“ Address: Low Dalby / Pickering / YO18 7LT / North Yorkshire / England „
I was Googling about looking for a nice romantic getaway for me and the other half last year when I came across Dalby Forest Lodges. "Luxurious Log Cabin Holidays in the heart of the North Yorkshire Forest Park" proclaimed the website. I had to take a look.
It turned out that the two lodges have been built by Andrew and Liz Cowley, who came up with the idea when they were both having time off work due to Liz being ill with cancer (she's fine now). Andrew is a Chartered Environmentalist, so they decided that rather than put up the average run-of-the-mill type log cabins that can be found anywhere, they would build eco-friendly cabins using locally sourced wood, with features including rainwater harvesting and living grass roofs on both cabins, which not only provide insulation but attract a variety of birds.
They sounded lovely, and with Dalby being nice and close for us North-Easterners, I booked us in for a weekend in March 2008. This was easily done - just a phonecall to Liz was all it took to secure our dates. I paid the balance upfront by card over the phone and received confirmation, receipt and directions by post a few days later.
The directions were excellent, although as the lodges are in Dalby Forest itself and very close to the Go Ape attraction, we found the area to be well signposted anyway. To access the lodges, you need to go via Dalby Forest Drive, a 9-mile toll road through the forest. This normally costs £7 for a car, but if you're staying at the Lodges the fee is waived. When we arrived nobody was manning the toll booth but if you're there in the height of summer I imagine you'd have to explain this and have your confirmation to hand.
When we arrived I have to confess I was disappointed at the proximity of the cabins to each other and to the Cowleys' home. Going from the pictures on the website, each cabin looks to be in its own little clearing in the Forest but in reality you can see into each others' windows - not really closely, but you can. There is space for about 5 or 6 cars, they ask you to arrange prior to arrival if you want to bring more than one vehicle. Similarly, pets are welcomed by advance arrangement. Mountain bike storage is also available.
We were welcomed immediately by the family dog and Liz, who showed us into the cabin and told us a few bits of info about how the appliances and such worked and the area, then left us to settle in. The cabin was much bigger and better equipped than I was expecting. There were two bedrooms, one twin one double, each with its own en suite. One of the cabins is built for disabled access and this is the one we had - there was a lovely extra large shower which is great if like me you're all elbows, and a ramp up to the front door. The bedrooms were basic, consisting of beds, bedside tables, wardrobes and dressing tables. Bed linen was provided but you do need to bring your own towels.
There was a TV and DVD player in the lounge area, along with a table and four chairs, comfy seats and a real fire. Some firewood and matches were provided but there was also a log pile in between the two cabins, along with a compost heap for any compostable rubbish. The remote location means that the TV comes through Sky, though the cabins only receive the five terrestrial channels and various radio stations. There are also a few DVDs, though they are mostly the type that come free with the Sunday papers so nothing too thrilling. This didn't bother us a jot, we put the radio on and played Scrabble and chatted in front of the fire in the evenings, it was wonderful.
The kitchen is very well equipped with everything you'll need to cook up your meals - pans, utensils, crockery, tea towels and oven mitts. There is a dishwasher, oven and hob, a fridge, and microwave. The cabins are rented out on a self-catering basis so you will need to bring some food with you if you plan on eating in them. You will certainly need any breakfast things and tea and coffee - although it was listed as self catering I was surprised that tea, coffee and sugar wasn't included and was pleased I'd brought tea bags. I don't know how far away the nearest shop is, but it won't be close so get your supplies in on the way! There is a café at the Visitor's Centre five minutes' walk away, but this is only open during the day.
Because the cabins were only built in 2007, everything still looked and smelled very new and pristine, not rustic as you might expect from a log cabin. There were a few personal artefacts dotted about though, such as the little owl ornament I liked, which gave the cabin a lovely homely feel. When we were there we could see the skeleton of a third cabin taking shape, but it seemed to be being built by Andrew and the family almost as a hobby project, so I'm not sure when that one will be available to rent.
There are various attractions at Dalby Forest, particularly for those of a more active disposition - notably the Go Ape assault course, which we thought would be a bit too much for us on this occasion but have since done and which I will review later - suffice to say it's fantastic!; and various different-coloured mountain bike trails, some of which looked positively lethal! Mountain bikes can be hired from within the Forest just outside the brand-new Visitor's Centre. There are also some way marked walks of various levels of difficulty. We did a couple of these and were hoping to see some wildlife but unfortunately the best we saw was a dead badger by the side of the road. There is a folder in the cabin containing details of other nearby attractions.
Prices are per lodge rather than per person and range from £135 for 2 nights midweek in low season up to £795 for a week in peak season. These are detailed along with lots more information and the booking telephone number on the website at: www.dalbyforestlogcabins.co.uk
We had a lovely time there and I'd say it's a brilliant idea for a holiday for couples wanting a romantic break and families wanting an active or back to nature holiday and the chance to spend some quality time together.
Come and enjoy your vacation in a cosy log cabin.