Nestled in the remote Yorkshire Dales, the hotel has withstood the elements for centuries, but is now grappling with a new challenge: the rising cost of electricity.
While carefully reversing, my car heard an unhealthy screeching noise as its four-wheel drive struggled for traction. I was on clear ice. It was remarkably clear on the main roads and in the towns, but as I turned onto bumpy bog trails for the last 30 minutes of my ride, conditions worsened mile by mile. It is a joy to visit Tan Hill Inn in december
Tan Hill Inn is secluded in the middle of the Yorkshire Dales, a desolate expanse of moors, dales and hills in northern England. When William the Conqueror’s surveyors ventured here in 1085, they left immediately, writing down a single word to describe the environment: “desolate.”
As Britain’s highest pub (standing at 1,732ft above sea level), this weathered 17th-century stone structure has long attracted locals and hardy travelers alike, but its remote location means a visit is not for the faint of heart. However, those who do make the trip will be rewarded with a cozy bar by the roaring fire, traditional British treats such as giant Yorkshire puddings and upstairs rooms if they choose to stay the night. As I approached the white land on the horizon, and underfoot thick ice and bleak moors as far as I could see, a little rustic hospitality was much needed.
The area around the Tan Hill Inn was once called “the wasteland” by William the Conqueror’s men (Image credit: Eibhlis Gale-Coleman)
It is amazing how the inn managed to survive for hundreds of years in such harsh conditions. Tan Hill regularly suffers from ice storms, snow drifts and strong winds. It became even more difficult to survive after that the British energy crisis of 2022 when the establishment’s electricity bills rose by £100,000 . Yet something about it still attracts thousands of ambitious cyclists, hikers, day-trippers, hikers and stargazers every year – Tan Hill’s high altitude and lack of light pollution mean the hotel is one of the few places in England to be graced by the occasional Northern Lights .
The area around Tan Hill has always been on the edge of British history. Its name comes from the Celtic phrase ” Tan Heol » (Fiery Hill), and since the 6th century Celts gathered here for fires, rituals and sacrifices. Tan Hill was also narrowly missed by a Roman road, and nearby in the parish of Stainmore, a legendary battle took place between the Viking Eric the Bloodaxe and an earl of the Kingdom of Northumbria. There is also local folklore, including rumors that Mary Queen of Scots and 18th-century outlaw Dick Turpin frequented it.
However, I would be surprised if any of these historic visitors ventured to Tan Hill in winter.
“I have only seen a sandblaster twice on this road [транспортний засіб, який розсипає пісок на дорогах у крижану погоду]Haley the bartender laughed as I walked inside. The bar was a mass of kitsch memorabilia and looked like a Yorkshire version of a Route 66 saloon. Draft beer was drawn from shiny gold taps, beer mats were pinned like stickers to the exposed ceiling beams, and a stand filled with inn calendars for sale stood by the bar. . I played it safe and ordered a cappuccino. Navigating these swampy paths home requires a clear mind.
In good weather, the hotel attracts tourists, hikers and stargazers (Image credit: Mark Dunn/Alamy)
I sat down on a stool by the fire, and a visitor called to me cheerfully from across the room, asking if I had seen a blue wagon on the road leading to the inn. When I said yes, her face lit up and she breathed a sigh of relief, “Okay, it’s still there.” She fell victim to a nasty bend in the road before a steep hill, and the van could not gain enough acceleration to negotiate the ice. The two women and their children were stranded – thankfully – and planned to re-attempt the journey and return to the main road. After an English breakfast, of course.
Hayley reappeared with a cappuccino and invited me to look around the hotel. She led me through the low, beamed ceiling and stone-floored rooms, then out into a converted barn with strobe lights and a concert stage. Before opening the next door, she pointed to a transparent igloo-like dome—“ours capsule , which watches the stars, is beautiful in summer.” Maybe it would be even more exciting in the winter under the northern lights if you could stand the cold.
The capsule was designed as a bedroom where guests could fall asleep under the stars. However, at least for now, the transparent dome is available for stargazing. Inside, the table is set with a chic white tablecloth and guests are served food under the darkest sky in the UK. The polycarbonate material is clear for optimal stargazing, but is 200 times stronger than glass – a necessary precaution given Tan Hill’s extreme weather conditions.
Those who want to spot the northern lights need to keep an eye out northern lights forecast and applications. November-February is the main “northern lights season”. Dark Sky Festival (running 10-26 February this year) hosts annual telescope events in the surrounding Yorkshire Dales National Park and most years hosts the event at the Tan Hill Inn. It’s worth a pencil, especially after the park was recognized in 2022 International reserve of the dark sky .
The surrounding Yorkshire Dales National Park was recently recognized as an International Dark Sky Reserve (Image credit: Stephen Dinsdale/Alamy)
You’ll need a clear sky to spot the Northern Lights, but Tan Hill has made headlines in recent years thanks to unusually snowy skies. In November 2021, three feet of snow fell outside the Tan Hill Inn during Storm Arwen, leaving those enjoying an Oasis tribute show stranded for three days. This story got into national news , and a meeting of snowy guests is planned for this year. The inn is adept at dealing with such calamities, and stranded employees and guests simply stay overnight in the hotel rooms upstairs. However, this poses some logistical and personnel challenges, and the team must think quickly and creatively to cope with the challenging weather. On one such night Haley did just that.
“I said that my husband has experience working in a bar – [тільки] not here,” she laughed, “but still bar experience. Together we ran the barn for over 100 people who attended the tribute night.”
Shortages are all too familiar in the hospitality business, especially in the face of a rising cost of living that squeezes profit margins. Tan Hill Inn feels these problems much more acutely, with harsher conditions, colder rooms to heat and a deep-seated concern that staff will not cope with their trip. When I showed up, teenage daughter Hayley was helping with the tables after another employee couldn’t come.
According to Tan Hill Inn manager Nicola, running such a remote pub requires strict organisation. Case in point: A pub relies on a diesel fuel supply for electricity. “As long as we order on time, we don’t have a problem,” she said. “The owner has updated the system and he can check online how much is left in the tank.”
The inn has been around for hundreds of years, but rising electricity costs are now threatening its survival (Image credit: Eibhlis Gale-Coleman)
However, even the best laid plans are fragile and Nicola spoke of some bumps in the road. In 2019, an ice storm damaged the power generator and guests and staff left the evening by candlelight. And once the diesel was stolen, as a result of which the inn was left without electricity again. “Our chef cooked breakfast on the barbecue and I boiled water on the fire in the main bar to make tea and coffee. Later that day we had an emergency delivery of diesel,” she said.
All too soon it was time to settle the bill and get back on the desert roads to zip my way home. Tan Hill’s strength lies in its entrepreneurial drive and family spirit, a resilience instilled by centuries of braving the elements. Each day brings a new idea, event and problem to solve.
I’m keeping an eye on the Northern Lights forecast this month. As soon as I get the high alert, I know where I’m going to order dinner.