This is what it's like to run a bed and breakfast in the Yorkshire Dales

It was on a Valentine's weekend break in Malham Cove that Andrew and Louise Macbeth first fell in love with Beck Hall.

Beck Hall is tucked away near Malham Cove in the heart of the Dales
Beck Hall is tucked away near Malham Cove in the heart of the Dales

The couple, who were living in London and who met while working in Dubai, were on the lookout for a country bed and breakfast to realise their dream of running a dog-friendly hotel.

They'd headed to the Dales to view another property, but spotted 18th-century Beck Hall instead and made an offer soon after discovering that it was on the market back in 2014.

Andrew and Louise Macbeth with their dog Wookie

Five years later, Beck Hall is one of the most beautiful and forward-thinking guesthouses in the Dales, and Andrew and Louise have welcomed their four children - two sets of twins, now aged three and two - since arriving in Yorkshire.

Beck Hall dates back to 1705 and was built as a yeoman's cottage. By the 1930s, an explorer named Mr Hardacre had stumbled upon the derelict house while rambling through the Malham area, and brought it back to life as a wayfarers' hostel. The business was handed down to the Boatright family, who ran it for several generations, and by the time the Macbeths arrived, it was a traditional bed and breakfast owned by a Canadian woman which catered mainly to large groups of walkers.

There were already guest bookings in place when Andy, Louise and their rescue dog Wookie were handed the keys, and the couple were thrown straight in at the deep end, having never worked in the hospitality trade before.

"We'd really stumbled across Beck Hall - we had started looking for somewhere to buy and we knew we wanted to move back north - I'm from Lancashire and Andy is from York. We saw this fairytale cottage and it all happened quite fast!" explains Louise, a former magazine journalist.

The outdoor seating area for the restaurant, The Secret Garden

"It lacked a bit of TLC when we first arrived, and it was a bit rundown. There was no food element - there had been a teashop at one point but that wasn't running, and the booking system was still paper-based! It needed bringing up to date.

"We arrived in summer so it was already full of guests. We were suddenly in charge - we had to quickly adapt, and there were only a handful of staff at the time. We had to learn to cook breakfast for 40 people, do housekeeping, make packed lunches - it actually turned out to be quite good preparation for having a big family!"

The process of transforming the accommodation into their vision of a modern, welcoming hotel and restaurant was a gradual one, as renovations had to fit around guest bookings.

The couple have two sets of twins, born just a year apart - non-identical Bonnie and Milo, three, and identical Rupert and Teddy, two

"One night we had no guests so we decided to do the lounge - we were painting until the early hours. We did the bedrooms one by one, and in four years we replaced all the bathrooms. We did the decorating ourselves. There was an old-fashioned breakfast room that we wanted to renovate so that we could launch an evening food service.

"If we ever had a quieter night, we'd take the little radio out - it just about stretched to the local pub so we'd sprint back up if we got a call from a guest!"

They advertised for a chef to run their restaurant, The Secret Garden, and only had one applicant - but luckily, she was of the highest calibre and remains at Beck Hall today.

Many of the hotel's loyal regulars supported the Macbeths, including a couple who had been visiting for over 50 years, but gradually the demographics of the clientele began to change.

There are stunning views from the waterside restaurant

"In the past there had been a lot of big groups of walkers who had taken over the whole place and who would wander into the kitchen to make a brew. We're a very professional operation now, with 22 staff, so those hardcore walking groups who want self-catering have gone elsewhere. We get mostly couples looking for a good holiday atmosphere.

"We get a lot of dog owners too - at first we had a snug with a table for people who wanted to eat with their dog, but we were finding there was a queue for it, so we did a swap. Now the breakfast room is dog-friendly and the snug table is reserved for people who don't want to eat around dogs. We don't want the concept to be too dog-centric or to feel unclean."

The arrival of their young family has brought its own challenges, but the Macbeths have now moved off-site and combine childcare with running their business.

"It was actually a blessing, as having the children enabled us to hand things over a bit and let the duty managers blossom. We split the childcare 50/50, one of us will stay at home while the other goes to Beck Hall. It works really nicely."

In 2017, a major extension was added to the restaurant, which now has a new bar and glass doors opening onto the nearby stream, while two more deluxe bedrooms were built in 2018.

"The best part of running the hotel is the team environment and working together. We have to make our guests' stay special for them - they've taken a chance on us and made sacrifices to save money to come here. Seeing really nice reviews is so rewarding. Every day is different, it's never boring.

"There have been a few challenges over the years - we've always tried to stay open during building work and make sure our staff still have a wage. At one point we closed half of the hotel and got a yurt on the lawn for the restaurant. People loved it and asked if we could keep it!

"There are ongoing challenges within the industry - there's a nationwide shortage of good chefs. We'd never managed staff before and we suddenly became employers, but we've always tried to offer our staff a good work-life balance with generous wages and holiday. As a result, we've got a team who are worth keeping.

"You've got to believe in your ideas and learn from your mistakes. Our team understand each other now and we've formed a close bond."

The Macbeths are now working towards getting a rosette for their restaurant, introducing wedding packages and renovating the kitchen. They are also committed to ethical values.

"We use local meat suppliers - there are so many on our doorstep that use sustainable farming methods. Guests can see the cattle from our farmer grazing on Malham Tops."