Rockliffe Hall in Darlington – a five star stay

Rockliffe Hall – Hotel of the Year

Rockliffe Hall is hidden away in a beautiful estate just a few short miles from the thriving market town of Darlington in County Durham. If you just take a slight detour from the A1 motorway you can find yourself driving up to an impressive country estate with  a grand hotel and a sweeping manicured golf course.
The old hall houses the main hotel which was originally the ancestral home of the Backhouse family. who built the house in 1863. There are sixty one bedrooms in total with forty in the main hotel and the rest in the extension.

Traditional elegance

As well as the main hotel there other places to stay like Tiplady Lodge, and the Armstrong apartments as part of the estate. Apparently when new footballers are signed to the local football club Middlesbrough – newly promoted to the premiere league by the way – they are often put up here for a while.
The house was purchased by Steve Gibson owner of Middlesbrough Football club in 1997, after it had fallen into disrepair and was gradually developed and added to over time. The stunning 18 hole championship golf course covers 400 acres and is one of the largest golf clubs in Europe and is quite tricky apparently. I think I would be better on the sit down mower than at the golf.

A very glamorous golf course

Rockliffe is ideal for a short break, a day trip to the fabulous spa or why not try one of the three excellent restaurants. It’s great for weddings, although it will only cater for one wedding a day, and also has a separate conference suite.
There are botanical prints and references everywhere as the original Victorian family collected and planted rare and unusual trees which are now flourishing in the lovely grounds. The meeting rooms and each floor are named after trees and there is a tree trail featuring little plaques which lets children follow the alphabet of trees. Not sure what would begin with Z?

Reflections of a special spa

The Spa here has been developed to the max. There’s a great pool with art deco style stained glass windows which reflect in the water, which was my favourite feature actually. This is complemented by steams rooms, a sauna and a hydrotherapy pool with different jets of water coming at you from all directions. The newest addition is the Spa Garden which is a special outdoor section with a heated Jacuzzi and infinity pool overlooking the spectacular grounds. You get a two hour access session and a full spa service offers you coffee, herbal teas and snacks as you relax in your pool with a view. Or why not snuggle up in your robe on the heated loungers? Treatments are also available at Rockliffe spa and you could treat yourself to a very special NEOM massage using a spa range developed locally.
You can burn this candle at both ends

You choose an aroma you feel in tune with after a good sniff of a range of aromatic candles, and that becomes the basis of your treatment as that particular candle is lit to create a melted Shea butter massage oil. You can chose from Tranquillity, Energise, De-stress or Happiness options. If you are more of a gym bunny there’s a full fifty piece techno gym for you to work out in instead

Obviously when you visit a five star you will want to sample the cuisine. There are three options for food at Rockliffe Hall. The Brasserie above the Spa is a less formal choice as is the clubhouse restaurant at the golf course, with its attractive grass roof and Gastro pub style. Rockliffe’s premier dining option is the Orangery.

The Orangery

The Orangery is probably more of an occasion restaurant and there are a number of menus to try including a seven course surprise menu with wine pairings for each course. This kind of tasting is known as a flight of wines. Each course is paired with a different wine choice appropriate for the food. They aren’t full glasses of wine but you can’t help mixing your drinks if you choose this luxury option.  Rockliffe’s chef is Richard Allen who was poached from the Grand Hotel in Jersey and a Michelin star may be on the cards sometime soon.

Discerning dining

Rockliffe Hall has the traditional feel of an old country house but it has the best Spa facilities I’ve seen in the area. I would definitely like to explore the lovely grounds more if I ever get the opportunity to return. This year is Visit England’s Year of the Garden so it’s great time to stop by and appreciate them.
Recent winner of the accolade “Large Hotel of the Year” for 2015 at the Visit England Awards, Rockliffe is certainly the cream of the crop for  Northern hospitality.

Classic cocktails