Broughton Sanctuary, Skipton – Review

Broughton Sanctuary, Skipton Review (4)

By Matt Callard, March 2024

I’ve stayed in hotels, motels, hostels. I’ve tested out lodges, havens, cottages, caravans. I’ve indulged myself on cruise ships and divulged the painful truth about three-nights in a 24-hour theme park with a rollercoaster ride only a stone’s throw from the bedroom window. Once, I reviewed a “budget hotel” in Cambodia that was basically a ground sheet and a mosquito net. But, I’ve never before been to a sanctuary, not for work nor pleasure.

It’s a brave word, sanctuary – its meaning in a travel sense isn’t immediately obvious, and it carries too the faint whiff of religiosity or even cultism.

So what is Broughton Sanctuary – and what does it offer for a couple with three children, searching for a nature-fuelled UK family break that’s a deliberate giant leap away from the sugary cheap thrills of theme park escapism or seaside traditionalism?

broughton sanctuary review fields

The landscape of Broughton Estate in the Yorkshire Dales


Well, as first impressions go, it’s something rather special indeed. Broughton Estate’s almost-3000 acres of gently rolling Yorkshire Dales hillsides offers portrait-ready vistas at every turn. There’s farmland and woodland, beautifully managed natural spaces, water, winding pathways for bikers or walkers and, dotted around sparingly, 19 unique and immaculately restored holiday homes – converted from old farmhouses, barns, gatehouses and the like that the estate would have used for practical matters along its millennium-long timeline.

But that’s just for starters. First, you need to find your property (you’re given a key code for access) – and we were staying in one of the newest, Poverty Hill Barn. Don’t be put off by the name (it’s to do with the poor soil in its immediate area), because it’s a beautiful barn conversion – open-plan, minimalist, high-ceilinged, big-beamed – and with 360-degree views to die for from every window.

Its remoteness is either a blessing or a curse, depending on your own needs – and you do need to drive through a rough and ready working farm to get there.

Poverty Hill Barn is the furthest out, both geographically and spiritually, of any of Broughton’s properties. You feel a little apart from the main estate here (indeed, you do need to back-and-forth across the speedy A59 every time you move from property to sanctuary), but for us, it felt like a tranquil private paradise for three days. You had to look hard across the fields to find neighbouring lights – and the star shows were spectacular, even in the February mist and rain – and oh, what it must be like to be here in the summertime…

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Poverty Hill Barn

“Magnificent landscapes”

The main open living space and kitchen is nicely appointed, with a mighty dining table – and even if the lounge area is bijou, with a TV to match, it hardly matters. You’re not here to watch Emmerdale – but hey, the WiFi is good.

Bedrooms are splendid, each with their own en suite – and the beds, oh the beds, are just about the best we’ve slept in. The kids had to get their heads around sleeping downstairs as the main living areas are upstairs – a wise decision as you open the curtains on a morning to those magnificent landscapes.

Hockneys adorn the walls and there are books everywhere – and we’re not talking dog-eared John Grishams here. The books are big, beautiful and modern, often with a nature or self-help theme, but some are there only because they’re a genuine treat to read. The book theme runs throughout the estate, wherever you may be, and it’s a fantastic feature that adds depth to the stay.

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The pool in Avalon, Broughton’s wellbeing centre

“A nature twist”

It’s important to note Broughton is in transition. Its foundations as an adult retreat remain – that experience would make for a completely different type of review – and its journey to a family-focused holiday location is fairly new and still changing. The kids shouldn’t expect a thrill-a-minute rollercoaster ride here. For children, Broughton is a place to connect with nature and disconnect from devices. They may need a day or so to acclimatise. For us, after three days, our kids were fully immersed in the Broughton experience – more relaxed, less quarrelsome and competitive – in fact, I would very much have liked to have stayed longer, if only to see what benefits a weeklong escape from city living would have had on them.

That’s not to say there’s little to do. On the contrary. Broughton is packed full of entertaining gems for young and old alike, most with a nature twist and all with seemingly miraculous powers of rejuvenation.

Needless to say, our children loved Avalon, Broughton’s wellbeing centre. The pool was available at select times, although it’s adults-only at others. For the grown-ups there’s a sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi, as well as a relaxation room, gym and a shop full of good-for-you goodies.

There are terrific bike trails throughout the estate and all sorts of wonderful things for them to discover like stone circles, teepees, treetop nets, a fire temple, a cosmic garden – there’s even a wild swimming pond, should they be confident enough.

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The wild swimming pond at Broughton


On the second day our eldest enjoyed a superb pot making session with Kate Tempest in her idyllic studio – it was a great moment when he was presented with his completed and newly-fired pot just before we left.

Our kids were even lucky enough to visit a forest camp for the day (or should I say we adults were lucky enough to have the kids disappear for the day). Wild Explorers is an independently-run outdoor adventure group that uses Broughton to allow children to immerse themselves in a world where nature, excitement, and exploration combine. Equipped with genuine tools such as saws, drills, and peelers, children experience hands-on learning and there’s a daily campfire session, complete with roasted marshmallows. We picked up three very muddy but exhilarated children at 3:30pm after a long half day to ourselves.

Ah yes – the half day of total adult relaxation was a rare treat for mum and dad. A swim, a sauna, a floatation tank in Avalon followed by lunch in Broughton’s splendid plant-based bistro, Utopia (the poached eggs and the smoothies are to die for) where a glass frontage opens onto 18th century gardens. After some crucial time together really taking in the surroundings, we participated in a feel-good tree planting session that was only partly spoiled by the February rain.

The sum of all this was we discovered that nothing makes a family holiday better than a little time apart.

Broughton Sanctuary, Skipton Review house

Guided tours of Broughton Hall can be requested by guests


Back together, we were taken on a guided tour of Broughton Hall. It’s not open to the public, but guests can request a visit and a friendly guide will take you round and divulge some interesting history. The kids, too, will be delighted that they’re allowed to sit on the four-poster beds. There are no ropes and do not touch signs here.

Later, we went to the excellent independent gastro pub on the estate grounds, The Bull, where we gate-crashed Valentine’s Day evening with three very hungry children.

But it’s not just the activities that set Broughton Sanctuary apart. The Sanctuary is at the heart of an innovative and vast Nature Recovery Project. This rewilding initiative is a heartfelt commitment to addressing the contemporary crisis of disconnection from nature. The aim is to transform high-intensity sheep pasture into a mosaic of habitats that coexist and support both nature and agriculture. Through regenerative farming practices and dedicated areas for rewilding, Broughton is working to reignite natural processes and increase biodiversity.

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Winding paths offer biking routes throughout the Estate


In essence, Broughton Sanctuary is more than a mere holiday destination; it is part of a journey towards a harmonious co-existence with the Earth, a place where rewilding the land goes hand in hand with rewilding the spirit. It’s a space where families can not only relax and enjoy the splendour of the grounds but also engage with meaningful activities that foster a deeper connection with nature and each other.

So, if you’re seeking a family holiday that’s a deliberate leap away from conventional escapism, Broughton Sanctuary is a place where you can truly immerse yourself in the wonders of the natural world, rekindle your spirit, and create memories with your loved ones.

Yes, Broughton reclaims the word ‘sanctuary’ and elevates its concept – it is a place for body and soul, whatever your age.

Broughton Hall Estate, Skipton, BD23 3AE

Holidays at Broughton Sanctuary start from £520 for three nights in a 1-bed cottage, on a self-catering basis. Those looking to stay longer can avail of Broughton Sanctuary’s Early Bird Offer before 31 March.

Broughton Sanctuary offers over 130 beds for guests on retreats, ranging from the luxurious 16th Century ‘Broughton Hall’ itself (the location for numerous acclaimed films and TV serials) to an off-grid ‘Hermit Hut’ and cosy ‘Sanctuary Homes’. Home to one of the UK’s leading nature recovery projects with over 350,000 trees planted in the last three years, outdoor immersive activities include wild swimming, woodland saunas, forest bathing, ice bathing, sweat lodges, fire temple ceremonies, meditation labyrinths, moon baths and woodland dining in the Cosmic Garden. A walled garden bistro, ‘Utopia’ also serves plant-based delights, and in-house chefs in the historic house can cater to any requirement.

+44 (0)1756 799608


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