I first went to the Blue Lion in East Witton about a decade ago. I was a guest of the Northern Racing Writers Association, which convenes for dinner there at least once a year, and I soon understood why.
The handsome greystone inn is found beside the village green in a picture-perfect corner of the Yorkshire Dales. There’s a smart dining room on one side of the entrance hall and an atmospheric front and back bar with flagstone floors, oak settles and blazing log fires.
We ate in the bar and I’ve continued to do so on numerous return visits. The food is top-of-the-range, gastropub fare, all locally sourced, with a particularly strong focus on game – including pheasant, partridge and grouse, in season, shot just down the road on the Jervaulx Estate. It caters for around 100 shooting parties a year and the area is truly a sportsman’s paradise.
The River Cove trout stream flows through the village and Middleham, the Newmarket of the north and home to dozens of racing stables, is only two miles away. There are five racecourses within an hour’s drive and, if you want to make a grand tour, the Blue Lion has 15 prettily decorated bedrooms divided between the old house and the converted stables next door.