Racking up nearly 30 years at The Blue Lion, find out more about owner Paul.
The Blue Lion was originally built as a shooting lodge and evolved into a coaching inn around 1840.
The hotel was run by the same family for 3 generations from 1856 to 1989, until the previous landlady (Bessie Fletcher) died. Bessie Fletcher’s reputation was well known around Wensleydale, with beer being served in a jug straight from the barrel in a back room - although only available Monday to Saturday (that was if she liked the look of you!), as on Sundays, Bessie was the organist at the parish church and the pub was closed - no exceptions!
The Blue Lion was the last public house in England to have a 6-day license.
Paul and Helen Klein took over the Blue Lion in 1990 to make it what it is today, including installing its first bar! Whilst there have been alterations and amendments over the years, as the Inn is a Grade II listed building, attention to retaining the character and history of a Dales inn has been paramount in our minds. For instance, the courtyard rooms are in converted stables, which once housed the horses for travelling tradespeople.
The name ‘The Blue Lion’ was given to the pub when it was built. It is taken from the Bruce family coat of arms which belonged to the Earl of Ailesbury, who at one time owned the local East Witton estate. On arrival you’ll notice that we still have the original pub sign on the front of the hotel, whilst not that easy to maintain, we feel that as an important part of the history of our Inn, we can’t replace it!
The current owners Paul and Helen Klein have run The Blue Lion for nearly 30 years, creating a blend of quintessential English coaching inn with modern comfort to relax and recharge.
I was almost born into it because my father was always a general manager in catering around the country and I left school at 15, so I went naturally into catering too. When the opportunity for The Blue Lion came up, I was very fortunate in getting it – that was almost 29 years ago, and I can’t image life without it now.
I was born in Yorkshire but lived in the Cotswolds for quite a while, too. So, I have been fortunate to live in two lovely areas of the UK. But I love the lifestyle of living in the Yorkshire Dales, both the people and the stunning countryside
It’s a traditional coaching inn, that is atmospheric, with old fashioned values with an emphasis on professional services and looking after our customers.
The bar area is my favourite – it’s cosy, especially as the weather cools down and we get the fires roaring, so it’s the perfect warm up whilst enjoying a drink. There’s always a bustling atmosphere too, just home from home.
I love the cassoulet of Yorkshire duck leg – all the ingredient are things I really enjoy eating. It’s actually a recently developed dish, which is proving to be extremely popular with our guests, so I’d certainly recommend that one. Though if that’s not available, we’re well-known for our game and fish dishes.
We’ve created a really comfortable environment in The Blue Lion. We’re discreet and we aim to consistently offer an exceptional service for our guests, which I guess keeps them coming back. The inn encapsulates the finest elements of traditional rural England, nested in the heart of Wensleydale and surrounded by the Dales, it’s a really pleasant place to visit.
Our house Claret is actually my favourite – it’s a Bordeaux that we’ve had on the wine list for about fifteen years – it’s consistent, a great taste and quality that is good value for money.
In the summer playing tennis, which our guests can also do on the nearby local village court. Shooting in the Dales and Salmon fishing on the nearby River Ure, in fact we own our own fishing stretch on the river, guests come and stay to enjoy their fishing holidays here.
It would be the Santa Caterina on the Amalfi Coast – I was lucky enough to holiday in the area a couple of years ago, it’s simply stunning scenery. The hotel offers good Italian dishes and service blended with a little bit of luxury. When I’m travelling I’m always on the lookout for new ideas that we could adapt for the Blue Lion – in my industry, the more you travel around the more ideas you get.
Our staff! My wife Helen and I have worked together for over 29 years to build a family team. Some of our staff have been with us for over twenty years, others whilst newer comment on the fact they feel they’ve joined an extended family. Our children Hannah and William have both worked here, not that they do now, we’ve encouraged them to explore and follow their own career paths.
Growing up I always played around in my Nan’s Kitchen and I became interested in cooking by watching her create meals from scratch. She used to make really hearty soups and stews. Homemade rice pudding was my favourite. Nothing fancy, just simple food cooked well.
I never really thought about it until I was in a kitchen pot washing. I enjoyed cooking at home and thought why not get a job doing something I love. I thrive on the speed and challenge of it all and especially creating great food that people love.
The interaction you get from making food …the compliments from customers give me such a buzz. Your job is to feed the guests. If they’re happy, then you have done what you set out to do…there’s no better reward than that.
You'll find some things that are familiar, but there will also be some exciting new dishes as well, all designed with guests in mind. Oh, and I also want to offer grab-and-go lunches for passers-by who want to spend the day in Wensleydale doing outdoor activities but experience a quintessential country Inn lunch too.
Everything! I have great bosses in Paul and Helen Klein. They are very supportive which gives me confidence in what I am trying to achieve.
We work closely with R & J Butchers to source the very best in local meat. The new lamb dish is sourced less than 10 miles away from The Blue Lion Inn. We are in a perfect location for great produce and I believe we do it justice. We’ll have lots of specials too so always keep a look out for our latest tasty offerings.
Fergus Henderson; when I got a copy of his ‘Nose to Tail’ book, it was mind blowing. It also teaches you to use all of the animal, which I firmly believe in. Michael Wignell is also someone I really look up to as a chef. I was lucky enough to be at a master class a few years ago....it was the most inspirational talk I have ever heard.
My Victorinox pastry knife – a chef’s essential knife. It’s a great all-rounder. I don’t think I know a chef without one.
I’d like to say a nice big bowl of moules frites, sat in the sunshine or our amazing seasonal game dishes we cook at The Blue Lion. But to be honest my Nan’s rice pudding, sitting with my family around the table with a cup of tea would come out top!
The Good Pub Guide Inn of the Year!
The Blue Lion has been dining pub of the year three times!
The Blue Lion is a Michelin Guide recommended Inn with Rooms
Chef Jon Appleby – is taking the food festival scene by surprise with his outstanding British Menu demonstrations
2018 Finalist Welcome to Yorkshire – Inns and Restaurants with Rooms
2018 Paul Klein – Living North, Living It Up Q&A Interview
2018 Blue Lion Chef Jon Appleby takes part in the Yorkshire Chefs Help for Heroes Game Cookery Competition with Simon Crannage
2018 Blue Lion Chef Jon Appleby returns to Countryside Live to cook for the Yorkshire Vet
2018 Blue Lion Chef Jon Appleby demonstrates at the York Food Festival
2018 Blue Lion Chef Jon Appleby demonstrates at The Great Yorkshire Show
2018 Blue Lion Chef Jon Appleby demonstrates at the Great British Food Festival, Harewood House
2017 Blue Lion Chef Jon Appleby cooks for the Yorkshire Vet at Countryside Live
2017 Voted Number 1 in North Yorkshire by the Good Food Guide
2017 The Sun, 15 of Britain’s Best Pubs with Rooms
2016 Esquire Magazine – 60 of the Best Pubs in Britain
2016 Welcome to Yorkshire Pub of the Year Finalist
2016 Yorkshire Life, 12 of the Best Dinning Pubs in North Yorkshire
2015 Yorkshire Life Dining Pub of the Year Finalist
2015 Telegrapher Travel, Fiona Duncan, “I’m Home”
2014 The Good Pub Guide Inn of the Year
2014 Yorkshire Grand Départ passes the Blue Lion’s front door
2014 Living North Inn from the Cold
2013 Jamie Oliver stays at the Blue Lion
2013 Dining with 007 – Craig Daniel visits The Blue Lion
2013 The Sunday Times Travel Magazine – Six of the Best Pubs with rooms
2010 The Sunday Times Recommended weekend stay
2009 Julia Bradbury named The Blue Lion as her favorite restaurant
2008 Guardian, Angela Harnett’s Favorite Places
This is the second time we have stayed the night and dined at the Blue Lion, what a belting place. I have eaten in many places and this place is up at the very top. A country pub/hotel who's food is absolutely fantastic, the rooms are comfortable and the people are friendly. We will be back again, I can recommend this place you will not be disappointed, just brilliant .
- Tom A from Trip Advisor