Tan Hill Inn owners reveal new skygazing pods where you can eat under the stars

Striking dining domes have started to appear at one of Yorkshire's most iconic pubs, Ruth Dacey reports.

Famed as Britain’s highest pub, Tan Hill Inn, is offering the public some “festive cheer” and a chance to eat out in their own socially-distanced bubble, while gazing at uninterrupted views in one of the country’s most remote locations.

After wanting to take advantage of the area’s status as a designated Dark Skies location, and to meet financial challenges posed by coronavirus, three skygazing pods, which are heated and seat up to six guests around a table have been built at the Tan Hill Inn, in Swaledale.

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Britain’s highest pub, Tan Hill Inn, is offering the public some "festive cheer" and a chance to eat out in their own socially-distanced bubble. Photo credit: Tony Johnson/ JPIMediaResell

The domes, made out of polycarbonate, a material 200 times stronger than glass, are built to weather the perils of being located in one of the country’s most remote locations.

Being Britain’s highest pub, standing at 1,732 feet – or 528 metres – above sea level, it is well known for its wild micro-climates and the storms and, memorably, the pub, with its building dating back to the 17th century, starred in a Waitrose Christmas advert after its festive guests were snowed in for days.

“It’s surrounded by views, the beautiful cloud gazing and star gazing," said Andrew Hields, who bought Tan Hill in the summer of 2018 with his business partner.

The 35-year-old added: "As well as it being very ideal for Tan Hill and its surroundings, and its natural beauty and its landscape, it actually made a lot of sense from a Covid point of view.

Tan Hill has taken advantage of its status as a designated Dark Skies location by building three skygazing pods. Photo credit: Tony Johnson/JPIMediaResell

"Running up to Christmas overall it offers something a little bit special while giving you that security.

"What we have is an extra level of dining where you don’t have to interact with anybody and you still get to be warm, listen to music and have fantastic food and fantastic drink but without having to run a minor risk."

The Bradford-born businessman said the pub, is recovering from recent challenging times after it closed to avoid drawing visitors to the Yorkshire Dales during the coronavirus lockdown, which resulted in an estimate of £500,000 in lost trade, and placed staff on furlough.

He said: "Initially when we were locked down it massively affected the business...It was a difficult time."

Pictured, Andrew Hields, the owner of Tan Hill Inn for the last two years, has installed pods at the iconic Yorkshire pub, for diners to stargaze whilst enjoing their meal in private. Photo credit: Tony Johnson/JPIMediaResell

Mr Hields, who runs five other businesses in the construction and energy sectors - all of which had to close for a period, added: "It was a very challenging time, personally and professionally and for all of the businesses."

The pub has been busy putting a series of safety measures in place to adapt to the new hospitality landscape, coping in a Covid era including implementing a table pager system for customers, safety screens and implementing a one-way system.

"We have been ahead of the curve and ahead of everything when it comes to making our establishment safe," explained Mr Hields.

And as we edge towards the festive period there are further plans in place for Tan Hill, which is 12 miles from civilisation, to bring Christmas cheer to visitors, during "strange times".

Pictured, Nicola Townsend duty manager at the Tan Hill Inn sets the table in the pods where diners can stargaze whilst enjoing their meal in private. Photo credit: Tony Johnson/ JPIMediaResell

From next month there will be the opportunity to dine with Santa and live reindeers, for an extended period after it went down "a storm," last year.

“It’s a place, in the middle of nowhere, that has had to learn to adapt. It will offer a really memorable festive experience," said Mr Heilds.

This includes converting 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.

And a kitchen extension, a stargazing conservatory, a rooftop micro-observatory and a semi-underground grotto spa built into the landscape.

Mr Hields said: "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."

Andrew Hields, who bought Tan Hill in the summer of 2018 with his business partner.Photo credit: Tony Johnson/ JPIMedia Resell.

To find out more about Tan Hill, visit here.

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