Owning a border terrier with the prey drive of a Namibian lion means walks on-lead are a must. We made the mistake of letting him off once in a Coniston wood and he shot off quicker than Usain Bolt out of the blocks and disappeared from sight in way quicker than 9.58 seconds. So to arrive with said border terrier, Alfie for a weekend break at Holgates Ribble Valley and find a fully enclosed exercise field for him to safely run his little heart out, really was the dog’s dangly bits!
Yes, he could smell the sheep in the next field and it was heart-in-mouth time when he tried to burrow where the rabbits run as their scent no doubt teased him with every hop, skip and jump! But new park owners, Holgates have done a great job of fully securing the space for holiday home owners and holidaymakers to exercise their dogs free of the restrictions a lead brings.
The first thing that strikes you at Holgates Ribble Valley is how beautifully quiet and peaceful it is. Surrounded by lush green countryside in every direction, you can almost feel the stresses of the busy working week lift as soon as you turn down the long sloping drive toward the entrance. The park is looked after 24/7 by Park Manager Daniel and his wife, Jenny who no doubt offer extra peace of mind to holiday home owners when they’re both on or off site. As we were arriving after the sales office had closed, we collected our keys and check-in information directly from Daniel who pointed us in the direction of our home for the weekend – The Hazel – a 3-bedroomed ABI caravan designed exclusively for Holgates.
First impressions of The Hazel were overwhelmingly positive. You walk into the kitchen leading to a spacious open plan lounge and dining area with flat screen TV, plenty of seating and living flame fire. With Alfie’s bed positioned comfortably in front of the latter, he was soon flat out leaving us to explore further. The other rooms including two small twin bedrooms, a bathroom with surprisingly powerful double shower, separate WC, and master bedroom were all accessed by a long hallway. It was soon obvious that our holiday home had everything we needed to enjoy our weekend break.
After an early morning run around the field with Alfie, we had breakfast in the caravan and decided to explore some of the local area. With the rain putting pay to our original plan of a walk up Pendle Hill with friends, we instead ventured into nearby Clitheroe for lunch at the Bowland Beer Hall. A mix of fish finger butties and Bowland hot dogs washed down with a couple of pints of real ale – or in my case, coffee (designated driver!), we sat in amongst the lively atmosphere of the Engine Room. Dominated by a huge 1910 cross-compound horizontal engine from the original textiles mill, this was stripped back industrial chic at its most impressive!
We had it on good authority that any visit to Clitheroe isn’t complete without exploring the legendary D Byrne & Co Victorian wine shop. It holds quite literally thousands (around 8,000 at last count) of bottles of wine – some of which are tucked away in rabbit warren-esque underground caverns and others, on shelves so high, they have to be carefully retrieved using what must be extra-tall stepladders! With a lighter purse replaced with a heavier bag of classic Italian Valpolicella, we headed the nine miles back to Rimington.
Holgates only took over the park, better known as Rimington Leisure Park in early 2019, becoming the eighth park to join the 60+ year old family business. They know a thing or two about running holiday parks and with the third generation of Holgate family now at the helm, you can trust that at Holgates Ribble Valley is in safe hands. It’s already come on leaps and bounds in the last six months with new road tarmacing, sewage, lighting and security upgrades, and lots of new trees, hedging plants and flowers being added. There’s still more to be done but it’s clear to see how much money is being ploughed into the park with a new, exclusive 30-pitch lodge development being launched by spring 2020. The very first 40-foot Prestige Burleigh lodge had just been delivered and sited a couple of days before we arrived and it was a vision of more exciting things to land on the park in the coming months. As far as on-park facilities go they are limited, but add to the peace and quiet. As this is mostly an all-owners park, you would expect people’s holiday homes to already be stocked with everything they need. If not, there’s a great little bakery just a couple of minutes down the road in Gisburn for divine fresh bread and cakes. There’s also a small on-site bar and games room, which is much loved among existing holiday home owners for its friendly atmosphere. From chatting with other owners as well as Daniel and Jenny, the overwhelming view is that you buy a holiday home at Holgates Ribble Valley for the outdoors and the location.
Being in the heart of the Ribble Valley, you’re completely spoilt for choice when it comes to great, and most importantly for us, dog-friendly country pubs serving top-notch food. It’s no surprise that many feature in Good Food and Good Pub Guides, have Michelin stars, and win numerous awards for the quality of the food and drink. So, unless you book in advance, you’ve got little to no chance of grabbing a table on a weekend night. As this designated driver was itching to get back to the caravan to crack open the 2012 Valpol, we opted for the closest drive into Gisburn for dinner at The White Bull, a rustic, characterful pub with real fires roaring, fresh homecooked food and a friendly welcome and service. Needless to say, Alfie soon made himself completely at home in front of the fire!
After another blissfully quiet nights sleep (me), another invigorating shower (me), and another eyes-rolling-into-your-head-mad-dart around the exercise field (Alfie), we took ourselves off to the pretty market town of Skipton, just 12 miles from the park. For a first visit to Holgates Ribble Valley and the first time we’ve spent any real time around the Ribble Valley, the one thing that struck us was what a fantastic location it has. Just 15 minutes to both historic towns of Clitheroe and Skipton as well as various attractions including Bolton Abbey and Stonyhurst College, there are also walks in abundance from the park, and so many excellent places nearby for food and drink. It really is the perfect spot.
After a bracing walk around Skipton Castle woods, where the usual wildlife and birdlife were overshadowed by the somewhat bemusing sight of hundreds of Santa’s taking part in the town’s annual charity Santa Fun Run (and a 2-year old border terrier desperate to join in!), we walked around the markets before heading back to the park. We had planned to go out to try another of the great local pubs close to Holgates Ribble Valley but in the end, were enjoying the peace & quiet so much (we’re having building work carried out at home) that it was heaven to just put our feet up and chill out. We watched two films (unheard of!) and cleared the fridge of leftovers as well as gorging on doorstops of caramel shortbread courtesy of local producers on Skipton Market. No mobile phones, laptops or tablets in sight, and with only Alfie’s doggy dreams occasionally breaking the tranquility, we wound down and switched off for the first time in months and it was bliss.
The Ribble Valley has been officially dubbed ‘the happiest place in the UK’ by the Office for National Statistics and after that weekend at Holgates Ribble Valley, it’s not hard to see why. Hmmm, maybe we’ll plan a return visit in the spring to look a bit closer at that new lodge development…
Alfie’s top 5 things to do on a weekend at Holgates Ribble Valley (*spoiler…. may involve walking!)
- Pendle Hill – if you’re feeling extra fit, you can reach Pendle Hill direct from Rimington as the park sits in its shadow just a few miles away, but the most popular route is from Barley village. It can be quite steep & if you’re like me and get over-excited by the sheep; you’ll need a big drink afterwards in the Barley Mow. 5 miles.
- The Tolkien Trail at Stonyhurst – humans love this walk to follow in the footsteps of J.R.R Tolkien & see if they can find any links to his Lord of the Rings middle-earth. Me, I’m more interested in hunting out the Hound of the Baskervilles as Arthur Conan Doyle was a former pupil here. 5 miles.
- Pendle Sculpture Trail – As an alternative from Pendle Hill, I wanted to do this walk as I heard my human talk about the Pendle witches…and we all know witches have cats! I saw the witches but couldn’t find their cats. I did have a good sniff around a goblin and a unicorn deep in the woods but I still prefer cats and squirrels! 2-3 miles including approx. 1 mile walk from Barley village.
- Skipton Castle Woods – this is a good place to visit for any old boys who can’t manage long, strenuous walks any more as there’s a short route along the canal. *Warning – you’ll still pass the waterfall where your human will make you sit for the obligatory photo! Young pups like me can do the longer Earl of Thanet trail with more steps and more bridges – just be sure to dart over them really quickly in case your paws get stuck! Easy route – 1 mile / Earl of Thanet route – 2.5 miles.
On-site dog walking field – I had to put this one in here. My humans kept throwing a ball and barking on about how great it was to watch me run & run & run! At one point I did make myself a little dizzy from all those laps but it was lots of fun. Afterwards I had a long sleep in front of the warmest spot in the caravan. Anything from 1-5 miles going round in circles!