LOUISE MIDGLEY steps back in time with a visit to historic Middlethorpe Hall in York
As the mellow brick facade of Middlethorpe Hall came into view I had every expectation that this majestic country pile would be the ideal venue for my husband and I to recharge our batteries, especially after a tiring four-hour drive up the M1.
We were greeted with a warm Yorkshire welcome and shown to our spacious room where hand-made chocolates, fresh fruit and home-made shortbread biscuits lay waiting. Heaven for a sweet-toothed girl like me!
The room overlooked the grounds where neatly clipped box hedging, immaculately manicured lawns and tidy borders were rolled out like a stunning oil painting. A view of neighbouring York racecourse completed the picture and during our stay I sat admiring it from the comfort of our window seat on more than one occasion.
Our room, one of 10 in the Grade 11 listed William and Mary main manor house, had been sympathetically furnished with décor true to the period but with all the mod cons you would expect from a four-star National Trust-owned property. So I was surprised that there were no tea or coffee making facilities in our room.
This meant either ordering room service or going down to the lounge. And at £5 a person per cup plus £5 for service, we were in danger of running up a hefty bill to quench our thirst.
Opposite the main house were a pair of sympathetically extended Edwardian cottages housing the Health and Beauty Spa. We decided a dip in the 40 foot indoor pool would re-energise us.
Facilities were top notch with three treatment rooms, a steam room, sauna, spa bath, gymnasium and a clubroom where you could buy refreshments.
Dinner in the grand wood-panelled dining room didn’t disappoint. We choose the slow-cooked fillet of 40- day matured Waterford Farm beef, braised rib meat, cavolo nero, cepes and banana shallots from the a la carte menu and savoured every delicious mouthful. Attention to creative detail in every course was all down to the culinary wizardry of the award-winning chef Nicholas Evans.
We could also have chosen the seven-course tasting menu priced at £69 per person or pay £99 to have matching wines.
We rounded the evening off with coffee and liqueurs in the stately drawing room and relaxed in the comfy sofas in front of a roaring fire.
Middlethorpe is ideally located for exploring a wealth of places of historic interest such as the country houses of Castle Howard, Newby and Beningbrough and also the ruined abbeys of Fountains, Rievaulx and Jervaulx.
But you would need longer than a two-night stay to visit all the inviting locations dotted around including York, Harrogate, Richmond, Ripon, Helmsley and Scarborough not to mention the beautiful Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors.
We settled for an adventure closer to home and the next day I went to explore the sights of York while my husband played a round of golf at Easingwold Golf Club, one of many courses in the area.
York holds its own unique charm within its medieval city walls. A generous sprinkling of independent shops in the old cobbled streets of the Shambles and profusion of museums and impressive urban architecture are all worth investigating.
I had to indulge in afternoon tea at Bettys Tea Rooms. The art deco interior, crisp white linen and neatly uniformed waiting staff enveloped me in an ambiance of times gone by; one I enjoyed savouring.
Our trip to Middlethorpe Hall turned out to be the perfect mix of relaxation and exploration. Throughout our stay, eagle-eyed staff were attentive without being intrusive and provided excellent customer service, surely the mark of a great hotel.
For more information about a break to Middlethorpe Hall & Spa visit: www.middlethorpe.com / 01904 641241