The Lake District, Northumberland, Newcastle and Carlisle are all within a Friday night’s after-work drive for Central Belt Scots seeking a break. Durham has its own particular charms, however, and Ramside Hall Hotel, on the outskirts of the city, is easily accessible for those driving south. For this time of year, when the weather can hamper a weekend away, it has fabulous facilities to make sure there is plenty to do.
Wining and dining
There are four eateries in the hotel offering a wide choice and excellent quality. The Rib Room is upmarket and sophisticated, with dark wood and leather banquettes serving award-winning local fare alongside an extensive wine list. It is so proud of the quality of its meat that diners are invited to take a look in the meat locker before choosing. Those less carnivorous can try the halibut, landed locally, which is served three ways: either as posh fish and chips, with curried leeks or in a pine nut crust.
Fusion restaurant is adjacent to the spa and offers pan-Asian dishes more suited to a lighter appetite – or those about to don a swimsuit. Penang curries, sushi platters and bento boxes cater to the health-conscious in beautiful surroundings.
The hotel also has a carvery which serves a daily roast with all the trimmings, while The Clubhouse has a golfers’ bar menu.
Breakfasts are buffet style, tempting diners to start off with the best of intentions with fresh fruit and muesli, move on to a full English and then seriously overindulge in continental pastries.
Budget or boutique?
Ramside Hall Hotel is vast. After two days heading in the wrong direction we finally got our bearings, but the staff are friendly and the feeling is of a local business that really cares about guests rather than a corporate entity.
As well as families enjoying a weekend away, there are events and party nights held in the function suite, which is well away from the accommodation so noise isn’t a problem.
We encountered a group of immaculately dressed revellers heading for a 1950s dance and looking stunning in their bebop clothes.
The hotel offers packages for short breaks for those attending one of the event nights.
The rooms are comfortable and well equipped, with upmarket touches such as 24-hour room service and sumptuous en-suites with plenty of ESPA products.
Our twin room overlooked the golf course and had a sliding door into the bathroom, giving it an oriental feel.
Worth getting out of bed for
As well as its own golf course, there’s the state-of-the-art spa which recently underwent an £8m redevelopment to offer five pools – including one of the UK’s biggest hydrotherapy pools and an outdoor infinity pool – 14 treatment rooms, a thermal suite and a sleep sanctuary with soundwave therapy beds, which soon had us nodding off.
As well as all manner of massages, scrubs, wraps and cleanses there are some more bespoke procedures on offer, such as the totally indulgent four-hand massage with two masseurs and joint treatments for couples. It also offers a Rasul mud chamber which can be booked for groups.
Packages offered to guests can include use of all the facilities and there is certainly enough to do to spend a whole day here.
But venturing out, Durham city is breathtaking. The Unesco World Heritage Site includes the cathedral and the castle, which dates from Norman times.
Ramside is close to the coast too. The village of Seaham has a beautiful fishing harbour with spectacular cliff top walks and the house where Lord Byron married.
Ramside offers a luxurious break with the best spa facilities in the area and seriously impressive restaurants. The detox package, which is available until March, includes a one-night stay in one of Ramside Hall Hotel’s new premier bedrooms, full use of the spa and a 60-minute personalised treatment.
The offer includes a one-hour personal training session with Holistic Coaching, a smoothie on arrival and a spa brunch at Fusion restaurant, complimentary fitness classes, and an ESPA gift to take home.
Prices for the one-night detox break start from £219 for single occupancy in a double room and from £299 per couple in a double room. Ramside Hall Hotel, Golf & Spa Carrville, Durham DH1 1TD, 0191 375 3088, www.ramsidespa.co.uk