Conjuring up images of English countryside is something we do as children. Wide open spaces, gorgeous forests, winter walks, howling wind and typical English mansions. I wasn’t thinking of my teenage years reading Mansfield Park and watching Poirot and Jonathan Creek. While they had their fair share of English mansions, I wanted some relaxation for my return to England after a stint in Edinburgh, Scotland. When reality of these English countryside resorts hits you though – they are exactly what you expected. Well, with a little more flamboyance. I’d already stayed in a few of these countryside manors, including the Clumber Park Hotel and Spa in Nottinghamshire.
After my time backpacking Edinburgh, Scotland, and eating haggis, I was heading to Newcastle and Sunderland, but I wanted a stop off on the way. I don’t like the whole “city to city” option without stopping off at random places on route – it’s like you’ve missed the rural lifestyle completely. This particular jaunt saw me stop off in Alnwick, Alnmouth and from there I spied the awesome Doxford Hall Hotel and Spa so I made sure I spent a night here to enjoy the glamour of it all before properly heading south again.
Doxford Hall Hotel and Spa is set in a somewhat isolated yet beautiful spot. Things fitted in pretty well with my lifestyle and plan for that particular day. When I get round to writing about this story in my upcoming book, you’ll understand the sentimentality a bit more and the need for a remote 4 star resort. First things first, backpacking my way there meant remote trains, buses and taxis. When I arrived at Doxford Hall (an hour earlier than planned) I was in for a treat.
The photos, brochures and website didn’t quite do justice for the pure happiness and relaxation I found when I got here. I got to check in early, and Daniel on reception was on hand to inform me that my room was ready before the normal check in time of 2 pm (I guess I got lucky!). It was now 1 pm and it was a Sunday so I checked in and the room was spotless and ready. OK so here is a top 10 rundown on the things I loved about my stay here in Doxford Hall Hotel and Spa.
1. My Room – Alnwick Castle, 14
Each room is named after a castle and I had Alnwick Room, this is the nearest local castle which I also checked out when I passed through Alnwick on route to Newcastle.
2. The Library
For getting work done, this exquisite library is exactly the image I had conjured up when reading the likes of Mansfield Park (and the odd Jonathan Creek mystery). It’s relaxing, peaceful and the perfect spot for some travel writing, a cup of the Earl Grey and just a cosy spot.
Wi-Fi and more books than anyone could ever read (Short Circuit excepted).
3. The Breakfast
I awoke and headed hungrily to the restaurant to find a huge range of food and even a breakfast menu. For a start – yoghurts, cereals, fruit all fresh and in good quantities. A range of juices. Toast with jam, honey and butter.
Plus of course the English fried breakfast, which came with black pudding much to my satisfaction!
4. The Staff
Having worked in a load of bars and hotels, I always expect the same sort of customer service as I’d give to my own customers. Here at the Doxford Hall, you’re always welcomed and always looked after. This is why it’s a 4 star hotel.
5. The Countryside
Having grown up in Northern Ireland and lived out in Tasmania for a while, I love the rural countryside. True relaxation, harmony and views unobscured by skyscrapers.
Doxford Hall plays host to around 100 weddings a year as well a lot of conferences, events and banquets. It’s a great place for a special occasion.
6. The Walks
The walks you can go on from the Doxford Hall are all marked out for you. Perfect for couples – just the two of you walking in fresh air in remote countryside.
7. The Bathroom
Backpacking through countries like El Salvador, Iran, Bulgaria and Ethiopia I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t always clean. Sometimes the showers didn’t work, sometimes no hot water, sometimes wearing the same clothes for days on end.
Here in this bathroom, I had the luxury of a shower and a bath. As much hot water as I wanted. Slippers, dressing gown and a range of toiletries. If I entered the Doxford Hall as a dirty backpacker, I left fresh and ready for my onward journey.
8. The Spa
I’ve had the pleasure of staying in 6 or 7 Spa Hotels in the last year and loved them (especially Caldea in Andorra) as a break from the sightseeing. Kick back in the jacuzzi, go for a swim or let off steam in the sauna. The Doxford Hall has a big Spa centre and even better – I went down early morning and had the place to myself.
9. The Decor
Do you bother to look at the walls when you stay in another hotel in another town in another country? Not always, but you should. Walls, carpet, cornices, chandeliers all with a design and flambouyance to them. In fact, I bet the staff are too busy to even appreciate how nice a building they work in. Check these photos out!
I found myself gazing at the carpet, at grandfather clocks and all around this elaborate mansion turned hotel. You’ll also notice a Christmas tree – I was there in December.
10. The Tea Tray
Afternoon tea or coffee with English biscuits? Yes please! My room had a tea and coffee tray with coffee, tea, hot chocolate, a kettle and biscuits. It wouldn’t be England without afternoon tea.
And so the journey must go on. A long term adventure round the world doesn’t linger long, not even in the luxury of the Doxford Hall Hotel and Spa. I was off to Newcastle and Sunderland for reunions – firstly with my school buddy Paddy Campbell (of Wet House fame and The Great Exam Heist) in Newcastle Upon Tyne and then with Clare Tweedy my university friend from Ashington. What was even more strange was that Clare told me she used to work in the Doxford Hall. What a small and wonderful world my friends.
On with the show, to book the Doxford Hall for your wedding, night of relaxation or to enjoy the delights of English countryside the way you dreamed it up as a child, here are the details.
Hotel Reservations: 01665 589 700
Imagine Spa Bookings: 01665 589 709
Weddings & Events: 01665 589 708
Doxford Hall Hotel, Chathill, Alnwick, Northumberland, NE67 5DN
E-mail: [email protected]
Book the Doxford Hall Hotel on Agoda
Here are some videos I made during my stay at the Doxford Hall Hotel and Spa: