of minimalism and sustainable eco-design. With simple white walls, bamboo floors and a forty foot long sliding glass wall between the Living Area and a Monster Deck, it is the perfect place to read or just sit and enjoy. In addition, the roof is "green" with grasses and plant cover. Built with large round wood columns for support, the design is simple and elegant. And it's large enough so that every one gets there own space. I would highly recommend this place for families or couples as it has three identical "suites" with their own bathroom. And if you don't want to just sit and enjoy the view, you can walk along the many trails and it is a nature photographer's dream.

A word here about the concept behind these unique properties. On their well designed and easy to use website, Natural Retreats invites you to "Discover the Luxury of Nature". Based on our experience at Yorkshire Dales, this is not just a marketing slogan. The concept of placing luxurious accommodations in the midst of beautiful natural environments is not new. What is new is the idea of placing utterly modern design in such locations. These are not log cabins or glamping. These places have all the comforts of a five star hotel. High thread count sheets on soft, comfortable beds, rain showers, killer stereo systems and modern kitchens with all the utensils and cookware you need to be Giada, Nigella or Paula. They have recently added a property in the states on the Snake River in Idaho, which I have placed on my  list of  Must Sleep Places for Nomads. In this world of over selling and hyper-hyping, it is refreshing to experience something that exceeds all expectations. Natural Retreats at Yorkshire Dales meets all the criteria to place it on The Nomad Architect's Places to Sleep Before You Die.

And what about the food? Because we arrived in mid afternoon, we decided to eat in town our first night. With a complete directory of local restaurants provided by Natural Retreats and a recommendation from the on site manager, we decided to check out a local Italian restaurant in Richmond. Once again, we were pleasantly surprised - excellent food and wine and great service. When you study the history of England, you will discover that the Romans settled in Britain as early as 55 BC. One can only surmise that this is the reason for so many excellent Italian Restaurants in the UK. As I said, Natural Retreats is a "self catering" property, so you are probably going to cook some while you are there. With a full gourmet kitchen at our disposal, I drove into Richmond to supplement our well stocked welcome basket and refrigerator with items to prepare for our remaining meals. After finding a small organic grocer, I purchased most of the items on our list and found some pre-prepared gourmet meals at a larger grocer in an adjacent town. When you have been married to a bona fide

So - if you ever travel across the pond - check out this very cool set of eco-cabins only four hours north of London - The Natural Retreats in The Yorkshire Dales National Park. You'll thank me for it.

Travel Quote of The Week
"The traveler was active; he went strenuously in search of people, of adventure, of experience. The tourist is passive; he expects interesting things to happen to him. He goes sight-seeing." -  Daniel J. Boorstin

This Week's Video Artist
A True Jazz Legend - one of the true greats in the world of jazz piano, performance and composition - the intense and incomparable Chick Corea.

See you soon


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