As the summer ebbs away I have a wonderful memory to look back on of an idyllic couple of days spent at a countryside retreat not a million miles from home.
The award winning Coniston Hotel and Spa is set on a 1,400 acre country estate and has been home to the Bannister family for over five decades.
The hotel and estate originally started life as a farm shop selling produce from the estate and, some 50 years later, has grown to become one of North Yorkshire’s premium landmark destination hotels and wedding venues.
And having stayed there I can see why. The moment you pull onto the sweeping gravel driveway that leads to the hotel you know this is going to be something special.
With breathtaking views of the Yorkshire Dales the hotel combines fine dining and luxurious accommodation with a range of outdoor pursuits and activities available to suit everyone and of course, the multi-milllion-pound state of the art spa.
And my family and I got the opportunity to experience everything the Coniston has to offer.
After checking in it was time to enjoy the off road driving experience we opted for. And what a thrill it was. Just a stroll away from the hotel the Coniston Off Road Centre offers you the chance to tear through specially created off road terrain.
We were greeted by our instructor, David Driver (yes that WAS his name) and I got behind the wheel of a Land Rover Defender. Even my 20-year-old daughter Jenny, who hasn't yet passed her driving test, and my 12-year-old son Robbie got the chance to try the off road experience in specially built junior vehicles. And they loved it!
The whole experience was great fun and something I would highly recommend. That Defender is an amazing vehicle and providing you treat it with respect and follow to the letter what the instructor says you will have an amazing experience.
David was a great instructor and made me feel quite at ease, even when the car was almost on its side!
That was meant to happen, I hasten to add, and is all part of the experience.
If driving isn't your thing you can choose from clay pigeon shooting, fly fishing, cycling or walking as there are trials across the estate and maps are available.
The local area includes beauty spots such as Malham, Settle and Skipton, Grassington, Ingleton and many more, probably offering some of the best scenic walking in the country, located just off the Pennine Way.
After all that excitement it was time to relax in the spa and take advantage of all the facilities on offer in the thermal package on offer.
We opted for a dip n the indoor swimming pool before enjoying the Himalayan salt sauna, aromatherapy steam room, indoor bubble and the Finnish sauna. But the piece de resistance has to be the Outdoor Infinity Edge Spa
pool which provides the ultimate in relaxation for body and mind.
To relax while the underwater massage jets eased tension in my aching muscles and improved the circulation in my body while admiring the breath taking views over the Coniston estate was a moment to capture forever in my memory.
It was a gorgeous, warm day, the skies were blue and all was well with the world....what more could you want?
After the spa we enjoyed a relaxing hour or two exploring the estate before coffee in our room which was spacious and luxurious with its own private patio.
The hotel and estate features 71 luxurious bedrooms, three self-catering holiday cottages and the 2 AA Rosette Macleod’s restaurant is at the culinary heart of the hotel.
We enjoyed dinner in the more relaxed setting of the Huntsman's Lodge restaurant and it was quite simply divine. While Robbie was delighted with the kids' menu Jenny and I were eager to sample the main menu.
I opted for smoked salmon served with lemon, cayenne pepper and brown bread to start followed by Coniston fish pie with a bacon and brioche crumb served with seasoned vegetables.
Jenny chose prawn and haddock fishcake with Thermidor sauce and watercress. She opted for the lamb cutlets served with mash, chantaney carrots and minted jus,
We even managed desserts of salted caramel and chocolate tart served with honeycomb ice cream and ginger sponge with estate grown rhubarb and custard followed by a couple of cheeky cocktails on the open air terrace overlooking the lake.
The restaurant also has a fabulous brunch and Sunday lunch menu with an extensive selection of vegetarian dishes available.
It was the perfect end to a wonderful day and we all slept soundly in our lovely room which included a huge ensuite bathroom complete with a walk in shower and separate bath.
We were up bright and early for a delicious full English breakfast before it was time to head home.
"When can we come back?' Robbie asked as we drove away. And I must admit I was thinking the same. The Coniston is a wonderful place to get away from it all. A beautiful setting, wonderful facilities and staff who are gracious, helpful and friendly which enhances the whole experience.
To book a room or for more information the number for reservations is 01756 748080.