Middlethorpe Hall near York has been transformed into a magnificent hotel and spa. Virginia Mason soaks up its opulent splendour.
PERHAPS Wordsworth was not writing about his beloved Lake District after all but about Middlethorpe Hall, York.
Surely his famous and oft-quoted prose about “a host of golden daffodils” must refer to the idyllic view from our bedroom window.
The views from Middlethorpe are stunning but the views of the historic William and Mary country house are even more so.
Built in 1699 of mellow red brick with limestone dressings, for Thomas Barlow, a master cutler from Sheffield, it was bought in the 1980s by Historic House Hotels, who rescued it from decay and who set about an imaginative programme of sympathetic restoration. The result is Middlethorpe Hall, luxury hotel, restaurant and spa.
In September 2008, Middlethorpe Hall and its sister Historic House hotels - Hartwell House in Aylesbury and Bodysgallen Hall near Llandudno - became the inalienable property of the National Trust by donation, with all profits benefiting the houses and the charity.
As you’d expect then, the restoration, conservation and conversion into a country house hotel has been carried out to exacting and historically accurate standards. It has been elegantly decorated in the manner of the 18th Century and furnished with antiques and fine paintings, so that it has both the look and that ambiance of a well-kept, well-furnished private manor house rather than a 29 bedroom Hotel - there are 10 rooms and suites in the house, and 19 in the adjacent 18th Century courtyard.
Our room was a beautiful mix of old and new with the old element coming from its lovely architecture and antique pieces and the new being every modern-day comfort we could wish for, including fluffy towels and bathrobes, beautifully starched linen and sweet-smelling bath products. Especially nice touches were the bowl of fresh fruit, plate of home-made chocolates and posy of daffodils (picked from the gardens no doubt) and snow-drops.
Middlethorpe Hall is renowned for its imaginative cuisine and its panelled dining rooms which overlook the manicured gardens and so naturally we were excited about evening dinner.
Sipping a perfectly-mixed gin and tonic in the drawing room with its pale golden drapes, polished furniture and log fire crackling away in the grate, I almost expected to see Miss Marple knitting away on one of the sumptuous high-backed armchairs.
This is the perfect place to relax before moving into ones the panelled dining rooms with their candlelit tables. These rooms overlook the magnificent view of the gardens and parkland. Nicholas Evans’ superb cuisine at Middlethorpe Hall has won many accolades over the years, and continues to attract connoisseurs of fine food and wine from around the world and we were not to be disappointed.
My selection included mouth-watering lamb, cooked nice and pink and a cheese board which reflected all regions and all tastes. Home-made richly indulgent truffles topped off a perfect evening.
Breakfast the following day, with a vast array of locally sourced produce was another winner.
The 20 acres of manicured gardens and parkland which surround Middlethorpe Hall are also the result of a major, painstaking transformation - from neatly clipped box hedges and herbaceous beds to a parterre that now includes a fragrant rose garden. There is also an intriguing walled garden and romantic meadow which leads to a lake surrounded by beautiful specimen trees - and of course, the ha-ha.
Middlethorpe Hall also boasts a Health and Fitness Spa built behind the handsome façade of two listed Edwardian cottages. This offers guests a range of facilities from Decléor, ESPA and Jessica treatments with trained therapists to a splendid swimming pool, sauna and gymnasium.
There is an endless list of successes to recommend Middlethorpe Hall - not least its team of welcoming and attentive staff. But perhaps its real coup de grace is that it has achieved a graceful transition from country house to first-class hotel without losing any of its character. Indeed, Historic House Hotels are now the yardstick by which others must be judged.
For more details about Middlethorpe Hall (which welcomes children over the age of six) ring 01904 641241 or email email@example.com