Country Luxury: The Alice Hawthorn, Yorkshire
Ensconced in the stillness of the English countryside, yet keeping all the attractions of York only a stone’s throw away, Nun Monkton’s Alice Hawthorn Inn can be either a rural refuge or a stepping stone to an exciting city break.
Far off the beaten path, the Yorkshire village of Nun Monkton is home to an attraction of singular note. The Alice Hawthorn Inn is a jewel of an 18th century pub crowning the quintessentially English hamlet that surrounds it. With a working village green at the front and ponies grazing at the back, the pure charm of the location is clear from the moment of arrival.
A surprising amount of history is packed beneath the roof of the inn itself. Said to be named for both a champion Victorian-era racehorse and the girl who helped its mother to foal, the Alice Hawthorn has stood at the heart of the Nun Monkton community since its establishment as a simple village pub more than 220 years ago. During our stay we found that residents often gathered there of an evening, contributing to a warm atmosphere that never became overbearing.
The village itself is a treat to explore. Open green spaces and a peaceful atmosphere were the order of the day during our visit, and the Alice Hawthorn proved to be an excellent base for our various country excursions, which of course all included a stop by the maypole on the village green (the tallest in the country). The inn provides its own ‘Little Book of Walks’ for visitors looking to dive into the outdoors, and I can wholeheartedly recommend a post-dinner stroll around the River Nidd – or just the duck pond, if the meal has left you too satisfied to roam further.
On that, it would be remiss to talk about the Alice Hawthorn without dwelling on the quality of the kitchen and cellar. In spite of what outside appearances might suggest, the dining experience offered at the inn is no simple pub fare. The first dish of cod kiev, smashed chilli peas and beef fat crispy potatoes (no simple fish and chips!) let us know that we were in for a fantastic culinary treat.
The menu – and the unmissable daily specials – are distinctly Yorkshire-influenced and prepared with a skill that took us utterly by surprise. The inn’s chefs are capable of turning something as unassuming as a steak and mushroom pie into a mouth-watering meal that won’t let you look at the dish the same way again. Special mention has to go to the Granny Smith apple and ginger ‘wake-up shots’ that became an unexpected highlight of our mornings.
It isn’t an exaggeration to say that the quality matches that of any upscale restaurant. Every time we returned for dinner or breakfast, we left the table feeling thoroughly spoiled. If you plan to go with company, make sure they are obliging enough to let you steal a few tasters.
Beyond the fine dining, the Alice Hawthorn is replete with contemporary comforts belied by its gorgeously rustic exterior. The four rooms above the pub are appointed with plush beds, eminently comfortable armchairs and expansive en-suite bathrooms with a full complement of luxury Noble Isle products. Beamed ceilings meet roll-top baths and further modern conveniences, including a miniature fridge and an uncommonly strong Wi-Fi connection for those who intend to work while they are away.
This is to speak only of the Grade II listed pub itself. The Alice Hawthorn has recently completed a renovation, adding eight new bedrooms detached from the main building in timber frame buildings modeled in the vein of agricultural stables and barns. Alongside them, several further rooms are laid out for private group dining and events. It hardly needs to be said that each is as lavishly furnished as the pub rooms. I can only imagine how pleasant it would be to hold a function in one of the Scandinavian-inspired external dining rooms.
It bears emphasising that the cosy isolation of the inn is far from mandatory. Both Harrogate and York are only a brief trip away for anyone looking to venture further afield. The cities’ proximity is completely unfelt in the village itself; Nun Monkton sits at the end of a long country lane and is flawlessly quiet save for the occasional bleating of sheep – and even that can’t be heard from the comfort of the Alice Hawthorn’s rooms.
This inn was not lauded by The Sunday Times as “the best hotel in the North” for nothing. A thoroughly rejuvenating experience in a gorgeous location, complete with wonderfully friendly staff, it is difficult to imagine a more idyllic place for a weekend or an overnight stay. Whether you are in Yorkshire for pleasure or for business, I would recommend The Alice Hawthorn to anyone.