On this trip I ventured into the wilds of Yorkshire and experienced a level of comfort rarely found at Middlethorpe Hall and Spa, a destination country house hotel that offers old school charm and an opulent environment.
A vast edifice greets you entering the front door of this impressive building dating from 1699. This is a grand Historic House Hotel part of a well-established chain of high-end unique properties and linked to the National Trust. It’s the sort of place that has more comfy chairs than guests strewn around the ground floor. There are plenty of places to lose oneself in the papers or a good book while enjoying a pot of tea served on a silver tray with homemade cookies. This is a place of pure indulgence with a smile. The staff are unerringly good at knowing what you’ll need just before you do.
Once I’d passed the open real fire in the hallway and ascended the ornately carved staircase to my spacious room with an extremely comfortable four-poster bed, I glanced out the window. An enormous lawn that is sometimes graced with deer in the mornings stretched out before me. The Floris toiletries in my en-suite bathroom confirmed the status of this class act hotel.
This is not just a hotel though. Across the road in a delightful cottage I found a swimming pool and spa. My wanderings included a stroll through the well-kept ornate box hedging and kitchen gardens. This hotel sits in large grounds that are inviting even in the winter. In addition to the main house there are other rooms in a courtyard off to the side that offer another level of seclusion.
I’d driven up from London so fancied a visit to the spa before supper. Sophie worked her magic over an hour-long full body Aromatherapy Associates massage. With her gentle signature touch she eased away the strains of the drive, but don’t be deceived, she was firm when needed and I felt completely invigorated afterwards.
The hotel is a couple of miles from York, which is rapidly becoming a foodie haven. It’s a lovely city that is great for shopping and history buffs alike and very walkable. If you don’t fancy driving there you can catch a bus a few yards from the hotel. Also just down the road is York Race Course so Middlethorpe Hall and Spa is perfect for a weekend away at the races. If you choose to set your cultural pursuit higher, then Castle Howard is only half an hour’s drive away by car.
Dinner is an event here at Middlethorpe Hall. Ashley Binder’s seasonal food is rightly well regarded. There’s a good offering of three-course à la carte for £45 but I couldn’t resist the six-course tasting menu at £75. There’s an option of a wine flight for a very reasonable £35 or a multitude of other wines to suit your tastes.
The dining room is an elegant panelled affair with views across the garden (it’s also used for breakfast) perfect for the solo diner to ponder the outdoor vistas with a clutch of serious oil paintings to keep one company. The service was very good with each dish being introduced and often a sauce or embellishment being added at the table. I enjoyed the pumpkin soup with onion bhaji. This was followed by guinea fowl with a quail’s egg.
The quality of cooking is very high here at Middlethorpe Hall and very accomplished. Ashley and his team know how to cook classic food with flair and a sense of fun, the soup was served in an oversized cup. Scallop and crab slipped down well, as did all the other plates that were presented to me.
This is a restorative hotel where you don’t need to worry about anything at all as it’s all done for you. Yes, you could go rambling every day of your stay and be welcomed with a warm fire and a friendly smile on your return before having a drink or two then the type of meal that will have you talking to friends afterwards about how pretty and tasty it all was. For me Middlethorpe was chill central, a place to kick your shoes off and sit by the fire to start planning the next meal. A memorable stay in a lovely hotel that puts its guest first.
Middlethorpe Hall and Spa, Bishopthorpe Road, York, YO23 2GB, England.
Tel: +44 (0)1904 641241
Located only two miles from York’s city centre and set in 20 acres of beautiful gardens and parkland. There is plenty of parking available for guests. If travelling by train, the closest station is York with a fast train service from London’s Kings Cross Station and takes 1h 50m. The closest airport is Manchester International.
Type of Hotel: 4-Star Country House Hotel
Price Band: Mid-Range
Number of Rooms: 29 rooms and suites, including complimentary Wi-Fi.
Insider Tip: Find half an hour to read a book in one of the corners the main lounge which is vast while sipping a quality whiskey.
Reviewer’s Rating: 8/10
Neil Hennessy-Vass is Contributing Editor for Our Man On The Ground as well as a widely-published globetrotting food and award-winning travel writer and photographer.
Photographs by Neil Hennessy-Vass