North Yorkshire… Home to the spa town of Harrogate, the seaside resorts of Scarborough and Whitby, and York. I am lured to this part of the world, not to eat my bodyweight in Kit Kats, but to play Lady of the Manor at the ancestral seat of the Earl of Swinton. A luxury castle hotel set in 20,000 acres of parkland in the Yorkshire Dales – a welcome sight after 4 hours on the M1.
The valet offers to park my car, as I rather ashamedly try to stuff a bag of Percy Pigs in the glove compartment. I start to regret only packing florescent activewear when I see the other guests in their cashmeres, corduroys and barbers. The falconry, fishing and clay-pigeon-shooting type of crowd!
“Have you travelled all the way from London?”, the receptionist asks excitedly, spotting the luminous trainers.
After a swift check-in, my sportily dressed companion and I knock back a complimentary glass of champagne as if it was water, forgetting all about our commitment to Dry January.
The bedroom is lavishly furnished and overlooks stunning parkland with a lake and deers leaping around like something out of Bambi. After a whistle-stop tour, we soon find ourselves gravitating to the Country Club and Spa.
The modern multi-million pound development boasts a Finnish sauna, aroma steams, indoor and outdoor natural pool with bio-filtered water. After an hour sweating out the champagne, we don our knitted slippers, wrap up in sheepskin blankets and venture outside to the al fresco sauna. Here in Yorkshire it’s all about embracing the elements – that’s what the outdoor shower is all about!
I indulge in a deeply relaxing 60-minute deep tissue massage with head therapist, Laura. Her pressure is gentle but with just enough grip to tease out those knots in my shoulders.
Tonight we dine at The Chef’s Table in the relaxed, informal surroundings of the Cookery School. A contrast to the restaurant that boasts a gold leaf ceiling and sumptuous décor. Matthew and Connor whip up a gourmet menu using ingredients sourced from the hotel’s garden – the largest hotel kitchen garden in the UK. A feast of blue cheese & beetroot salad and pan fried halibut with onion bhaji, cauliflower & cumin puree and rhubarb & chilli chutney! They do an excellent job of advising us on what to eat, and appear utterly unfazed by our various dietary intolerances.
After a glutenous feast, I sleep like a baby and heroically make it to the hotel’s Pulse gym for a 30 minute cardio blast the next morning. Fitness and wellbeing activities are on-going and take place in the the group exercise studio and in the parkland. They include both traditional fitness classes and one to one training as well as wellbeing programmes. There’s also an outdoor yoga class in the gardens and a private body-work room for Pilates, Yoga and guided meditation.
My friend and I spend the rest of our time exploring the estate at our leisure and even venture to the local village pub for a cheeky glass of Malbec. But if you’re planning a late night session, be warned, taxis are scarce!
After a weekend basking in nature, I return to London after a painless drive with no road rage to speak of, full of the joys of Spring!
Choose a room at the Luxury Castle Hotel or book the Traditional Yorkshire Cottage, perfect for a group or family retreat. If you prefer something more rustic, book a tree lodge nestled in the woods.