Daring to be different seems to be the key to success for the Feversham Arms Hotel in the market town of Helmsley on the edge of the North Yorkshire moors.
“People sometimes ask us to describe what kind of hotel this is and, to be honest, it’s not that easy,” admits the hotel’s own website. “We’re country but not country house, a bit stylish but not designer, run well but not stuffy, good food not complicated food.”
Having spent a weekend at the Feversham, it’s hard not to agree with the eclectic description.
The stand-out feature is undoubtedly the heated outdoor swimming pool, surrounded by gardens, a patio area with sun loungers, and a hot tub bubbling away nearby. Although many of the suites are poolside and overlook this oasis of calm, careful consideration has been given to the landscaping, and it ensures a comfortable level of privacy either way.
There are 33 rooms of varying sizes, and the first-floor suite we were shown to was stunning, with a spacious bedroom with duck down duvet, large flatscreen TV and DVD, a well-stocked bathroom with double-ended bath and wet room, and a separate living area, equipped with a dining table, sofa, iPod dock, TV and a selection of magazines, guidebooks and what’s-on literature.
Just 24 hours earlier, the Feversham’s award-winning restaurant had reopened following a major refurbishment. This kind of upheaval can test the nerve of any kitchen team, but they were unflappable.
A thoughtful menu succeeds in delivering fine dining without over-the-top fuss. Local produce is at the heart of the menu and my highlights included perfect scallops, loin of lamb and Jervaulx blue cheese steeped in Yorkshire ale and served with chutney and oatcakes.
A “full Yorkshire” breakfast, or something lighter if you prefer, can be taken in the restaurant or in your room. The breakfast was of the same high standard as the evening menu, although it was a tad surreal enjoying it at our breakfast table overlooking palm trees and a deep blue swimming pool in North Yorkshire rather than the Med.
The building, originally a coaching inn, took its name from the Earl of Feversham who rebuilt it in 1855. The immaculately preserved frontage belies the stylish labyrinth within. The Verbena Spa, joined to the hotel by a glazed link, can be booked by guests or day visitors. The “heat experience” – offering access to sauna, steam room, salt inhalation room, footspa and heated pool and hot tub – is popular. Refreshments are available from either the juice bar or the champagne bar, depending on your mood.
Despite the luxury of the spa and the comfort of the rooms at the Feversham, whose accolades include four AA Red Stars and being named the Independent Hotel of the Year in 2011, venturing out to experience Yorkshire’s exceptional natural beauty should be compulsory.
At the risk of sounding like a Top Gear anorak, even the drive to Helmsley was a treat for the eye – the B1257 winding through moorland, punctuated by picture postcard villages full of handsome cottages.
Helmsley has plenty to offer for a stroll, and walkers fancying a greater challenge have a National Park practically on the doorstep. The bustling towns of Harrogate and Thirsk are both a short drive away, and York can be reached in well under an hour.
After a completely fulfilling weekend, the only road we were not looking forward to was the one home.
THE FACTS The Feversham Arms, Helmsley, North Yorkshire, tel: 01439 770 766, www.fevershamarmshotel.com; dinner, B&B packages are available from £260 (including £45 allowance towards dinner, full Yorkshire breakfast and use of the Verbena Spa heat experience, outdoor swimming pool and hot tub).