Travel: County Durham
RELAXED grandeur and fabulous food make a stay in County Durham a decadent treat to remember
While visiting The Orangery restaurant during a weekend stay at the Rockliffe Hall Hotel in County Durham my husband and I were in agreement. This was without a doubt one of the tastiest meals we had ever eaten.
Before I go on, however, I must confess to being a vegetarian and therefore anything more adventurous than a mushroom risotto or vegetarian lasagne on a menu causes great excitement. I was in heaven at The Orangery and its celebrated chef, Kenny Atkinson, had clearly bought his Michelin-star expertise to bear. The five-course taster menu was beautifully presented, imaginative and delicious, and if this was the effort shown for us vegetarian foodies we thought, imagine what the meat and fish diners were enjoying.
The second night we ate at The Orangery’s sister restaurant, The Brasserie. Here the ambience was less formal, but again the food was really delicious and the maître d’ very knowledgeable and friendly. Atkinson creates his menus with an emphasis on fresh, local produce and there is a list of suppliers at the end of the food list which I thought was a nice touch.
The multiple award-winning Rockliffe Hall Hotel is a five-star golf and spa resort near the village of Hurworth-on-Tees, Darlington.
The hotel has a swimming pool, gym, a large spa area with bubbling hydropools, various saunas and steam rooms, plus a juice bar. There is a variety of treatments on offer and I can highly recommend the massage, which felt very indulgent. I especially liked being taken to the “sleep room” afterwards, where you were tucked in with thick, fake fur blankets on a softly vibrating bed with a herbal tea and told to relax with the option of donning head phones to take you even further into a trance-like state.
The spa staff are on hand to explain the features of each room and can suggest an order in which to sample them. The more traditional sauna and aromatherapy steam rooms are always popular, but if you can’t stand the heat, try the tepidarium. As a first timer I was a little disappointed to find myself in a room at room temperature. However, it was soon pointed out that the stone seats were radiating heat, making this an altogether gentler experience than the steam rooms and sauna. If this is still too hot, or if the other rooms have left you with incipient heat stroke, there is the Igloo – a very cold room with a heap of ice in the middle. Anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant or hotel kitchen will understand the benefits of the cold room on a hot day. Well, this is the five-star equivalent.
The hydrotherapy pool can shoot massaging bubbles and jets of water at you from various directions. Floating from room to room, it’s amazing how quickly time passes.
We didn’t try our hand on the golf course but we enjoyed it from the comfort of our room which overlooked the championship course to the countryside beyond. Having spotted the groups of golfers around the hotel I’d say the 7,897-yard 18-hole course with five different tee positions is the main draw for a number of the guests.
The hotel itself is a restored 18th-century country house on the banks of the River Tees with 61 bedrooms in the main house and six serviced apartments and a handful of holiday homes for larger groups situated in woodland, a stone’s throw from the house. Our bedroom was situated in the original old hall rather than in the modern extension which houses the spa complex and gym. It has everything you would expect from a five-star hotel, complete with large sleeping area with a comfortable superking-size bed, three TVs, including one over the bath, stylish fittings and a sitting room area with a sofa and coffee table groaning under the weight of magazines, newspapers and a bottle of wine.
There are 375 acres to explore and there is a map available from reception giving detailed routes for those who fancy a run or just a pleasant walk, while the concierge is on hand to give pointers.
I would like to say we explored the wider area, and visited Durham or the Yorkshire moors, but alas the hotel was too good to leave and we were just too relaxed and pampered to move.
THE FACTS Rockliffe Hall, Hurworth-on-Tees, Darlington, County Durham (01325 729999, www.rockliffehall.com). Rooms from £165 per night, though visit the website for special offers and packages.
The nearest train station is in Darlington, which is five minutes away. Return rail travel from Edinburgh to Darlington costs around £64 for a standard return ticket, see www.eastcoast.co.uk
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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