A Hotel Fit for a Duchess ; Tradition and History Meets Modern Luxury in Georgiana's Old Stamping Ground

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THE Devonshire Arms sits on a lush river plain on the outskirts of the village of Bolton Abbey in the Yorkshire Dales.

Huge hills, dotted with heather, fan out on three sides. As we stepped out of the car, our daughters, aged six and three authentic townies squealed to see sheep grazing.

From the moment we walked in through the front door, past a neat row of wellington boots and fishing rods, it felt as if we had arrived at the home of a well-to-do family. Doubtless that is the intention of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, whose family have owned this land since the 18th century. The celebrated Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, played by Keira Knightley in the new film The Duchess, used to holiday on the Bolton Abbey estate.

While a sense of history pervades the hotel, it is not stuffy and has a mix of traditional and contemporary design.

As the friendly staff explained, the more conservative furnishings and paintings were chosen by the Duke's mother, Debo, the last surviving Mitford sister. The funkier decoration and vibrant-coloured chairs in the newer wing were picked by the current Duchess, Amanda.

This theme of ancient and modern extends into the bedrooms. Our Beamsley Suite was traditional and, with two bedrooms and two good- sized bathrooms, is perfect for a family. Better still, the children's room is up a staircase, away from the parents.

The best rooms have their own theme.

One is called Photographer, with modern photos taken by a Devonshire scion.

Another is the Artist's Room, with soothing watercolours and a modern greysteel bath. Some of those in the older wing such as Park Top, named after a racehorse owned by Debo's late husband are showing their age a little.

For our long weekend we knew there was no shortage of treats: a Michelinstarred restaurant called The Burlington, a relaxed brasserie, lots of good walks and a pool and spa.

Our girls were most excited about the 40ft indoor pool, with a high ceiling open to the roof beams and no restrictions on what time children can swim. There is also a Jacuzzi, steam room and Espa treatments. I recommend the malegrooming session, including a massage and facial. My only mistake was to agree to look after the kids afterwards.

Most people come to enjoy the countryside and it is stunning. As we drove around admittedly not in high season we saw more cyclists and pheasants than cars. On our first day we visited Bolton Abbey, a ruined 12th-century priory, less than a mile away. The setting, overlooking a wide bend in the river, is gloriously tranquil. …