As part of our Green Traveller's Guide to The Howardian Hills, Paul Bloomfield picks out a selection of pubs, tea rooms and farmers' markets for local food and drink in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the north of England, between the Yorkshire Wolds, the North York Moors National Park and the Vale of York.
Mention Yorkshire and one food comes to mind immediately, the famous Yorkshire pudding but it’s the local 21-day aged Aberdeen Angus beef that goes with it that will impress the most. The Howardian Hills is also famed for its lamb, some of which ends up in the dishes of Michelin starred chefs.
Then there are regional cheeses, hedgerows bursting with fruits and flowers that are picked for cordials, jams and chutneys, home-grown organic produce and home-made breads, all sold at a farmers’ market voted the best in Yorkshire.
Wash it all down with cider, beer or apple liqueur brewed by the monks of Ampleforth abbey and you’ll soon agree that you can feast rather exceptionally on produce sourced within the Howardian Hills served in charming village pubs.
The Durham Ox
The ox after which this gastro pub is named, grew enormous and was immortalised in a 19th century print, hanging in the bar. The reputation of this 300-year old oak-panelled pub in Crayke is growing to equally immense proportions. In ‘top ten’ lists of national newspapers, the quality food has an emphasis on local, interesting ingredients. Sunday lunches are particularly famed. Try roast Yorkshire beef with Yorkshire pudding. For afters? The cheeseboard has smoked Yorkshire Blue and Rhuby Crumble, a Wensleydale with Yorkshire rhubarb and vanilla. Try with a vintage port. Handcrafted, intriguing, delicious, superb. That about sums it up. thedurhamox.com
The White Swan
Slow roast belly pork on mashed potato with Ampleforth Abbey cider sauce and sliced apples is just one of the main course choices you may find on the dinner menu at this cosy country pub in the village of Ampleforth. The cider is made in the abbey a stone’s throw away. There’s a choice of dining areas – from formal (bookings required) to fireside and informal. At lunchtime there are Yorkshire ham and piccalilli sandwiches, homemade soup of the day or Swan burgers…no, don’t worry, they’re not. thewhiteswan-ampleforth.co.uk
The White Horse Inn
There’s a warm welcome from Pete and Nikki at their 18th century inn, with its open fires, candles and flagstone floors. Even dogs get a treat from the bar. In the village of Ampleforth, visit on Tuesday lunchtime and you could meet older villagers enjoying the seniors lunch, a bargain at £4 for a main if you’re over 60. Food, from local ingredients and cooked to order, features favourites such as chilli con carne and fish ‘n’ chips. There are traditional hand-pulled beers and local guest ales; a beer garden and board games for children. Closed Mondays.
The Queen's Head
Less a pub, more a Chinese restaurant, The Queen’s Head is famed for Cantonese cuisine. The menu’s as long as the wall of China. Beware the infamous numtung, a very spicy Malaysian style sauce that “will leave those brave enough with a numb tongue!” Vegetarians will love the selection of non-meat dishes. Try tofu kung po or sizzling Cantonese mixed vegetables and broccoli with ginger. It’s not only some dishes that are bright green. Space heating is from a ground-source heat pump, there are low energy light bulbs throughout and water is heated by rooftop solar panels. Numtung! queensheadamotherby.co.uk
The Crown and Cushion
This gorgeous 18th century pub is located in the heart of Welburn, with period features aplenty: log fires, oak panelling on the walls, brass pans over the fireplace. There's an elegant dining room for special occasions and a super terrace for sunny afternoons. The team believes firmly in sourcing the freshest, local and most sustainable produce; the menu features dishes such as rack of Dales lamb or pub classics such as fish and chips and Yorkshire steak ciabatta. thecrownandcushionwelburn.com
This fine Yorkshire manor house, with Tudor origins, nestles on the quiet banks of the River Rye, where you may spot otters if lucky. This National Trust property is open to the public most days. There’s a walled organic garden and, inside, period rooms revealing stories of the house’s occupants. Floorboards in some rooms have been replaced with glass to show the many objects that have slipped between the cracks over centuries: pins, scraps of fabric, playing cards, a comb. There’s a collection of miniature rooms (like sections of a doll’s house), exhibitions and a tearoom with garden. nationaltrust.org.uk/nunnington-hall
Tucked away in a serenely beautiful valley, a mile outside the village of Ampleforth, this 19th century abbey, its church and catholic school is a tranquil and inspiring place to visit whatever your religion. Wander among the grounds, visit the church on an organised tour, find out more about the history in the visitors’ centre or just call in to the fantastic café, where apples from the abbey's orchards feature heavily on the menu – stop by for afternoon tea with delicious apple cake or a lunchtime ploughman’s with a glass of cider. ampleforth.org.uk
Hovingham Village Market
Hovingham has had a market since 1279 but over a century ago it ground to a halt. Now the market has been reinstated and is winning awards. In 2012 it was voted best Yorkshire Farmers’ market by Yorkshire Life. On the first Saturday of every month from 10.30am, there are some 30 stalls selling local produce as well as arts and crafts. It’s a perfect place to stock up on meats, cheeses, breads and all your self-catering needs, or just pick up supplies for a picnic or a souvenir to take home. There's a community café run by local community groups. The market is run by volunteers on a not for profit basis. hovingham-market.org.uk
Ampleforth Abbey Shop
Ampleforth abbey, home to an order of Benedictine monks, is worth a visit in itself, but with a shop selling ‘monastic produce’ that would tempt Adam, it’s irresistible. Ampleforth Amber Liqueur is an award-winning tipple made from cider brandy mixed with apple juice, aged in oak barrels. Beer has been made to a similar recipe for hundreds of years and Father Rainer’s dry cider, from their own orchard apples, is strong and, with its final fermentation in the bottle, “quite lively!” You could place a (Benedictine) order to be delivered to your self-catering cottage. abbeyshop.ampleforth.org.uk
Castle Howard Farm Shop
Central to the farm shop at Castle Howard is the butchers’ counter, selling meat sourced within a 30-mile radius, much of it from tenant farmers on the estate, such as Aberdeen Angus beef hung for 21 days and Howardian Hills lamb. There are regional cheeses, artisan breads, scones and other bakery items from Castle Howard’s own kitchens and fruit and vegetables, some from the stately home’s own garden. castlehoward.co.uk
Seaves Farm in Brandsby has a farm shop specialising in its rare breed meats. A Brandsby pie, such as a rare breed pork pie topped with onion marmalade and Lancashire cheese, would be a perfect picnic treat to pack for a long hike. The shop, selling Highland beef, pork, lamb, wild venison and game, is open four days a week or you could place an online order – such as an Old Spot taster box - and have it delivered to your holiday home so that you can enjoy the best of local produce from the moment you arrive. lovepastree.co.uk
As traditional warming winter tipples go, it’s hard to beat sloe gin, made from London Dry steeped in mouth-puckering sloes and sugar. It’s not just gin that gets the sloe treatment from this multi award-winning family business in the Howardian Hills. Vodka, whisky and brandy also, unusually, succumb. Once they’ve suffused the alcohol with their rosy colour and (Yorkshire) hedgerow flavour, the tipsy fruit is turned into chocolates and chutneys. Brilliant. Look out for their products, including a new herbal, fruity number said to be great in summer cocktails, in over 300 shops nationwide or order some online. sloemotiondistillery.com
For information on local food and drink, nearby visitor attractions and activities, see our