After being trapped in for hours in Bank Holiday roadworks hell, the five-star hotel Rockliffe Hall Darlington in in County Durham was a more than welcome sight. Set in 375 acres of parkland, the original building dates from the 1800s, but over the years the 61-room hotel has been extended to include a highly-rated 50,000 ft spa and three restaurants, two of which overlook its 18-hole Championship golf course.
Thanks to the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the A1, my visit turned out to be a flying one, with no time for a round of golf or even a stroll round the lush-looking gardens. However I could admire them from my vast hotel room, which had a huge bed, massive amounts of storage space, a separate bath and shower and French windows which opened out onto my very own patio.
The rest of the hotel was equally spacious, with huge, carpeted corridors leading the way to the spa in one direction and the hotel bar in the other.
However they had to wait – it was time for dinner in The Brasserie, which was on the floor above the spa and had great views across the golf course. It was a such a nice evening that several couples were enjoying a romantic al fresco dinner on the balcony but I was happy to drink up the views from inside.
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Both The Clubhouse (pictured) and The Brasserie restaurants have great views of the 18-hole golf course. The menu was locally-inspired British cooking, with starters such as Whitby crab, Yorkshire pea soup and mains including steak, roasted sea trout and rack of lamb. I chose the King Scallops with pork belly and thyme, which arrived promptly and tasted delicious, while to follow I had the very photogenic poached monkfish with seaweed, langoustine broth and asparagus ravioli.
The wine list is worth a mention too as it had a good selection and was well laid out, with suggestions marked such as ‘If you like Pinot Grigio..’ ‘If you like big, rich wines….’ which steered you towards trying something new.
I was tempted by the dessert menu – particularly the dark chocolate and orange torte – but decided to have a post-dinner cocktail instead in the hotel bar downstairs in the older part of the hotel. With its huge ceilings and square layout it was somewhat lacking in atmosphere but the cocktails couldn’t be faulted – I had a perfectly-made Manhattan which was an excellent nightcap.
The next morning I was up bright and early and enjoying a swim in the spa’s impressive 20 metre indoor swimming pool. Next door was a huge adults-only hydrotherapy pool, and there was also a sauna, caldarium, tepidarium and ice-machine to stimulate the senses.
While all those facilities are free to hotel guests, an extra £30 – which seemed pretty steep to me – will get you two hours in the Spa Garden, a separate relaxation area which includes an infinity pool, heated loungers, outdoor decking, a glass-fronted sauna and a Jacuzzi. For people just wanting to spend the day at the spa, there is a whole range of choices, such as the Orangery Gourmet Spa Day from £115 per person, which includes use of the spa, two hours in the Spa Garden, a pre-dinner cocktail and a 6-course taster menu in the Orangery restaurant.
After a lengthy swim and sauna I was ready to face the day and headed over to to the Orangery restaurant (which does a more formal meal in the evenings than The Brasserie) for breakfast.
The room itself is very impressive and for breakfast it featured a good-sized buffet, together with hot options including local poached haddock, grilled kipper, Eggs Benedict and even a breakfast bap of sausage, eggs or bacon which would be wrapped up for you to take away. Sadly I had to be back on the road again so there was no time to linger, but Rockliffe Hall would make an excellent place for a long, relaxing weekend.
Hotel information and to book Rockliffe Hall
Rockliffe Hall, Darlington, County Durham, DL2 2DU
01325 729 999
Prices at Rockliffe Hall start from an entry level room in Tiplady Lodge which costs from £170 per room, per night, including breakfast and use of the spa from check in to check out.
The Old Hall Suits are the largest and most impressive rooms in the resort and start at £370 per room, per night, with use of the spa.
Compare the latest prices, read more reviews of Rockliffe Hall and book on Tripadvisor here
Rockliffe Hall is a member of the 50 -strong collection of luxury hotels Pride of Britain Hotels group.
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