Firstly, I need to apologise, I’ve gone a little ‘off patch’ this week. But if you’ve got children to entertain for the next month, you will probably forgive me.
Keeping the critters happy every day for six weeks is no walk in the park - and they soon get fed up with doing that! So if you’re looking for something that will fill a little more time than a stroll to the swings, Billy Bob’s could tick off a full day.
Located across the border into Yorkshire, to the east of Skipton, the all-American ice cream parlour, diner and play area is around an hour’s drive away for most of us here in the red rose county - probably just within the ‘are we nearly there yet’ grumble.
Popping up out of nowhere, it’s set on a farm in beautiful rolling countryside and consists of the diner, an outdoor wooden play area and two huge barns that have been filled with straw bales for the kids to run, jump and hide amongst.
Arriving just before midday on a Thursday, the play areas were in full swing and the diner filling up. I’d made a general booking but, accompanied by my as-tall-as-me 12-year-old daughter, the lovely waitress showed us to the teenage-and-up area, which proved to be an oasis of calm.
Inside they’ve captured the theme perfectly - it’s a riot of colour and packed with all manner of Americana with gas pumps, cola merchandise, shiny jukeboxes and even a replica of a yellow school bus complete with dining tables.
Sitting in a 50’s diner while gazing through the window at the north Yorkshire landscape made me smile, but what struck me the most was the cleanliness of the entire place - every surface sparkled. No easy job anywhere that caters for kids.
Fully immersed in the atmosphere with the opening bars of ‘Summer Nights’ in my ears, the menu proved to be another splendoured thing. Alongside sundaes, sodas and shakes there’s freshly made waffles and pancakes which you can pile high with ice-cream, sauces and all kinds of gooey, sticky toppings.
On the savoury side there’s burgers hot dogs, chicken, chilli, mac and cheese, ranch salads and bagels to choose from, and they can all be done ‘your way’ with a huge choice of sides, extras and add-ons.
My way was a gluten free Chicago Style hot dog (£6.75) which was an absolute explosion of colour and flavour brimming with a juicy, fat sausage that must have been at least eight inches long.
Piled up with a tangy sweetcorn relish, fresh, sweet, diced tomatoes, crunchy dill pickle and some sharp mustard it was a taste sensation and I’d got to my third bite before I even remembered I was eating a gluten free bun it was so soft.
As a side, some Cajun Spiced Fries (£2.95) added a bit of heat although the dusting of spices seemed to have sunk to the bottom of the basket as they got tastier the further down I got.
For The Younger it was Carolina Chicken (£7.95) - a chicken breast in buttermilk and breadcrumbs on a toasted brioche bun, with a side of home fries. Moist and tender yet with a super-crispy coating she claimed it was the best chicken she’s ever had. Period, as they say.
We didn’t really have room for it but pudding was a waffle for both of us - one gluten free Maple Pecan (£7.75) with pecans caremalised in butter, and one American Dream (£7.45) with fudge brownies and Oreo cookies. Massive, warm, cold, melty, soft, crispy, crunchy, sweet...they were just indulgent heaven, if impossible to finish.
An added frothy cappuccino (£2.75) was probably not my best decision but my 7UP Free (£3.10) went some way to refresh me (why do drinks from a glass bottle always taste so much better?) and The Younger sipped on a disconcertingly day-glo Green Apple drink (£3.10).
The bill came to £47.30 altogether but we did overindulge (purely in the name of research you understand) and you can easily make it a much cheaper trip. If you’re dining, two hours in the play barn is £2 per child or if you just fancy an ice-cream the wooden play area is free to enter. Plus, for a full day out, Skipton with its castle (adult £8.50, child £5.30, under 5s free) and woodland walks (free!) is only a 10-minute drive away.
It’s a cliché but Billy Bob’s really is a place for all ages - the kids love the play areas, teenagers love the style and even if the grandparents are on holiday duty they will love the music. And I challenge anyone not to be impressed with the food and service.
Finally, a little bird tells me there’s another branch opening in the not too distant future a little closer to home (see Five More To Try, below). The holidays could be about to get that bit easier...
Billy Bob’s Parlour, Diner & Play, Calm Slate Farm, Bolton Abbey BD23 6EU
Tel: 01756 711826
Five More To Try
Billy Bob’s, Myerscough
The new baby of Billy Bob’s family. Ice cream stand also serving pancakes, waffles, sundaes, shakes and hot drinks with outdoor play and seating. Undercover play and hamburgers coming soon...
Tootsies, Little Hoole
Family owned ice cream parlour and coffee shop using locally sourced, top quality ingredients and offering over 150 flavours of ice cream, daily specials and home made cakes.
Frederick’s, Heath Charnock
Flagship home of the business since 1936 with the ice cream factory on site where they make delicious, award-winning ice cream. Also serves fresh pizzas, sandwiches, salads and toasties.
Wallings Ice Cream, Garstang
A beautifully converted barn situated in lovely rural Lancashire serving ice cream, freshly made pancakes and waffles plus sweet treats from their chocolate counter.
Ice cream parlour and coffee shop with a play area for under 10’s. They serve a selection of 28 delicious flavours of Wallings ice cream, breakfasts, light bites, cakes and biscuits.