It’s a rare town that can offer an array of fashion-forward animal print designer goodies, then five minutes down the road give you the real thing.
But that’s part of the beauty of Bawtry.
Once an inland port, this exceedingly pretty South Yorkshire town now boasts designer boutiques, several interesting watering holes and of course the nearby Yorkshire Wildlife Park.
Most of the action is along the main street or just off it, with the occasional quaint quadrangle and enticing alleyway to explore.
We stayed at the four-star Crown Hotel, whose reputation preceded it somewhat as family members on the husband’s side were married there not so long ago.
In fact there was a wedding taking place when we arrived – not that you would know as all such shenanigans take place in a special area away from the main bar and restaurant.
Priding itself on a combination of rustic and contemporary charm, our room was spacious and tasteful in relaxing hues of beige and chocolate.
Staff were friendly and efficient, the in-room toiletries were suitably fabulous (Gilchrist and Soames no less) and the bar was bustling, although the booths near the restaurant were the perfect spot to relax and enjoy a cheeky glass of wine before our meal.
The Crown prides itself on its restaurant and no wonder. Twinkling chandeliers cleverly constructed from wine glasses and sleek leather booths create an intimate yet relaxed atmosphere.
If you can bear to share, superb platters are just the thing. But if there’s a danger of coming to blows over the last tangy jalapeño or plump stuffed pepper, fear not.
The menu is extensive enough to please the most discerning diner – vegetarians included. Moules mariniere were declared magnifique, and were followed by equally impressive medallions of beef.
Deep fried halloumi is a personal favourite and the Crown’s version was up there with the best. Ditto the goat’s cheese risotto which was fulsome and creamy.
Our six-year-old is probably harder to please at the dinner table than either of us – good news that he could basically order what he fancied. Cue cheesy garlic bread, home-made fish fingers and one very happy boy.
Whatever you do, save room for dessert as they are a thing of beauty. To our shame we had to share a sticky toffee pudding between three – we’ll know next time not to eat for a week beforehand.
Breakfast was a similar affair. Vegetarians are often somewhat short-changed on a morning; not at the Crown. Two veggie sausages, egg, field mushrooms, sautéed potatoes, fried bread... need I say more? I certainly couldn’t have eaten more. And the full English is all that and more, with black pudding to boot.
With heavy hearts (and groaning waistbands) we bid farewell to the Crown and headed the short distance to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park.
Visitors are thankfully not discouraged from wearing animal print so, cheetah print bag in hand, we set off on a fascinating journey that took us across the plains of Africa, through the woods of Madagascar and to the wilds of Siberia.
It’s hard to comprehend that you’re less than half an hour from Doncaster as you are mesmerised by the beauty of the Amur leopard, one of only 35 in the world. You forget that Robin Hood airport is a couple of miles down the road as Siberian tigers slink around their enclosure.
The giraffes exuded elegance; the marmosets were mischief personified. And the baboons are just utterly fascinating. We watched them for the best part of an hour as they scampered, preened and generally misbehaved for their adoring public.
Take time to read the moving story of the magnificent rescue lions, then be furious and also ashamed at the ignorance and greed of the humans who have wiped out so many species of leopard and tiger.
The only slight disappointment in a wonderful day was son’s choice in the gift shop. He shunned cuddly meerkats and beautiful books for a jelly rat. Typical.