Inspiration

Pampered Pups

With one of the only luxury dog spas in the UK, Yorkshire is the place to holiday with your pooch. Pet salon owner Verity Hardcastle took her Crufts winning poodle Alice, Alice’s mum Lilly and husband Andrew for a weekend away to the coast. Interview by James Ellis.

The ‘dog concierge’ happily picks them up for a run on the beach.

As the owner of a relatively new and busy grooming salon in Harrogate, I have to work 24/7, taking calls from clients, making sure their pooches are pampered and ensuring there are enough staff to cater to their needs, as well as managing time tables, keeping accounts and helping out with the grooming too.

So when my new husband, Andrew, suggested we take a well-deserved weekend off and head to the north-east coast to check out one of the only hotels in the UK with a posh dog spa, I snapped up the offer.

Harrogate is pretty much smack bang in the middle of the country, so we don’t get to the coast that often, but like most people from Yorkshire I have memories of visiting places such as Scarborough, Filey and Whitby over long, sunny school holidays as a kid. The idea of checking them out as an adult really appealed: long walks on the beach, lots of fresh air, and a nice room to enjoy at night were just what was needed as a mini-moon, before taking our honeymoon later in the year.

Even better the hotel, Raithwaite Estate just outside Whitby, also has dog-friendly rooms and cottages - meaning our miniature poodles, 4-year-old Lilly and her daughter Alice, two, were also welcome. And so the four of us packed overnight bags – relaxed clothes for us, spangly collars and leads for the girls – and jumped in the car to head over the North York Moors to the hotel in Sandsend. The drive over the moors is gorgeous in itself, and the perfect prep for the weekend.

As the urban edges of Harrogate are left behind, we’re soon driving down narrow country lanes, through tiny villages with stone houses, past chequerboard farm fields edged by dry-stone walls, and over moor tops. As we reach the last peak, the lay of the land starts to fall sharply as the Dinosaur Coast and the North Sea, glinting in the late summer-sun appears, calling us ever closer.

Soon we’re heading up Raithwaite Hall’s long drive and through part of the 100-acre estate that includes two hotels, holiday cottages and century-old gardens. Check-in is seamless and we’re soon being shown to our home for the weekend: the twobedroom Gardeners Cottage. It’s a compact but pretty affair, made of Yorkshire stone and with one brick over the door inscribed 1850 – presumably the year it was built.

Inside, it’s packed with mod cons including a contemporary kitchen, huge flat-screens, squidgy sofas and a small garden patio with wrought-iron furnishings. Andrew and I are keen to unpack and relax but Alice and Lilly are raring to go. Ordinarily, the girls would win out but Raithwaite is so dog-friendly, we put in a call to the ‘dog concierge’, who happily picks them up and takes them for a run on the beach, while we take advantage of the Nespresso machine to rustle up a couple of coffees and sit out in the late-morning sun.

 

Just over an hour later and the girls are back with us, panting away as they come up  the path. It’s clear Lilly has been splashing around in the waves and given it’s my weekend off, the last thing I want to do is start running a doggy bath, so we head to the palatial dog spa in the grounds of Raithwaite’s second hotel The Keep.

It’s well equipped with holding pens for dogs who are waiting to be seen, dog baths, drying tables and a small boutique – not unlike my own salon Shampooches back in Harrogate.

Aside from regular grooming, there’s a whole host of doggy treatments on offer from aromatherapy spa treatments to Dead Sea mud baths, a well as a doggy hotel that can house larger dogs that you might want to take away with you but are too large to keep in a regular hotel room.

Alice is a Crufts winner and can be quite particular about who grooms her – usually me – but Lilly, desperately in need of a bath after being on the beach meets in-house groomer Zoe Partridge. Zoe tells me she’s been grooming for more than four years and you can immediately tell that she has a real affinity with the dogs.

Grooming can be a lengthy affair – especially the post-bath drying – and given Zoe and Lilly are getting on like a house on fire, we leave them to it and head to the terrace for a glass of Prosecco. There’s a musician playing laid-back live tunes – it’s a perfect Sunday afternoon ‘do-nothing’ moment.

Later, with Lilly back in the fold and back at the cottage, the girls lounge on the sofa while we ready ourselves for dinner. Before we head for our table booking, we find both dogs dozing, so we take advantage of a solo romantic meal in the Brace Restaurant. We eat in the conservatory, which has a relaxed, informal atmosphere. I start with squid with chargrilled aubergines and then lamb, while Andrew has ham hock with poached egg, followed by beef on the bone.

The next morning affords us the chance of a rare lie-in, followed by breakfast and a walk around the impressive gardens that have seemingly hundreds of types of roses, before we check out and load up the car.

While our time at Raithwaite is sadly at an end, we’ve a whole afternoon to explore before heading home. Whitby train station beckons where we jump on the iconic North Yorkshire Moors Railway that runs as far as Pickering.

Trains on the 26-mile journey can either be pulled by steam engines or vintage diesel locomotives and we embark on one of the latter, chugging slowly through tiny villages, pretty stations and back over those sprawling moors. Dogs are, of course, allowed (as long as you’re not in a dining carriage) and Lilly and Alice love sticking their heads out of the window as we pass through the platforms.

We ride as far as Goathland – the setting for Aidensfield in the TV show Heartbeat – before returning to Whitby to pick up the car for the journey home. On the way, we reflect on the perfect family weekend getaway. We’ve adored every minute, but just as importantly, the girls have loved being pampered and preened too – it seems it really can be a dog’s life after all!