All the ingredients for the perfect short break in the Dales were there when we booked a two-night stay at Sun Hill Lodges. Sensational views over Yorkshire’s finest countryside, tick; luxurious accommodation, tick; walks from the doorstep, tick; racehorses, big tick.
My partner is a racing journalist and I sit happily on the sidelines asking daft questions such as: “So what do jockeys eat?”, “why are you not interested in what jockeys eat?” and “can you explain what an each-way multiple bet is… again?”
We both love the Sport of Kings and Sun Hill, near Constable Burton, is a training yard for racehorses. Its two holiday cottages and six timber lodges are an additional revenue stream, dreamed up by the top trainer Ann Duffield – a dynamic and inspirational woman who appears to work all the hours God sends.
The lodges are close to the gallops so in the morning you can watch the jockeys and the stable lads and lasses exercising the horses. Another great bonus is the chance to look round the yard and get an insight into how a horse can make it from stable to winning post.
Our tour of the Sun Hill operation was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. Our “guide” was the wonderful Pam, PA to trainer Ann. Her love of horses was obvious as she introduced us to the likes of George Dryden, a sprinter and the highest rated horse in the yard, My Amigo, a grey two-year-old with big prospects and Rosina, a gorgeous young filly. Passion is important in this industry, which demands long, often unsociable hours, plenty of muck and a lot of hard graft.
The holiday lets are a glamorous diversion and Ann doesn’t do things by halves. As well as an eye for thoroughbreds, she clearly has an interest in design. She and her husband George, a former jockey and legend of the weighing room, have kept a close eye on the build and fit-out to make sure that the lodges are the perfect rural retreat.
We stayed in the one-bedroom Lillie Lodge, named after Just Lille, the prolific winner of 18 races doe Ann. It is beautifully decorated and has a four-poster, super king bed, an enormous open-plan en-suite with stone bath, walk-in shower and sauna. The living area has a cosy wood-burning stove, great kitchen area and, best of all, floor-to-ceiling glazing offering the most amazing long-range views. There’s a telly, of course, but it cannot compete with the scenery. If hot tubs are your thing, there is one discreetly tucked away on the decking outside.
It was hard to tear myself away from the view but we managed to make it as far as the pub (there are two within walking distance) on the first day. We also had a trip to Middleham to see the castle, did the The Shawl walk from Leyburn then stocked up on provisions at the best independent supermarket in Yorkshire (in my opinion) Campbells of Leyburn. They have a great deli, along with a dedicated wine merchant that stocks some seriously good stuff. I also bought Ann and Pam a thank you card because we had the best time at Sun Hill, despite some drizzly weather. And because amazing women like these should be congratulated.
For details on Sun Hill Lodges visit www.sunhill-lodges.co.uk