Returning to Maften Hall after an afternoon amble through the green fields and dizzy scent of late summer, I felt as though I was a heroine in a piece of gothic or romantic fiction, so delightful was the view from across the parkland to the sandy coloured stone of this nineteenth century country house.
Now owned by the great great grandson of the original creator Sir Edward Blackett, the hotel retains much of the original character. Sir Edward built his home on the site of an earlier Jacobean house in 1823, and parts of the earlier house dating from 1690 still remain on the west side, where the principal and premier rooms with their grand four poster beds are situated.
We’re on the East Wing, near the stables, and with a view full of rustic country character with a chic and stylish grandeur. All fifty three rooms come with everything you would expect from a luxury hotel, such as en suite bathroom, flat screen television, bath robes, snacks and writing desk. A hotel since 1999, the facilities are extensive but not overwhelming, with a comfortable air to it all. A still silence is only dappled by a breeze ruffling through the trees, and this relaxing charm permeates the building.
But as the Holy Trinity Church bells chime, it seems time to head for some dinner. The more informal Conservatory and Golf Club restaurant serve light food and bigger meals all day, whilst it is the 2 AA rosettes Library Restaurant that really astounds. Grand and stately surroundings make the perfect location for a sophisticated meal, with chef and staff attentive and welcoming. All the meals are cooked by carefully selected local ingredients, with inventive vegetarian options such as Cumin & Honey Roast Butternut Squash & Vegetable Crumble vying for attention with Tournedos of Northumberland Beef. The food had to be good to distract one bibliophile and one self confessed history geek from the titles adorning the walls, and was more than successful. Capturing light all day long, the Conservatory and terrace are perfect for after dinner drinks, morning coffee, or afternoon cake the Conservatory, whilst the drawing room and it’s big comfortable leather armchairs and elaborate ceilings is more suited to a nightcap.
A turn around the garden after dinner seems necessary, and the 300 acres are plenty to explore. Even just a meander along the conservatory gardens and their manicured beds, along the gravel paths, and through the many lintel stoned buildings is enough to enamor us. There’s a wedding going on, and one peak at the Great Hall reveals why this is the perfect location for such a day, with the huge mahogany staircase and deep arched windows being more than a little magical.
It is the grand Library where is where breakfast is served, and breakfast is one of the ways I judge a hotel. Counter tops are brimming with fresh fruits and tart yoghurts, glistening sugared pastries and fresh bread, and hot plates of cooked breakfast served at the table. A must try is the Northumbrian breakfast – local sausage, caramelised apples and black pudding served on ‘Geordie’ eggy bread. Breakfast gets top marks.
The spa is frequented by leisure visitors as well as hotel guests, and the array of options on offer is a little dazzling, but when on holiday… The facilities include a swimming pool, sauna, steam room, monsoon shower and full fitness suite, as well as an ‘ice cold bucket shower’ – it’s meant to be terribly good for you but I didn’t dare try. A twenty-seven hole golf course also attracts its fair share of patrons, and in these kind of surroundings even I could be tempted to take up the sport. It’s the grace and charm of the rose garden, lavender lawns, and carefully manicured English country gardens that I want to lose myself in with a good book, and I managed to switch off for a while to do so.
The trouble is, if you can call it that, there is too much to do around here. Despite its tranquility and remote feel, Maften Hall is hugely accessible. Only fifteen miles from Newcastle’s buzzing nightlife, as well as the English Heritage sites of Corbridge Roman Town, the excellent museum Vindolanda, and the opportunity to ‘Roam with a Roman’ along Hadrian’s Wall, and the rolling hills and dense woods of Northumberland National Park, there are few places so well situated yet still feeling so far away. If you can drag yourself away from the delights of the hotel to see it all that is…