Let’s be honest; many of us are so wedded to the idea of travelling abroad for a holiday that it rarely occurs to us to consider a UK break instead. Year after year, we stress ourselves out with passports and boarding passes and terrible exchange rates, and forget that some of the most wonderful holidays can be had right on our doorstep.
If it’s beauty and breath-taking landscapes you travel for, look no further than the enchanting Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Forest of Bowland – and where better to stay than Bowland Fell, a holiday park nestled snugly in between the two? The park is surrounded by miles of Lord of the Rings-esque landscapes, with rolling countryside, ancient forests and misty hills stretching as far as the eye can see.
We drive down the charming tree-lined avenue and check-in before heading to our accommodation, a 3-bedroom Luxury Caravan. Technically, this is their ‘Standard’ option, though it isn’t long before we realise that the name is justified. Imagine a caravan holiday and you’ll probably think of tiny beds and ancient camping stoves – but this one’s basically a bungalow on stilts, jam-packed with home-from-home comforts.
The living room is pleasantly spacious and seating is plentiful; two full-sized sofas and a long, cushioned window seat. There’s a Freeview TV - which turns out to be incredibly handy for keeping a noisy 2-year old out of trouble in the morning – while the free, unlimited Wi-Fi kept the grown-ups out of trouble, too. The kitchen is fully equipped with a double cooker, sink, kettle, toaster, microwave - and a fridge-freezer bigger than the one we have at home.
The bedrooms are lovely; a double and two twin rooms, boasting cleverly placed wardrobes, overhead storage cupboards and bedside cabinets - particularly helpful if you’re the sort of person who insists on packing three outfits for each day of the holiday. The beds are ready-made made with crisp white bed linen, meaning you can leave your musty, threadbare sleeping bag at home (freeing up valuable space for more clothes). The bathroom facilities exceed our expectations, too; there’s a spacious shower with built-in shelves and a second, separate toilet.
The whole caravan is double glazed throughout – not that there’s much noise on this peaceful, sleepy site – and fully centrally heated to keep you toasty warm in the winter months. Our favourite thing, however, has to be the views outside; the wild woodlands and windswept fields stretching out beyond the horizon, with the occasional tiny farmhouse in the distance.
Having settled in, we decide to explore the campsite. There’s something quintessentially Yorkshire-esque about the welcome area, with its ivy-covered sandstone buildings around a courtyard. The charming and characterful 17th century Crowtrees Inn serves quality and traditional homemade food and real ale, and we enjoy a lazy drink in the sunny beer garden - though in the winter months you can cosy up next to the log fire instead. The farm shop sells artisan local produce including meat, vegetables and bread, as well as a range of everyday essentials, so if in the chaos of packing you’ve forgotten to bring anything (like we always do), you’ll find everything you need right here.
Caravan sites offer brilliant freedom for children, and Bowland Fell is an absolute gem in this regard. Kids can enjoy a games room (with a pool table, table football, ping-pong and a selection of retro-style arcade games machines), the indoor heated swimming pool, two outdoor play areas and even a zip-wire. The youngest member of our group was particularly delighted by the resident birds of prey, and you can even watch feeding and handling at scheduled times.
There’s plenty to do and see in the local area; we enjoyed meandering walks through the Forest of Bowland and the Yorkshire Dales, trekking along hilltops for truly unforgettable views. If retail therapy is more your thing, head to vibrant and buzzing Skipton, a charming market town characterised by its almost Venice-like canals and historic cobbled streets.
We loved stunning, sleepy Grassington, a quaint chocolate box village on a sloping hillside. Following a recommendation from a local, we whiled away a lovely afternoon in the sunny courtyard garden of the Retreat Tearoom and Bistro, enjoying the sort of hospitality that Yorkshire is famous for as well as the quirky, delicious homemade food (the Olive, Brie and Chilli Jam Wrap is divine).
Bolton Abbey also offers a great summer day out and is clearly a favourite picnic spot with locals. We explored the ancient, imposing ruins of the Priory - which looks like something straight out of Game of Thrones - strolled along the riverbank, and enjoyed a hop, skip and a jump over its famous stepping stones. The picturesque town of Settle, overlooked by the iconic "Castleberg Crag” and featuring a bustling market square and a Grade II Victorian theatre, is also well worth a visit.
It was an effort to drag ourselves away from Bowland Fell on our last day, closing the door on our spacious and comfortable caravan for a final time and gazing wistfully at the enchanting Yorkshire countryside as we drive home. We found the whole experience truly rejuvenating, and the realisation that such dramatic and jaw-dropping landscapes can be found so close to home was eye-opening. The next time we want to blow away the cobwebs, we know exactly where we’ll be heading.