Peter Morrell and his wife enjoy a short break in this historic hotel situated in one of the UK’s most attractive cities
Originally a private house Middlethorpe Hall is now a charming historic hotel owned by the National Trust. It offers 10 bedrooms and suites in the main house and 20+ bedrooms and suites in the adjacent 18th century buildings. All the accommodation is luxuriously well appointed to make your stay as comfortable as possible.
My wife and recently had a very comfortable and enjoyable short break at the property. On arrival the welcome from the staff could not have been more friendly and helpful. The grandeur of the house was soon apparent as we walked up the wide oak staircase lined with oil paintings to our first-floor room in the main house. The bedrooms are all large and beautifully decorated. Our room had a mega size four-poster bed, antique furniture, settee and a luxury bathroom. Large windows flooded the room with light and gave a panoramic view over the extensive and well tended 20 acre grounds.
The vista of the garden was so tempting that we decided to explore. Once outside we took a closer look at the architecture of the Middlethorpe. It’s a perfectly symmetrical imposing building constructed with warm red bricks and white stone. Although we were visiting in January the gardens still held a lot of interest. There was a park with a small lake, a walled garden, attractive box hedging, an avenue of yews and numerous ancient specimen trees.
Next to the house we discovered the courtyard bedrooms. These were in a coach house and a variety of other well renovated period buildings. Across a small lane are a pair of Edwardian cottages, their exterior has a chocolate box appearance but once inside they have been converted into an ultra modern spa. Facilities include a large swimming pool, spa bath, steam room and sauna. Qualified therapists are available for therapies in the three treatment rooms.
After our bracing walk we wanted some refreshment. There are many places in the Hall to relax, unwind and take tea. We chose to sit on a sumptuous sofa by the fire in what was originally the ballroom but is now an elegant grand salon.
After a good night’s sleep we were up bright and early for the bumper full Yorkshire breakfast taken in the wood-panelled dining room. Eggs cooked the way you want, two types of bacon, sausage, fried bread and black pudding were just what we needed for a day of sight-seeing in York.
Middlethorpe Hall is about two miles from the centre of York, so we called a taxi to take us close to one of the city’s most famous landmarks, York Minster.
York has the most incredible history. In its past it has been a significant Roman city, a Viking stronghold and had a fascinating medieval era. The layers of heritage representing these cultures are still visible and incredibly well-preserved.
Before starting our tour we popped into the tourism office and spoke to the highly enthusiastic and knowledgable volunteers who work there. They gave us a wealth of information and suggested the best sights to see during our one day visit.
The Minster was a good place to start, it’s the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe and is 800 years old. The sheer scale of the building’s interior is breathtaking. A must visit when you are there is the exhibition in the undercroft which vividly charts the history of the cathedral. This includes the urgent renovations that took place 50 years ago to save the building from collapse.
Our next stop was the Jorvik Centre, dedicated to showcasing what life was like in the Viking period. A 12 minute ride takes you into a Viking settlement to see what everyday life was like 1000 years ago. Tableaux of animated figures were enhanced with the smells, sounds, heat, cold and damp of the period. When you leave the ride there is a museum which had a wealth of Viking artefacts on display.
While walking through the centre my wife was highly impressed with the number of shops. These are complemented by the York Designer Outlet, a ten-minute bus ride out of town.
We took a walk along a street called the Shambles, the old English name for slaughterhouses. The original medieval overhanging buildings are still there but the abattoirs have now been replaced with smart restaurants and gift shops. It’s worth visiting the outdoor market almost next to the Shambles. There are fishmongers, butchers and a vibrant array of street food stalls.
Threading our way through alleys we emerged opposite a park where the Yorkshire Museum is located. The museum is a treasure trove of exhibits many of them related to the occupation by the Romans.
Our final stop of the day was the National Railway Museum. This is an attraction for all ages whether you like trains or not. There are over 100 railway engines, for example Mallard and the Flying Scotsman. and 300 items of rolling stock including carriages from past Royal trains. An extensive collection of railway ephemera gives a glimpse of the golden age of rail.
We had barely scratched the surface of this beautiful city. We could have walked on the top of the longest medieval walls in England, found out about York’s chocolate industry or visited the York art gallery to name but three further attractions.
Back at Middlethorpe Hall it was time to relax after a hard day’s sightseeing with a pre-dinner drink, which we enjoyed in the comfort of the grand salon.
Head chef Ashley Binder and pastry chef Paul Harrison have put together a range of menus that create a memorable dining experience. Ingredients are primarily sourced from Yorkshire. We had our first taste of the food’s quality with the amuse bouches featuring caviar and cauliflower that were served with the drinks.
The elegant dining room is the perfect setting for the sophisticated menu. My wife’s starter of scallops was fresh and uplifting and my duck confit had great depth of flavour. Both of the dishes were inventive and beautifully presented.
Our mains were equally pleasing, the halibut on the other side of the table was moist and sea fresh and had a delicate flavour. My Yorkshire rabbit had a good gamey taste and was served both pulled and rolled. We shared a portion of chunky ‘Pont Neuf’ chips that had a crispy exterior and a soft, yielding centre.
The wine list was extensive, offering fine examples from both the old and new worlds. Our match for the evening was a relatively rare wine from Argentina, Torrontes. The grapes are grown at altitude and subjected to large temperature variations which produce an intensely aromatic wine. Our La Colonia was a perfect match for the food with delicate floral notes in the bouquet and flavours of grape and white peach on the palate. The finish was bright and lively.
There were lots of tempting delights on the dessert menu but all we could manage was to share three scoops of home-made ice cream. It was the perfect ending to an excellent meal.
Our short break had come to an end and it had been thoroughly enjoyable. Middlethorpe Hall was very comfortable, the staff were charming and friendly, the food was good and the hotel offered a wealth of amenities. Middlethorpe is conveniently located for York’s city centre which is packed with historic and cultural attractions that will leave you spellbound.
Middlethorpe Hall & Spa
Bishopthorpe Road, York, YO23 2GB
Tel: +44 (0)1904 641241
For more information about York go to