‘A city coming out of the shadows” as it was described when it was declared UK City of Culture 2017, Hull is hoping to experience an upsurge in visitors over the next 12 months. It certainly deserves to. The port of Kingston Upon Hull, to give it its Sunday name, on the north bank of the Humber in East Yorkshire, has a fascinating history, is well endowed with theatres and museums and has a vibrant nightlife. What it lacks though – and it is hastily playing catch-up – is quality hotels suitable for couples and families seeking a city break with a difference. Which is where Cave Castle Hotel and Country Club comes in. This Victorian manor house set amid 150 acres of the Yorkshire Wolds has been refurbished and extended to provide 70 bedrooms, as well as a golf course, spa and restaurant. And it is just a 25-minute drive from the nascent City of Culture itself.
Finding accommodation for a family of two adults and three children aged 14, 12 and nine can be tricky, but our two spacious interconnecting rooms did the job. The satellite TVs and tea and coffee making facilities were welcome, but my sagging mattress was an out-of-work chiropractor’s dream.
Budget or boutique?
Budget. The main hotel building has ample “olde worlde” character – think suits of armour, exposed beams and log fires – but the modern extension is functional rather than stylish.
Wining and dining
At the hotel’s wood-panelled Windsor restaurant, starters such as pan-fried scallops on a crab and fresh ginger risotto (£8.95), and warm salad of game terrine with fois gras (£7.95), were devoured with gusto, as were mains of roast monkfish on chive crushed potato (£23.50) and chargrilled 7oz fillet of beef (£28.50).
The next day we sampled awesome pizzas at Hull arts venue Kardomah94 (www.kardomah94.com). Although we weren’t brave enough to try The Gavasconi (£12), with chillies, jalapenos and chilli sauce with pepperoni, chorizo and artichokes, The Quacker (£13.50) with duck and hoisin sauce was a hit.
In some ways we saved the best until last, with a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party at the Hallmark Hotel in North Ferriby (www.hallmarkhotels.co.uk/hotels/hull), which involved tiny picnic tables laden with Alice In Wonderland-themed nibbles, including “Drink Me” smoothies in miniature milk bottles and cute “Eat Me” cupcakes. Quite magical.
Worth getting out of bed for
A 15-minute drive from Cave Castle is the market town of Beverley, where we enjoyed a leisurely potter about its cobbled streets and admired the historic minster.
The next day was all about Hull. First stop was The Deep (www.thedeep.co.uk), a spectacular aquarium overlooking the Humber estuary. Two hours later we emerged to meet another Hull icon – genial walking tour doyen Paul Scofield (www.tourhull.com). He escorted us on an informative and entertaining amble round the city, taking in some of its quirkiest features, such as the smallest window in Britain (a gap between two bricks in the wall of The George Hotel, less than an inch wide and about six inches deep), as well as the Streetlife Museum, where we easily could have spent all day. The highlight, though, may be Dinsdale’s Famous Joke & Trick Shop in the Hepworth Arcade, where manager Graham Williams has the “squirty ketchup bottle” routine down to a fine art.
On our last morning, we head to Sewerby Hall and Gardens (www.sewerbyhall.co.uk), a Grade 1 listed building (and small zoo) which recreates life in a 1910 country house, before driving to the seaside resort of Bridlington, where the youngsters try “clip and climb” at its new leisure centre.
The complimentary bottle of wine to compensate for the bedroom doors being stuck until a carpenter had been summoned was much appreciated.
The ideal hotel for visitors who want to check out Hull’s cultural credentials but appreciate country-life tranquillity too.
Rooms at Cave Castle Hotel and Country Club start from £65 for a single, £95 double/twin and £135 for a family of four. Cave Castle Hotel and Country Club, Church Hill, South Cave, Brough HU15 2EU, 01430 422245, www.cavecastlehotel.com. For more information see www.visithullandeastyorkshire.com or www.visitengland.com