I’m peering through the hotel window, buttered toast in hand, when the rain starts hammering. Conversation turns to plans for the morning’s walk. Did we remember to pack the waterproofs?

Scooping up a forkful of scrambled eggs, I try to look hopeful.

We’re getting ready for our first day in the Yorkshire Dales. This area of stunning natural beauty is all about walking – there are the Yorkshire three peaks to conquer for a start, plus plenty of remote routes, all promising sweeping views.

We study the map but decide it’s safer to stay closer to home – our “home” for the day being the luxurious Devonshire Arms Country House Hotel And Spa on the Bolton Abbey estate near Skipton.

Luckily they’ve thought of everything, including brollies by the front door. Waterproofs on, we tramp off across the estate.

We’ve been on the riverside path for no more than ten minutes when we spot the ruined Priory towering ahead. As we approach, the rain lifts and visitors start to clamber on the ancient stone, faces turned towards the winter sun.

The Priory is 12th century and, after the dissolution of the monastries, the nave was allowed to continue as a church – today it’s the thriving Priory Church of St Mary And St Cuthbert.

As the old walls crumbled over time, the practical Dales folk thought it a shame to let all that good stone to go to waste, so they pillaged it for buildings up and down the Wharfe valley.

The 30,000-acre estate is owned by the Duke of Devonshire, with more than 80 miles of footpaths, including woodland and moorland tracks.

It’s easy to get lost, which we do, but spot a tearoom and re-fuel on giant toasted teacakes before decamping to the hotel.

The 40-room Devonshire Arms has a country house feel, complete with log fires. It includes the award-winning four AA-rosettes Burlington Restaurant, which offers fine dining but with friendly service – this is Yorkshire after all.

It’s worth splashing out on the inspirational British food of new head chef Adam Smith – the 25-year-old Roux Scholar moved north after working at The Ritz in London.

Next we’re heading to the historic market town of Kirkby Lonsdale. The drive is stunning, even through windscreen wipers.

We get a warm welcome at the five-star 17th century Sun Inn and yet another nod to the weather; boots, macs and umbrellas can all be borrowed. Meanwhile, owners Mark and Lucy Fuller provide a list of local walks suited to wellies.

Kirkby Lonsdale is the perfect base as it’s perched on the border of the Dales, Lake District and Lancashire. Think cobbled streets, traditional butchers and boutique shops.

The Lake District might be better known but the Dales has some of the best walking opportunities in the UK.

Designated a National Park in 1954, it’s magnificent – one of the best views is from the soaring limestone crags of Malham Cove.

It’s also cycling country and the area will really be put on the map when the Tour de France sweeps in next July.

But for now all that can wait.

The cosy Sun Inn bar and AA-rosette-rated restaurant suddenly seem far more appealing.

A perfect pint is calling, followed by a plate of ten-hour cooked local lamb shoulder in front of the woodburner.

The wellies will still be there in the morning.

  • The Devonshire Arms Country House Hotel And Spa has a Brollie Break offer in January and February from £65 per person. Try the taster menu at the Burlington Restaurant or choose the more informal Devonshire Brasserie and Bar. For more details on the hotel, call 01756 710441 or visit www.thedevonshirearms.co.uk
  • The Sun Inn runs Gourmet Food Breaks – a Wild About Cumbria evening in March 2014 will feature produce caught, picked and foraged in the area. Prices start from £89.50 per person sharing a double or twin room. For more information, call 01524 271965 or visit www.sun-inn.info
  • For more details on Yorkshire Dales National Park, visit www.yorkshiredales.org.uk
  • For more information on Tour de France, visit letour.yorkshire.com