Yorkshire's highest pub Tan Hill Inn confirms plans for rustic spa and open-air pool

Change is coming to one of Yorkshire's most iconic pubs.
The Tan Hill Inn is Britain's highest pubThe Tan Hill Inn is Britain's highest pub
The Tan Hill Inn is Britain's highest pub

The next two years will see a series of developments at the Tan Hill Inn in Swaledale - the highest pub in Britain - in a bid to attract and retain visitors.

After suggestions from cyclists and walkers that the pub provide salt baths, they've now decided to convert a disused patch of land to the rear of the building into an Icelandic-style rustic spa with an open-air plunge pool, sauna and hot tubs.

Winters at Tan Hill are famously challenging and drinkers have been trapped by snow beforeWinters at Tan Hill are famously challenging and drinkers have been trapped by snow before
Winters at Tan Hill are famously challenging and drinkers have been trapped by snow before
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Other renovation plans include a kitchen extension, a stargazing conservatory, a rooftop micro-observatory and a semi-underground grotto spa built into the landscape.

They've even been able to recycle old stone left over from the demolition of a set of 700-year-old cottages in the 1930s which they found lying in a pile of rubble on the site.

Bradford-based businessman Andrew Hields and his business partner bought Tan Hill in the summer of 2018 and have relished the challenge of transforming it.

"The next stage for us is to replace the ugly, disused areas behind the pub and bring them into use. We've had a massive increase in cyclists and Pennine Way walkers coming to us, and we meet their beer and food needs, but we want them to be able to relax even more. We started getting cyclists asking us for salt baths!" said Andrew.

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The rear grounds are naturally protected by a boulder formation which makes it an ideal spot for a sheltered year-round spa.

"Ninety-nine per cent of our customers are supportive of our plans. We want to maintain the rustic, earthy feel, so we've had plans drawn up for a low-lying plunge pool that's partially enclosed. It will be beautiful in summer but can also be used when the snow is here, which will increase our winter occupancy. It's going to have an intimate feel."

Guests staying in the nine recently-refurbished rooms will be able to use the spa but visitors can also buy a day pass for access.

"We've also got this place called the 'Black Hole' which is actually built into the landscape. We've cleared it out and we've just had our Santa's grotto in there. We're going to put hot tubs inside it.

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"We're adding an extension to the back with room for a bigger kitchen, as we serve 300 meals a day now, a beer cellar and changing rooms for the spa. The micro-observatory will be on the roof. There will also be three new guest rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows and balconies.

"We're replacing the shipping container that used to house our generator with a brand-new building, and we've been able to upcycle the old stone from the cottages for that."

Andrew had already announced plans for stargazing 'pods' as they aim to take advantage of Tan Hill's status as a designated Dark Skies location, and believe the additional developments will complement the pods.

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"The pods will bring people in, but we can accommodate them now and the changes will justify the investment in the pods. We will have more facilities, but we will keep the core of what Tan Hill Inn is."

The extension is expected to be completed within 18 months with the spa to follow afterwards.

"It won't be a polished urban spa - we are limited to only using three materials, including Yorkshire gritstone. It won't detract from the natural surroundings and we are not changing the pub, just the area that nobody used - it was a caravan storage site before.

"We do get people saying we are ruining the character or overdeveloping it, but we also have 40,000 Facebook followers and the feedback is that the rear area used to be a bit of a mess and that it is there to be enjoyed."

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Andrew is recovering from a busy Christmas season which saw them welcome visitors to see their reindeer herd and Santa in his grotto. Group sizes were limited to 30 and Andrew had to tow many customers up the hill with his Land Rover when snow fell.

"We limited numbers as we don't want queues. The snow made the experience great - people love seeing reindeer in their natural habitat. We're going to make it into a December tradition - we've got the isolation, the snow, the atmosphere and the journey. We were inspired by Thomas Cook's Lapland flights disappearing - we wanted to lessen the pain for people."

Since taking over at Tan Hill, Andrew has had to catch up with years of overdue repairs - they've spent £50,000 on electrical rewiring, £15,000 on the generators and £50,000 on the kitchens.

"We've had to learn about certain customers - it's been challenging and the pub was poorly maintained. But it has been amazing - there hasn't been a second when I've regretted it. I like a challenge and it keeps life interesting.

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"There's so much that goes on up here and such a lot of energy. We don't just want to be the highest inn in Britain - we want to be a beacon for the Dales, so that customers who come here stop off somewhere else and spend money there too."

On January 12 the Tan Hill Inn will be visible to millions of ITV viewers when it appears in the 10th series of the Northumberland-set detective drama Vera. The pub was the only location allowed to keep its name and signage during filming.

"It's a heck of a business - people make at least a two-hour round trip to come to us, which is a huge compliment."

The plans for Tan Hill in the new decade

- Dark Skies: Stargazing pods, conservatory and rooftop micro-observatory

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- Rustic spa: An open-air, half-enclosed plunge pool, saunas, hot tubs, changing rooms and underground 'Black Hole' open to residents and day visitors

- Three new guest rooms - there are currently nine - with balconies and large windows for stargazing

- A reindeer herd and Christmas event including Santa's grotto

- A £25,000 kitchen extension and new beer cellar

- A new generator house built from recycled 700-year-old stone

- Minibus service to local villages to collect B&B guests

- Improved relations with local B&Bs