GAVIN Munro checks in to Lumley Castle’s luxurious, multifaceted charm
Set amid tranquil grounds and parkland, it’s easy to forget that Lumley Castle is walking distance from Chester-le-Street town centre and only a stone’s throw from Newcastle upon Tyne and Durham. Owned by the Earl of Scarborough, it dates back to the 14th century and is packed full of original charm. An impressive hotel and conference facility, Lumley Castle hosts meetings, weddings and banquets. For larger events, the Garter Room, with its ornate ceiling displaying the family’s Knight of the Garter crest (the only example outside Buckingham Palace), provides an air of grandeur for special occasions.
BUDGET OR BOUTIQUE?
It’s difficult to imagine a 600-year-old castle being a boutique affair, but with 73 unique bedrooms, each with fabulous and different features, it’s an original twist on the modern boutique concept. We stayed in one of the “feature” double rooms in the main castle, which had a vast and imposing four-poster bed, lounge area and views across the courtyard. On arrival in the room, there initially appeared to be no en-suite facility – not what you expect in a £229 room. But on opening the wardrobe door, we discovered a secret entrance into a luxurious bathroom with a stunning corner bath. Popping to the loo has never been so much fun. As well as the spectacular castle bedrooms, there are standard “courtyard” rooms for smaller budgets and modern and luxurious “mews” options.
WINING AND DINING
The Black Knight restaurant is very much in keeping with the medieval theme of the castle. With a warm, gothic atmosphere, the decor is as inviting as the staff are welcoming. The menu offers a selection of classic dishes with a modern twist. If you are looking for something more intimate, Lumley Castle also offers two lavishly decorated private dining suites, with the Gilt and Sceptre rooms catering for up to 14 special guests.
To start I had the duck scotch egg with salad and cherry ketchup and my wife had the beef carpaccio with Asian salad and teriyaki sauce. Both were delicious and a good omen for what was to come. For the main course I had the Lumley Castle signature dish of beef fillet stuffed with blue cheese wrapped in Parma ham served with a potato rosti, wild mushrooms and port jus. Its presentation was impressive, and while the flavours were just a little overpowering for my taste, it would be perfect for those who love food that packs a punch. My wife had the sirloin steak with pepper sauce and “Jenga style” hand-cut fries that would satisfy anyone’s appetite. The dessert menu is brimming with goodies, and after much deliberation we chose to share the banoffee cheesecake, with flambé banana and banana ice cream and the sticky toffee pudding. Both were a triumph.
WORTH GETTING OUT OF BED FOR
You need not go very far to sample some delights. We decided to treat ourselves to afternoon tea in the Library Bar, and what a pleasure it was. Sitting in lovely surroundings with a roaring fire, we tucked in to delicious and hearty sandwiches, scones with all the works and an array of petits gateaux and petits fours. If tea isn’t your thing, you can upgrade your drink to Pimm’s, prosecco or champagne. With heavy hearts we stuck to the soft option since we were with our baby Reuben and still had exploring to do around the vast grounds.
Sport fans will know that Chester-le-Street is synonymous with county cricket and within easy walking distance from the hotel you will find the famous ground. If that is not your thing (and it isn’t ours) there is a fabulous park with lovely riverside walks nearby.
Further afield, within 30 minutes’ drive you can reach Newcastle and Durham city centres, the Metro shopping centre and the Angel of the North, as well as a host of other local attractions.
Fluffy robes, friendly staff in period dress and a particularly nice selection of gifts and keepsakes available to buy (including Lumley Bear). Lumley Castle offers that wee bit more than your average four-star hotel.
• Double rooms from £139 B&B per night. Lumley Castle, Chester-le-Street, Co Durham DH3 4NX. Tel: 0191 389 1111. www.lumleycastle.com