My wife and I had borrowed a motorhome for a weekend from Cannock-based Rising Brook Car and Van Hire and we’d been given a tip that the Yorkshire Dales was well worth exploring.
The great thing about motorhome travel is that, if you do get completely lost in the vast expanses of moors, mountains and reservoirs out in the national park, the absolute worst case scenario is that you simply pop the handbrake on, pull the blinds shut, fire up the central heating and wait for daylight.
Your creature comforts are all there around you, including the kitchen sink. If you have to park up at the side of the road because you’re tired of navigating endless miles of narrow twisty roads in the dark, you can. The sense of freedom is absolute.
We began our adventure, foolishly, on a Friday afternoon and a nasty accident on the M62 meant all roads north were heavily congested. Eventually reaching the pretty town of Skipton, heralded as the ‘gateway to the dales’, was a breath of fresh air in more ways than one.
Following a short refresher in a carachterful pub called the Woolly Sheep, we headed for the hills — which were a short hop from the town.
Using Google Maps on our smartphones, we’d tentatively decided to head for Malham Tarn, a lake at the southern end of the national park, with a view to stopping somewhere suitable and settling down for the night.
The scenery very quickly went from ‘pretty’ to ‘breathtaking’ as we climbed up towards the lake, which is nestled among miles and miles of open moorland.
With the dramatic views and steep climbs came challenging roads for us novice motorhomers. Thankfully, Rising Brook’s latest motorhome, one of a small fleet it has been building up over the last few years, is designed to be compact.
The Autocruise Quartet, as it’s called, is actually a four berth camper but it’s based on a van and, unlike other motorhomes with huge fibre-glass constructions on the back to house occupants, furniture et al, the conversion from van to motorhome adds nothing to the dimensions of the original vehicle.
This means it’s significantly more compact which, in turn, makes it easier to manouvre, park and — most importantly for us — thread through mile after mile of dry stone wall-lined narrow roads.
We couldn’t help noticing, as we began closing up the blinds for the night, that the verge we’d parked on had been covered by a light dusting of snow. It might have been the last weekend in April, but we were in for a cold night.
Thankfully, the motorhome had an excellent gas heating system and, following a comfortable night we woke up to a bright morning and a spectacular view on a quiet country road miles from any form of civilisation. What a great start to our day of exploration.
A little way up the national park from Malham and, without abandoning any of its stunning scenery, you soon reach the market town of Hawes.
The Yorkshire Dales National Park smartphone app (yes, I was surprised too) told us about the nearby Wensleydale Creamery’s invitation to watch cheese production in action and, sticking to the spontaneous theme of the weekend, we decided there and then to make that our next destination and set sail for Hawes.
It wasn’t far and the views were worth every horror-induced sharp intake of breath as we came close to clipping either a dry stone wall or an on-coming vehicle on the narrow roads — but I was getting very used to the size of the motorhome and its light controls and excellent visibility made nipping in and out of tight spaces surprisingly easy.
Wensleydale Creamery was fascinating. It was as interesting to learn about its turbulent history as it was to watch modern cheese production in action from a viewing gallery over the factory floor — but the best bit was the free cheese tasting at the end.
We spent a few quid in the gift shop and headed back to the van to plot our next move.
Now half way through our second day, we decided to spend a bit more time exploring the dales before heading back down through the Pennines towards the Peak District to avoid motorways on our return. Once bitten, twice shy.
After a day of driving round and admiring the pretty villages, picturesque rivers and reservoirs and rugged hillsides, we arrived at the conclusion that we must have picked one of the best times to visit the dales.
Spring was finally making its comeback. In sunny spots the leaves and the blossom were breaking through on the trees and lambs were everywhere — gambolling around enjoying one of their first tastes of sunshine. The whole place was coming alive.
On our way back down we decided our second overnight stop would be just south of the dales, and on the border between Yorkshire and Derbyshire at Holme Moss Summit — one of the highest points in England with views reaching off over dozens of miles.
It was cold and windy, but obviously very beautiful and the car park we stopped in — though deserted when we arrived — became very busy during the morning and we were glad of getting underway and completing our journey several hours later in Cannock.
During the trip we must have travelled around 500 miles in the Autocruise Quartet and I got to know it very well. While fundamentally similar to the other vanbased motorhomes on offer at Rising Brook, their new investment has a highquality feel about its fixtures and fittings.
There are a few design flaws but, fundamentally, it swallows up four people and their luggage very well.
There’s rear access, unlike Rising Brook’s other vehicle of choice, the Wildax Solaris, and much more work top space. The bed layout is complicated but comfortable and its blinds across all windows are a million times better than the fiddly screens on the Wildax.
If you do plan to rent a motorhome from Rising Brook, choosing between the two is nigh-on impossible. They’ve both got their own merits in equal measure. Choosing the destination, however, was the easy bit.
I highly recommend a visit to the Yorkshire Dales. It’s friendly, fun and very beautiful.
And I can’t think of a better way to see it all than in a motorhome.
A three-day weekend break in a Rising Brook motorhome starts from £345. A seven day hire starts from £575.
To find out more call 01543 502120 or visit www.risingbrookcarandvanhire.co.uk/motorhome-rental.
For more information on things to see and do in the Yorkshire Dales and surrounding areas log on to www.yorkshire.com