There has been a “fantastic response” to the reopening of an historic drovers inn in one of North Yorkshire’s most picturesque villages.

The Owl at Hawnby, near York, is a hidden gem in the heart of the North York Moors National Park and is now being run by Yorkshire-born chef Sam Varley and his team.

Sam commented: “We only opened at the end of last month (November) and there has already been a fantastic response. We have been bowled over by the generous comments and feedback we have received and it is wonderful to see this very special inn buzzing with fun and joy again.

“We have been consistently busy as the word spreads that we are open and I am very proud that we are now putting Hawnby on the map again. This is such a beautiful part of Yorkshire and it deserves a welcoming and successful inn.”

Sam is chef and co-owner of Bantam, the Michelin-acclaimed restaurant in Helmsley, which has attracted positive commentary in the national press from neighboring Michelin-starred chef Tommy Banks. Bantam is now also listed in the top 100 local restaurants nationwide in the Good Food Guide.

“It is important to stress that Bantam is in very good hands with head chef Shane Leadley, and general manager Alex Foots, while I relaunch the Owl. We are both now building up to Christmas and we are determined to make this festive season the best ever at both establishments.”

Sam revealed that the Owl would be launching a special Christmas menu shortly, with the restaurant being open all day on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve, when four of the Owl’s nine bedrooms have already been booked.

One of Hawnby’s great attractions is that it has been named as one of the best places in the whole of the UK to watch and appreciate the sky at night. It is a Dark Sky Friendly Village and a Go Stargazing Site, thanks to its light pollution levels, distance from nearby towns and cities and being a safe place to park. Special lights have been installed around the village, and outside the Owl, to reduce light pollution.

Mike Hawtin, of the North York Moors National Park, has praised Hawnby for being a pioneer in the authority’s Dark Skies Initiative, saying: “We're aiming to show how relatively easy it can be for communities to take a similar approach to the one at Hawnby and help us protect the pristine qualities of our dark skies. Hawnby will be the first village to go even further by converting both street and external building lighting when the project completes at the end of this year."

Sam commented: “What could be better than combining a splendid evening meal at the Owl with a serious dark sky gazing session?

“Meanwhile, as we plan and executive our special Christmas menus, we are fortunate to be part of the Hawnby Estate, which has a plentiful supply of game, beef, lamb and vegetables, while the wonderful North Yorkshire coast, with its abundance of fish, is less than a hour away.”

Jamie Savile, from Mexborough Estates, commented: “The arrival of Sam at the Owl is great news. In only a couple of years, Sam has established Bantam as one of the finest restaurants in area. Bantam is already in the 2023 Michelin Guide and has had glowing reviews in both the national and the regional press.

“I am very confident that Sam’s move to the Owl will be a tremendous success, making the most of the inn’s enormous potential. Sam and his team all share our enthusiasm and desire to build a sustainable and successful rural hospitality business and in particular it is great that Sam shares our love and understands the importance of the classic British country pub.
Jamie added: “Sam’s CV speaks for itself. We are extremely fortunate to have him cooking here in Hawnby, with the surrounding area now becoming a real culinary hotspot with the Star at Harome, the Black Swan at Oldstead and the Abbey Inn at Byland all having stellar reputations.”

Follow the Owl’s Instagram page, the_owl_hawnby for updates and visit for menus and opening times over Christmas.