Call it the Downton effect if you like. The overwhelming desire to play Lady of the Manor and swan about, assuming all kinds of airs and graces. And the red-bricked period splendour of Middlethorpe Hall is just the place to indulge these fantasies. Even if it’s just for a weekend break. A short drive from York, Middlethorpe is a handsome country pile in the Queen Anne style – and one of only three hotels owned by that bastion of English heritage and tradition, the National Trust. Set amongst 20 acres of ornamental gardens and landscaped parkland, it’s easy to imagine house party guests of times long past capering about for a pre-dinner game of croquet or enjoying a gentle post-prandial stroll.
Let your imagination run wild, as this caperer could indeed be none other than you, dear reader! 29 rooms and suites are available to discerning guests looking to relax, unwind and get away from the busy hubbub of city life. Each individually furnished with a hand-picked selection of elegant antiques, rooms are traditional, comfortable and cosy – perfect for a tranquil weekend break. But let’s sit down and take afternoon tea before we get to that, shall we?
And of course, tea at Middlethorpe is a very genteel affair indeed. Served in the hotel’s gracious drawing room – a sunny, high-ceilinged space with expansive views over the garden – you can expect a deliciously refined spread. Finger sandwiches, delicate little cakes and homemade scones are served with teas from Taylors of Harrogate – or a glass of fizz should you prefer. Scrumptious! And there’s just time for a turn about the gardens before we dress for dinner…
Or if you prefer, we could visit Middlethorpe’s luxury spa and take a quick dip? Although staying here may feel like stepping back in time, the hall most definitely has all the ‘mod cons’ you might expect from a boutique hotel. There’s a pool, Jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and even a small gym space – which we might be wise to visit after the indulgences of the afternoon. Forget the treadmill, and go for treatments in the hands of the hotel’s very competent therapists. Facials, massages and all manner of beautifying treatments are on offer using luxe brands including Décleor and Neom Organics. Our recommendation? Well, it would be churlish to visit the spa without trying the signature Orange Blossom Garden Ritual: 85 minutes of tension-busting massage and glow-inducing facial, inspired by the hall’s historic gardens. Pure bliss.
If you can manage to tear yourself away from the spa now please, it’s time to pop on your glad rags and dine. Dinner is something Middlethorpe takes very seriously. Served in by candlelight in the hall’s imposing yet intimate panelled dining room, it really feels like you’re stepping back in time. Guests are expected to dress for dinner – which does up the ante and make proceedings just a little more special; Middlethorpe may just be the perfect weekend break destination.
The restaurant’s gourmet menu relies heavily on local produce, often from award-winning Yorkshire farmers – and features ingredients grown in Middlethorpe’s own gardens wherever possible. It’s beautifully-prepared haute cuisine which matches the elegant surroundings; expect impeccable presentation, pitch-perfect flavours and an impressive attention to detail. There’s also an extensive wine list, so if you know your Beaujolais from your Barolo, you’ll be more than content. But surely you fancy a nightcap in the cosy library before you call it a day, right?
Accommodation at Middlethorpe is divided between the main house and converted courtyard buildings, and many rooms have views over the hall’s formal gardens. While decoration is decidedly Laura Ashley-esque, it feels appropriate and genuine in the context of a historic country house. And touches like fresh fruit and sweetmeats on arrival and a selection of antique books to peruse make your stay feel a little more personal.
Breakfast at Middlethorpe is another meal to linger over. Expect hearty Yorkshire portions and more of that delicious local produce. Throw in the newspapers and add efficient, attentive service and you’ve got a the formula for a winning weekend away. If you can tear yourself away from the hotel, the historic city of York has shops, galleries, museums and pretty cobbled streets to explore. If you can tear yourself away, that is.
For more information and to book, see Middlethorpe Hall’s website. For more information on York and its attractions, see the Visit York website.