It’s always a struggle to find a campsite that is both pleasant to stay on and allows groups. Usually the group sites are filled with lairy groups of people playing guitar all night and having fires they aren’t meant to. I know this as I’ve been in one of those groups many a time. A few years ago we were looking for a group site, but this time the guitars had been replaced with toddlers so we needed somewhere quiet, accessible and with decent facilities. Cue Dalesbridge campsite. Only a 40 minute drive away from us up the A65 and into the Yorkshire Dales, it’s a part of the world that I’d driven past many a time on the way to the Lakes and thought it sounded a little too much like Auschwitz to be appealing. What a mistake that was. I’ve stayed there twice, the first time we had the benefit of good weather, a quiet time of year and the only pub in the village being open and serving excellent food (more about this later). The only downside was that Mr P had thrown himself in front of someone’s knee at football earlier that week, so he was at home practising on his crutches.
The second time was a couple of years later, and when we discovered the bar. The same group of families and friends had planned a trip, only for them all to cry off on the Friday because it was too cold and they were enjoying drinking their wine in comfort. Undeterred off we went. However our tent had been to Beatherder a good few times by this point, and was suffering as a result. Anyone who has been to Beatherder will know that packing your tent in such a way that avoids future mildew growth, is not your priority by the end of the weekend. We were in a chilly Austwick, the lovely pub I’d been talking about for two years was full to busting and had no unreserved tables all weekend, and the tent and sleeping bag had gone mouldy. Everyone we’d left behind at home was in a nice warm pub enjoying our friend’s band, and we were sat freezing outside a decrepit tent sulking.
Off we went to try out the bar. Now, spending the evening with a group of middle aged men from a mill town in Lancashire who are playing dominoes and discussing what I now know to be a prelude to the Brexit debate might not be everyone’s idea of a good time. But it was warm and dry and they served alcohol.
Dalesbridge is a really convenient site for us, and one that definitely should be remembered by those who live on the Lancashire-Yorkshire border. Too often we traipse all the way to the Lakes forgetting that we’ve got the beautiful Dales on our doorstep. Austwick is round the corner from Clapham and easily accessible for all of the three peaks of Yorkshire. The site is friendly, clean and whilst compared to some of the bigger sites it’s not as modern, it’s got everything you need. They specialise in groups and families, have got a big flat field with no drainage issues that I can remember, and they have other accommodation options if you’re not in tent. It’s also reasonably priced and they’re very relaxed about booking, though I wouldn’t take this for granted during the summer holidays.
It’s also worth considering making a trip just for the Game Cock Inn. It’s a ten minute walk into the beautiful little traditional village of Austwick, all red phone boxes, dry stone walls and posters for the WI. I believe the pub is run by a French couple, and the menu is a wonderful mix of traditional English dishes with a French twist, and a variety of other dishes.
As it was a bank holiday when we camped they were fully booked, and I suspect this is a regular occurrence. We called again last year, following a trip up to Coniston to climb the Old Man, which hadn’t left us sufficiently hungry enough to eat in the Lakes. We called into the Game Cock on our way home, which by now had become somewhat built up in Chris’s eyes due to his inability to ever get a meal there. It almost seemed like the same thing was going to happen again, but they squeezed us in and promptly stopped seating people for food. We’re so glad they did. As well as eating exactly the same thing as I did in 2012 and it being just as good, I got to try all of Chris’s choices and can confirm that they’re not a one trick pony.
A steak burger being held together with a very sharp knife looked the business, and tasted it too. The homemade chutney really complemented the flavours of the meat, and for some reason I’m a real sucker for a decent French dressing…which was always going to be good in a place like this. The game pie beat my Grandma’s (though I’ll be keeping that to myself), and the malteaser cheesecake, well, I’ve sent a few tweets about it so it’s fair to say that I’m a fan. Add to this a great beer garden at the back with a children’s play area, and both Peroni and Wainwright on draught. Had it not been a Sunday we’d have been trying to get a room for the night, and waiting for the crowds to clear so we could enjoy the pub for longer. The couple on the table next to us were testament to its brilliance, given that they came most weekends and took it in turns between driving and enjoying a bottle of lovely French red.
If all of it isn’t enough to tempt you to Austwick, whether it be passing through for a drive, camping with a gang or scaling the Three Peaks, bear in mind that Austwick is home to Great Britain’s silver medallists in pickleball. And if you want to know what that is, you’d probably better ring and reserve a table now…