By TMA Howe
Northumberland is a beautiful county. It’s a county full of breathtaking scenery, and as you travel across it you cannot fail to be in awe of its rich history. In fact, it seems that wherever you go there’s a clue to the past. Majestic castles – and Northumberland has more than any other English county – including Warkworth, Alnwick (as seen in the Harry Potter films) and Bamburgh. The county also includes the best–preserved frontier of the Roman Empire – Hadrian’s Wall.
Hadrian’s Wall runs coast to coast and is a must visit when in the north of England. Visitors can see the many forts along its length, or take in the fresh Northumbrian air and walk along the wall itself. An ideal place to stay whilst visiting is Walwick Hall. Situated a stone’s throw from the wall, this magnificent manor house – an imposing Grade-2 listed structure built from local stone and set in 100 acres of beautiful Northumberland countryside – is also the perfect place to relax and unwind.
As you arrive at the hotel, an imposing statue of a magnificent stag welcomes you. The stag theme then continues throughout the hotel, from paintings, mirrors, all the way through to a little sticker holding the napkins folded together at the dinner table. On arrival, we were taken into the drawing room and offered a welcome drink – mine was a much–needed pint of the local ale – as our bags were taken to our room. The drawing room was a very comfortable place to relax with views over the well-manicured gardens. Guests can also have a traditional Northumberland afternoon tea if they wish.
Once my pint was finished we were taken up to our room. Walwick Hall has 10 rooms, each with its own distinctive personality. Our room had a great view not only of the gardens but of the countryside in the distance. The en-suite bathroom was filled with various Elemis lotions, so we were able to freshen up before heading down to dinner.
Relaxed and refreshed at Walwick Hall
The dining room was refined but relaxed, with more references to the stag around the walls. The menu was full of locally sourced food prepared by Walwick’s classically trained head chef, Steven Murray. The fresh herbs and vegetables are even grown in the Hall’s kitchen garden. For my starter I chose the chef’s take on a salad Nicoise with thin slices of perfectly cooked venison, quail egg, red pepper jelly and an olive tapenade. This was followed by a smoked haddock chowder with spinach and a haddock and crayfish croquet.
Although etiquette dictates one should have a white wine with fish, I chose a Malbec. The wine was so smooth I could have drunk the whole bottle. To finish I chose my favourite dessert – the vanilla crème brulèe. What a way to end the meal – the best crème brulèe I have ever tasted, and I have had a few in my time!
After an excellent night’s sleep we were refreshed and back in the dining room for breakfast. Cereal was individually served on a little wooden tray, which was a nice touch. I chose the local kipper, which came with a knob of herb butter and the lemon in a small hessian bag.
After breakfast, I was given a tour of the hotel. The sun shone on the gardens which include an enclosed children’s play area, a covered terrace with sofas, and a wonderful summerhouse with a sofa where I could have happily sat for hours whilst enjoying the beautiful vista before me. The cottage garden – supplying herbs for cocktails and veg for dinner – was tucked around the back adjacent the gym and spa. The luxury spa is sited within the walled garden and blends perfectly into the landscape. Open to hotel guests and members, it’s here you can either be pampered by one of the skilled Elemis-trained masseurs or take a dip in the pavilion pool with its great views out over the surrounding landscape. There is also a well-equipped state-of-the-art gym.
Whilst staying at Walwick Hall, the hotel will arrange a number of local activities for guests: a guided days fishing on the River Tyne with James Stokoe, winner of the BBC’s fishing programme, Earth’s Wildest Waters; a variety of hunting and shooting trips; or exploring Hadrian’s Wall, including Chester’s Fort, the most complete Roman cavalry fort in Britain, which is just down the road.
Walwick Hall Boutique Hotel describes itself as a “unique countryside hideaway nestled in the idyllic landscape of rural Northumberland…” I couldn’t describe it any better. A beautiful building, expertly developed into a perfect hotel in a wonderful part of the country. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay there, as well as the excellent hospitality of the staff.
TMA Howe is Luxury Globe Media’s UK Automotive Editor, and an enthusiastic (if somewhat pampered) traveller.