The Golden Lion at Settle – Review

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By Clare Jenkins, March 2024

The last time I visited Settle was on a trip along the celebrated railway line to Carlisle. My husband Steve and I were staying in a ‘snow hut’ at Dent, the highest mainline station in England, and spent a jolly few days travelling up and down the line, over the Ribblehead Viaduct, on to the book town of Sedburgh, across a landscape filled with wild places called Wild Boar Fell, Blea Moor (site of the remotest signal box in England), Dandry Mire, Gaping Gill, Scar Top…

We didn’t, though, see much of Settle, despite the station being so close to the centre of the small, sturdy market town. So now was our chance, on a Daniel Thwaites-inspired tour of North Yorkshire and the Lake District. The brewery firm own (and are gradually refurbishing) a swathe of inns and hotels across the north. We’d already stayed at their Red Lion in Burnsall and were on our way to the Langdale Chase hotel in Windermere. In between was The Golden Lion, perfectly placed for the Yorkshire Dales, Forest of Bowland and Lake District.

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First, though, we stopped off at Skipton, a place of reassuring down-to-earth character, like a North Yorkshire Cranford or Middlemarch. There’s a Victorian Police Station, after all, and a Rotary Club, a castle and a canal, and a fine parish church containing the 16th Century Clifford tombs and (at the other end of the social scale) an Anchorite’s Cell. Nearby: handsome four-square solicitors’ offices, including the memorably named Savage Crangle. Don’t mess.

The newsagents stocked Farmers’ Weekly, The Country Smallholder and Total Carp magazines, while the Carnegie Library offered bound collections of The Dalesman and the records of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society.

In the Oxfam bookshop, two schoolgirls were discussing the books. “Didn’t I get you that for Christmas, Laura?” asked one, pulling out Gunter Grass’s The Tin Drum. “No, you got me Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse,” said her friend. I don’t often hear conversations like that in our local Sheffield Oxfam shop. Nor find myself reminiscing about Gujarat in India with an Oxfam volunteer who’s also a Quaker health specialist.

Reflecting on life’s coincidences, we headed off to Settle, with a brief coffee stop at Grassington – teeming in summer, less so on a drizzly February Wednesday.

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Because The Golden Lion is right in the centre of the town, there’s no on-site parking, though we found a space in the adjacent Market Place for our overnight stay (collect a parking disc from Reception), and other car parks are within suitcase-carrying distance.

Once inside, the handsome stone-built 17th Century coaching inn offered a convivial rustic atmosphere, with walkers and locals clustered round the log fires in the oak-beamed Lion’s Den bar and lounge areas, chuntering over coffees or one of Thwaites’s award-winning pints of cask ale/beer. Unsurprisingly, it’s dog-friendly: “Dogs are our best customers,” said deputy manager Will Kitchen. “And they never complain.”

There’s William Morris-inspired wallpaper, old oil paintings of hunting and farming, stylish tartan armchairs, flagstone floors and a big stone fireplace. Suitably wonky stairs and sloping corridor floors led us to our front-facing Character Room – one of 14 bedrooms in all, of varying sizes.

Floor-to-ceiling curtains helped reduce any noise from the road outside, and earplugs were thoughtfully provided. Spacious, comfortable and high-ceilinged, the room – all soft neutrals and plaids – housed a good-sized bed, sofa, table, chest and bureau, a small tabletop fridge for fresh milk and a tiny teapot under a crocheted lion cover.

My only quibbles would be that another table lamp would have brightened the space – and blinds would provide some privacy for both guests and whoever lives above the Wholesome Bee Health food shop and in the handsome three-storey stone house (now apartments) across the road.

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“Traditional feel”

The refurbished restaurant has stylish bird-themed wallpaper, pictures of cows and quails, dark turquoise and burgundy banquettes. The menu is in keeping with the traditional feel of the place: pig cheek, prawns or mussels among the starters; a range of steaks, sausages, burgers or the famous Settle Pudding (suet pud filled with steak, veg and Thwaites ale), served (of course) with gravy, mushy peas and mash or chips.

Being inconveniently vegetarian, we went instead for beetroot tartare and leek and potato soup (very warming), followed by an imaginative cauliflower and lentil tagine, and tasty gnocchi with wild mushrooms and mascarpone, served with seasonal veg of grilled courgettes, kale and broccoli.

The next morning, after a substantial breakfast of fruit salad, cereals and scrambled eggs (walkers and runners attempting the Yorkshire Three Peaks fell walk probably go for the full English, both veg and non-veg), we spent a couple of hours exploring Settle itself. Arthur Mee called it a ‘bright old-fashioned town… a fascinating place to find among the fells’ in his 1940s King’s England. It looked a tad wuthering on a dark, dank morning, but still full of stern character, as we found while weaving our way in and out of ginnels and over cobbles, peering through stone archways, checking out chapels and other coaching inns.

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As though auditioning as the set in a J. B. Priestley play, it offers a Social Club, and a Victoria Hall (‘est 1853, the world’s oldest Music Hall’) with a café and an eclectic programme of theatre, music and cinema. Giggleswick Railway Circle meet there, to hear talks on ‘Rail cameramen’ and ‘Routes from Inverness’. There were adverts for a rock band called Revival of the Fittest and for Skipton Ukelele Club. Sadly we’d just missed Voodoo Room: A Night of Hendrix, Clapton and Cream.

Nearby is the 17th Century Quaker Meeting House and garden, advertising an Evening Temperance bar with soup or curry (‘Bring your own board games’), and a shop run by ‘Mary Milnthorpe & Daughter’.

The 17th Century Shambles in the Market Place houses a deli, café and shops within its six arches. Nearby (everything is nearby) is the excellent Limestone Bookshop, plus the gabled and turreted town hall and Ye Olde Naked Man café and bakers (nice coffee, offhand waitress). Most interesting to us was the large three-storey house, now disturbingly neglected, which was once home to Dr Charles Ruck, great friend of Sir Edward Elgar. The composer would stay with him on walking tours after travelling up from his Malvern home.

And so, quietly humming ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, we set off for Windermere and the Langdale Chase

The Golden Lion, Duke Street, Settle, BD24 9DU, tel: 01729-822203
Room rates, based on two people sharing, start at £130 per night B&B


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