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July 2021 / Travel / by Penny Clements

UK Travel: Period Living

A Yorkshire country house hotel provides the perfect post-pandemic weekend escape.

London will always hold a special place in my heart, but sometimes, city living gets too much. Not least when there has been no break from it: having missed the luxury of travel over the past year, and wondering when foreign travel might be back on the cards, I decide a mini break a little closer to home might be the kick start I need to get me out of Covid-hibernation and help me to leave 2021’s first bleak months behind.

Set into 20 acres of the most magnificently landscaped gardens and parkland, Middlethorpe Hall and Spa’s beautiful location feels deeply rural, despite it being just a short ten-minute drive from the bustling centre of York. Pulling up in front of the handsome grade II listed house (which is managed by the National Trust) feels like stepping onto the set of a BBC period drama. With its impressive red brick and limestone façade, it has irresistible historic appeal.

My companion and I are warmly greeted by a smartly dressed doorman, who takes charge of our luggage and leads us to the front desk, where we swiftly check in. The entrance hall is imposing, but at the same time welcoming, with the feel of a beautiful family home – albeit a rather grand one. With its original stone-flagged floor, black marble fire surround, dark oak panelling and sweeping cantilevered oak staircase – lined with hanging portraits – it’s easy to believe that you have stepped back in time, an impression that is heightened if you check into one of the 10 elegantly designed principal suites situated on the first and second floors of the main house.

Our room is on the first floor, right at the top of the stairs, and as soon as we open the door, it’s clear that the same care and detail has gone into designing the bedrooms as the reception areas. Every detail is just perfect. Appropriately furnished with an antique four-poster bed and pretty little armchairs, it is decorated in a soft colour palette with floral details. A large cast iron fireplace creates a focal point and huge shuttered windows offer unrivalled views of the gardens – this really is country living at its finest. Don’t expect a Nespresso machine, though, here it’s all about the old school charm. We order our tea through the hotel’s room service, and it arrives promptly on an antique tray, complete with freshly baked biscuits. What could be more quintessentially British?

Of course, part of Middlethorpe Hall’s attraction was the prospect of a lazy afternoon of pampering at the spa, which is located in beautifully quaint converted Edwardian cottages. Situated on site and just 30 seconds down the lane, the spa has a home from home vibe and it is immediately clear that we will be able to completely switch off here. There is a large indoor swimming pool, spa bath, sauna, steam room, and a small gymnasium tucked inside a Victorian summer house. The adjacent terrace, complete with comfortable daybeds, is a real sun trap and the perfect spot for catching some rays with a glass of bubbly – and, I soon discover, catching forty winks. The spa also has three beauty rooms offering a menu of therapeutic Aromatherapy Associates face and body treatments. I opt for the ultimate aromatherapy massage: 50 minutes of pure indulgence, it relieves tension and leaves my tight, stressed muscles feeling instantly relaxed.

Dinner at Middlethorpe Hall is a real occasion. The elegant, two AA rosette rated restaurant is a fine dining, table-clothed affair. Indeed, with its elaborate oak panelling, the dining room is one of the grandest rooms in the hotel. Small and intimate, we enjoy both breakfast and dinner here, sampling nearly everything on the short but sweet menu over the course of our two-night stay. You can also book a traditional afternoon tea or a lighter lunch on Middlethorpe’s terrace, taking in the views over the gardens. We discover that this is also an unbeatable spot for an al fresco pre-dinner tipple.

Before we leave, we take an early, undisturbed morning stroll through Middlethorpe’s grounds, passing the wildflower walk and then stumbling out onto the banks of the river Ouse beyond the gardens. We wander aimlessly back, revelling in the grandeur. We will certainly be sad to see the credits roll on this weekend.

Room rates from £230 per night, including access to the spa (01904 641241; middlethorpe.com)

Middlethorpe Hall