Known for his travels, while assessing the latest modes of transport, Iain Robertson does reside at some of the most outstanding places around the world and one recent location impressed him immensely.


No matter where I stay on my travels, I have been fortunate to enjoy some truly lovely locations, many of which are private, although a great many are members of a group. Natural Retreats is one of those groups and perhaps one about which you are not familiar; I know that I was not, until experiencing its premises in North Yorkshire, just northwest of the delightful market town of Richmond.

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Although the road to the Aislabeck Plantation, Kirby Hill, North Yorkshire (DL10 4SG) is unsigned and single-track narrow, my car’s sat-nav guided me to it without a hiccough. Entering the dry-stone dyke gateway to be confronted by a choice of two arrows (one to the left for accommodation, the other to the right for the main office), I turned right for the reception area.


As my host was actually Volvo Cars, that the venue presents a Scandinavian-style of presence was compliant with its client’s aspirations. The entrance suite is smart, minimalist and cosy, with plenty of Swedish-style furnishings and an air of welcoming comfort. I had parked my car in the cinder surfaced area just a few yards away from the wood and stone building.


After registration, I received my lodge key and was provided with directions to No.7, which was all but invisible from either the roadway leading to the plantation, or from the reception area. For me, this was a good start, especially had I been seeking privacy in a (dare I use the trade name?) natural retreat.


About as far removed from a hotel in the countryside as I could imagine, the sustainably-built wood and stone lodges are accessed along a smooth tarmac road that winds its way down into a secluded wooded valley. While the wonderful landscape and vista from the top of the hill is quite spectacular, the ‘secret’ valley into which I descended, seeking my car park spot alongside the subtly signposted lodge to which I had been allocated accommodation, was green and very beautiful.


Taking my luggage to No.7 was not a major inconvenience along a wood and log chipping pathway, with sleepers for steps up the final few feet to the ‘front door’. The slightly elevated position of the lodge ensures both a pleasant view over the valley, while leaf cover adds to the atmosphere of privacy, even though the next lodge is only a few yards away. Yet, apart from the wildlife, of which there is plenty, there is nothing whatsoever to disturb residents.


The entrance hall of the lodge contains outdoor clothing cupboards and laundry facilities, should residents be contemplating a longer stay. An inner door opens to an open-plan living-room cum lounge, which is entirely glazed (with roller-blinds for added privacy) by sliding doors that open the room into nature.


A very comfortable, high-class, bespoke furnished, L-shaped seating/relaxation area is provided with a wall-mounted television, with video and games facilities for guests, and a large solid wood coffee table in the centre. A ground heat recovery system provides plenty of warmth to the interior. The kitchen facilities, should you use them, are comprehensive, with cutlery, utensils, pots and pans, coffee-maker, toaster, crockery and glassware neatly lined-up and ready for use. There is no slogging over post-prandial clean-up duties either, as a dishwasher serves that purpose. A ‘welcome pack’ of snacks that includes fresh milk, bread and bottled water in the refrigerator helps guests to get comfortable and acclimatised.


A surrounding verandah includes deck-chairs, tables and recliners to take advantage of relaxing south-facing daylight hours, while a raised seating, picnic area and fire-pit are located in total privacy to the rear of the lodge for those nocturnal hours.


The bedroom, one of three in the lodge, is a double, with en-suite wet room. If guests forget to pack shampoo, wall-mounted dispenser bottles are full of high-end liquid soaps. There is plenty of space for storage in a walk-in wardrobe and a chest of drawers. However, the bed is worthy of extra comment. When I laid my head on the beautifully soft pillow, with zero distractions from a TV, radio, or outside lighting, I can tell you that I was asleep comfortably within five minutes. However, I awoke precisely eight hours later, having enjoyed one of the best night’s sleep of my life.


If that aspect alone sums up the Natural Retreats’ premise, then I, for one, will be delighted to return and perhaps even take up more permanent residence!


If North Yorkshire is your destination, the Coast-to-Coast pathway is within easy reach, just as are the rolling hills of North Yorkshire, even the Scottish Borders, should you want to venture farther afield. By the way, the lodges are all animal friendly too, if you want to take along man’s best friend for the ‘ride’. Yet, Natural Retreats operates from several British, European and US locations, all finished in the same sustainable style as Aislabeck. Each lodge costs from £170 per night (with accommodation for up to six persons, which equates to just over £28pp/pn, a veritable bargain!), which makes it exquisite for a family holiday, a long weekend break, or a celebration of some sort. Contact: (0)1625-416430 to make a booking, or to receive Natural Retreats’ excellent and informative brochure.