SUE FOX TAKES A SHORT BREAK AT NORTHUMBERLAND’S DOXFORD HALL AND ENJOYS A LEISURELY STAY.
Doxford Hall and spa, set in the heart of rural Northumberland, is amazing – no, really it is, as the gardens are home to a splendid yew tree maze planted with the help of 2,000 local schoolchildren. Guests can even pick up a maze map from reception so they can navigate their way round it.
We’re enjoying a short break at this lovely country house hotel, taking afternoon tea in the sunny sitting room, looking out over the maze and watching in fascination as a red squirrel heads out on a recce. It’s looking for hazelnuts, we’re looking forward to an enticing spread of smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches, freshly- baked scones with clotted cream and preserves and a lovely cup of Earl Grey. There are plenty more home-made goodies to choose from, which are obviously proving popular as the room is bustling with guests.
Earlier, my husband and I had made ourselves comfortable in our luxurious en suite bedroom, which has splendid views over the grounds. All of the bedrooms take their names from castles or famous North-East figures – ours is the John Dobson room, after the architect who designed Doxford among 100 other country homes, 50 churches and not forgetting Newcastle Central Station.
The room has beautiful period furniture and a vast bathroom equipped with bath and shower goodies and some fluffy robes, so we can enjoy a good lounge about.
A potted history of the house tells us that Dobson’s team completed building work in 1818 and, after a number of owners, it was taken on by the Burnie family, who created an adjoining hotel designed to blend in with the hall. But it was not until the current owners, Robert and Gina Parker, took over two years ago that the buildings were joined together to create the beautiful complex that it is today. While we enjoy our leisurely stay, a wedding is taking place, but everything is so organised that we hear little of the event and get just a few tantalising glimpses of the happy couple and their party. The ceremony is being held in the George Runciman room – not, as you would expect, named after a local dignitary. It is, in fact, the name of the craftsman who created the beautiful wood carvings, cornices and a new staircase that grace the hotel. George, now in his 80s, still calls in from time to time.
The wedding party later moves to the Kennedy Suite – which owes its title to its architect rather than a president – and George’s room is where we enjoy our dinner. From the wide choice of dishes, I opt for a goat’s cheese and walnut starter, followed by seared salmon on a bed of baby beets. My husband starts with pate served in a dinky Kilner-style jar, and deliciously nutty-tasting bread, then pink and tender slices of lamb and a selection of fresh vegetables to follow. The temptation to try the sharing platter of sweets proves to be far too strong and we sample ice creams laden with fruit, chocolate fudge and teeny tiny meringues.
The next morning dawns crisp and sunny, so we plan a few stops on the way home. The hall is ideally situated to explore Northumberland and the Scottish Borders, with Alnwick Castle and garden, the beaches, Bamburgh Castle and Holy Island all close by.
First we enjoy breakfast – only just manageable after the previous night’s feast – of fresh orange juice, fluffy scrambled eggs and local mushrooms. There’s a huge choice, including Craster kippers. Meanwhile, it’s nice to see that the ingredients are locally-sourced.
There’s just time to take a tour of the spa before we leave. It includes a pool and sauna plus treatment rooms offering facials, massage and other beauty therapies, a popular choice for day visitors who team it with afternoon tea.
Review from the Northern Echo.
TWO chefs from south east Northumberland have helped land the hotel where they work a second AA Rosette.
A-mazing, but true ! - Sue Fox, from the Northern Echo, takes a short break at Northumberland's Doxford Hall and enjoys a leisurely stay
I couldn't resist the urge to paint this beautiful building
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