A Yorkshire rendezvous

SkiptonGR Back of Rendezvous Hotel with the canalside restaurant
SkiptonGR Back of Rendezvous Hotel with the canalside restaurant
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HEARD the one about the hotel owner who is so popular with his staff that a chef and housekeeper invited him to their native Poland for their wedding having met at work?

The local population don’t mind him either with one couple spending 50 romantic breaks there in the last few years even though they only live five miles away.

The proprietor in question is 80-year-old Malcolm Weaving who ran a textile factory for 30 years before going bust in the 1980s and then turned his hand to the trade with his second wife, Karen (who is 20 years his junior). After running guest houses on the Isle of Arran and the Scottish mainland they bought the Rendezvous Hotel, just outside Skipton, eight years ago after Malcolm informed Karen he was coming out of retirement.

I took an instant liking to Malcolm when he gave my partner and I a guided tour of the hotel which has 80 en-suite bedrooms set over five floors, eight function rooms, private dining for four to 400 and conference facilities from two to 400 delegates. Despite using a walking stick while he awaits a hip operation he showed all the enthusiasm of somebody half his age and had a constant twinkle in his eye. No wonder his workforce seem so happy as he seemed to know everyone by their first name and stopped to have a word with everyone we passed.

The hotel, which is situated just a mile from the market town at the ‘gateway’ to the Yorkshire Dales, also has a leisure club featuring a swimming pool, steam sauna and whirlpool spa and a newly-reurbished gym for both its 500 local members and hotel guests.

The jewel in the crown of the Rendezvous, however, is undoubtedly its restaurant and in particular the conservatory which backs onto the Leeds-Liverpool Canal and is a great spot to enjoy breakfast or a fabulous evening meal, complete with marvellous views of rolling hills, joggers, people walking their dogs, or the upteen narrowboats which cruise past at a leisurely maximum speed of four miles per hour.

Our spacious double room for two-night stay was located on the second floor at the same level as the restaurant and overlooking the canal so we couldn’t have asked for a better spot. The hotel’s staff motto is ‘If you see someone without a smile, give ‘em one of yours’ and there was plenty for us to smile about.

The philosophy is obviously working because in June this year the Rendezvous was awarded runner-up in the National Group Travel Awards 2012 (Best Individual Hotel for Groups category).

Fittingly, given its location and the area’s industrial heritage, the outside of the Rendezvous was originally built to look like a giant mill and it is certainly an impressive sight, both from the main road and the canal towpath itself, which we walked down to get into Skipton itself.

The town centre is a winning combination of oldy worldy shops, pubs, cafes and a market which lie in the foreground of a medieval castle whose main claim to fame is the three-year siege it endured in the English Civil War as the only Royalist stronghold left in the north. After a negotiated surrender in which the garrison marched out ‘with colours flying and trumpets sounding’, Oliver Cromwell ordered the removal of the castle roofs, which owner Lady Anne Clifford was allowed to replace a decade later.

Today the castle remains in remarkably good condition, although it is crying out for an audio guide to accompany a tour of its dark and atmospheric interior, rather than the tour sheets we had to make do with.

A few miles away from Skipton is Bronte country and specifically Haworth, but to get there we left our car at the village of Oxenhope to take a journey by steam train on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway.

Now I have always enjoyed travelling by train and this five-mile each way journey was a treat, going through some marvellous countryside on a thankfully sunny autumn Saturday afternoon. The station next to Haworth, Oakworth, will forever be known as the location for the classic film The Railway Children. The scene where the released from prison father appears on the station platform after the smoke from the train has dispersed will be a childhood memory of many, including myself, and came flooding back as our train trundled past, while the next station along, Damems, claims to be the smallest railway station in Great Britain.

At one end of the line is Keighley, which I had been to before, but there is no doubt that the main attraction on the line is the village of Haworth itself. The Haworth Parsonage was the home of the literary sisters from 1820 to 1861 and anybody who has ever read the classic novels Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights must take a tour of Charlotte and Emily’s home (not forgetting Anne of course) which is now a popular museum. Having been a couple of times before, this time I gave it a miss and instead spent a lazy couple of hours walking up the main street and stopping in a host of quirky shops before watching the world go by in one of the many tea and coffee shops.

There are many other places to visit in the area, whether it be the quirky (and recently flood-hit) Pennine town of Hebden Bridge, Harrogate and Knaresborough or even York. A perfect central base for all of these attractions is the Rendezvous Hotel which in December is planning some party nights on the SS Rendezvous, offering the ultimate cruise and dining experience. Certainly we found the hotel and its surroundings a voyage of discovery and the perfect rendezvous point for a great, relaxing short break.

The Rendezvous Hotel

Keighley Road, Skipton, North Yorkshire, BD23 2TA, 01756 700100, www.rendezvous-skipton.co.uk, reservations@rendezvous-skipton.com

Double rooms from £65-£150.