Photo by Kumar Sriskandan
The people of Yorkshire, the largest county in the United Kingdom, are known to love their local produce.
That much is evident at The Bell, Driffield’s oldest pub and hotel. Opened as a two-up/two- down inn in the 1700s, it has been added to over the years to become a real Ali Baba’s cave of a hostelry. Old stone wells, once used to draw water, have been covered with glass allowing people to peer into seemingly bottomless pits, original deeds for the property are displayed on the walls and there is even the town’s original chalkboard bus schedule on one of the walls.
It has a higgledy-piggledy feel, aided by the uneven old flagstone floors but is, at the same time welcoming, largely thanks to owners George and Rita Rigg who have owned the inn for more than 40 years. “The locals and our guests don’t want fancy food,” says George. “They come here for old-fashioned comfort food: giant Yorkshire puddings with gravy and our pies, made with local beef from the town’s CN & AF Tindall Butchers. It is all washed down with a pint of Wold Top or, for those who prefer it, a bottle of local Blue Keld water.”
Not everyone who lives here is a local with a long history. Despite the dour image some hold of Yorkshire folk, there has always been a strong sense of welcome for those from outside the county, borne out by the large Indian and Pakistani communities in Bradford and Rotherham, alongside Leeds’ sizeable Jewish population.
Neil and Joan McClair, owners of the Low Mill Guesthouse in Bainbridge, are more recent settlers. The couple, he a former builder and she a vet, gave up their jobs and home in north London after just one visit to the Dales four years ago. “We came up for a weekend,” says Neil. “We were visiting the village of Hawes and I spotted the mill was for sale. It had been on the market for years and I fell in love with the building so much that we went back home with the idea of moving here – and we have never looked back.”
The 18th century stone corn mill, once a vital part of village life, has now been transformed into an award-winning guesthouse. Backing onto England’s shortest river, the River Bain, much of the original millworks, including the waterwheel, remain in working order, while its three bedrooms have original touches such as stripped wooden floors and beamed ceilings.
“I’d never been to Yorkshire before, but I immediately felt at home,” Neil adds. “We were a little concerned about how we would get on with the locals – but they have been amazing. They seem so pleased that a historic part of the village was renovated and was bringing business back. And we try and support them where we can by buying local.”
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