Stokesley and Great Ayton offer luxury beneath the Cleveland Hills
PUBLISHED: 14:12 22 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:47 20 February 2013
Lovely Georgian Stokesley and its neighbour Great Ayton provide an ideal stopping-off point for visitors to the majestic moors, as Gareth Dant discovers
Whether its delicacies for walkers picnics or bits for mountain bikers, there are many good reasons to call into Stokesley and Great Ayton.
But even if youre not planning to take to the nearby North Yorks Moors or head up Roseberry Topping, the areas most famous rocky outcrop, Stokesley and Great Ayton have more than enough to offer the day tripper, be it fashion boutiques and stylish interiors specialists or some of the areas best home-produced food.
Take Great Ayton, which proudly celebrates its status as the place where explorer Captain James Cook spent his formative years. It has a charming range of shops and eateries in and around High Green.
The River Leven weaves pleasantly through this large village, making a perfect partner for a leisurely amble from one end of its drawn-out High Street to the other.
Much further downstream, the Leven also provides a pleasant focal point for strolls in neighbouring Stokesley, behind its bustling market place and High Street. The towns fortunes have remained pretty robust in spite of the recent recession, and bitterly-fought parking charges, finally introduced by the local authority last year.
One business that has welcomed a silver lining from within the overcast gloom of the recession is Deli by the Green, set up by Sue Wharton almost 14 years ago after she left a career working in human resources.
The only specialist food retailer in the High Street, her business has benefited from belt tightening.
The recession in some ways has worked for us because we suspect people are doing more entertaining and celebration in, rather than going out, she said. We are bucking the trend in the face of the credit crunch and have seen growth in the last two years.
As well as food from the higher end of the market, the deli has seen growth in gift and food hampers, although the traditional deli counter offering still accounts for more than a third of its sales. People travel for the breadth of our range and for the food from local producers that we stock.
Singing Stokesleys praises, Ms Wharton points to fellow traders serving high-end markets, such as the designer homeware and interior shops scattered in Bridge Street.
I think Stokesley has developed as a town since 1993, when I moved here. It has very good independent retailers on the High Street and its doing well to keep its strengths.
This positive outlook is shared by estate agent Francis Rose, of Holmes and Rose. He has more than 40 years experience of the local property market.
Stokesley is a desirable area in which to live and work, he says. Its a delightful period Georgian town with very friendly people. The only downside to that is that, after 43 years here, it takes you half an hour to get down the High Street for a sandwich - you bump into so many friends and acquaintances.
After a 2008 which he describes as dire, last year was much better, and Mr Rose is now looking forward with much more optimism to an improving property market this year.
2008 was certainly one of the toughest years on the property side of things that Ive seen. There was a surge at the end of last year before the stamp duty holiday ended and, now the bad weather is hopefully behind us, people are coming out again.
Luxury comes in a tub
The past few years has seen a dramatic transformation and a distinct shift up-market for the 14-acre former caravan site run for 30 years by Rob and Julie Wray, virtually in the shadow of Roseberry Topping.
The couple are now retired. Their daughters, Jackie Wray and Amanda Wray-Ward, spotted and filled a gap in the market with their luxury lodges
Whinstone View now offers three highly-appointed lodges, each with a double bed and outdoor hot tub, and two larger, self-catering lodges that sleep four and are aimed at visitors looking to stay longer. Guests and day-trippers alike can take advantage of The Bistro, an attractive restaurant that is open seven days, from 9am to 9pm, complete with function room and large outside terrace for warmer weather. Amanda's husband, Peter Ward, heads up the kitchen. There is also a spa 'Quiescence' on site.
Amanda said the majority of couples using the smaller lodges, which are all equipped with high-tech audio-visual systems and stunning wet room en suites, came from local addresses.
'It's proved very popular with couples who just want to escape for a bit of luxury for a night, without having to drive too far,' she added.
Prices start from 230 a night for two, which includes a three-course dinner, bed and breakfast. For details, contact 01642 723285 or see www.whinstoneview.com.
Tell us why Stokesley and Great Ayton are special places for you. Do you live there, shop there or just enjoy the occasional visit?