An indulgent weekend at Middlethorpe Hall and Spa – a relaxed, natural treasure in the heart of York

By Michelle Johnson | 16 Apr 2021 | Travel

The Historic House Hotel is owned by the National Trust for an elegant country getaway

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Just two miles from York city centre, there is an oasis of old-world charm in the form of Middlethorpe Hall and Spa. This William III hotel – one of the National Trust’s three Historic House Hotels – is an elegant country getaway ideal for gastronomes and lovers of nature who don’t want to be too far from the thrills and spills of city life. 

A relaxing drive towards York comes to an abrupt end as we turn off the A64 and onto Middlethorpe Hall’s 20 acres of National Trust gardens and parkland. The charming hotel entryway belies the location’s access to York city – just a picturesque riverside stroll away – as we are welcomed into the manor house, where even the bust of original owner Thomas Barlow is appropriately masked. It is the start of a calm weekend getaway, unspoilt despite the necessary Covid-19 restriction that are, unfortunately, rigidly in place during our visit. 

The hotel comprises 29 rooms and suites across both the handsome manor house – first built in 1699 – and elegant courtyard, all finished in a traditional style. Dark wooden beams accent the white walls, while the furniture’s vintage look, in soft colours, ties it into the restored Georgian splendour of the main house. It is not your sleek, 21st-century hotel suite, despite the full range of mod cons – coffee machine, TV, comprehensive in-room service – but instead something a little slower; like stepping back in time.

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This is echoed in the public rooms and nooks available to guests – all painstakingly and vibrantly restored. Once the home of famous diarist Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, the National Trust property’s grandeur is best viewed from the North Entrance – where guests can enjoy drink and dining on the terrace. From there, exploring the gardens is a particularly bucolic experience in the early mornings, wherein guests can expect to see plenty of wildlife, including local deer. 

The gardens have been extensively restored to replicate the traditional cottage garden of the 1700s, with many specimen trees – including a Cedar al Lebanon on the main lawn, a mature Red Oak in the Spring Garden, and a Turkey Oak all of which remain from the house’s original gardens. 

For a truly relaxing walk, the myriad gardens offer the perfect setting to recharges one’s batteries. The walled kitchen garden is resplendent with flowering shrubs, herb beds and a variety of fruit, including apples, pears, plums, peaches and greengages – all used by the chef for his gastronomic creations. To the west of the kitchen garden is the lavender-lined Rose Garden, while the walled White Garden is aptly planted with white flowering plants such as wisteria floribunda. The Spring Garden leads to the park and arboretum, from which guests can meander through to a lake surrounded by a glade of trees. Bordering the A-road, the gardens are best experienced in the mornings and evenings when traffic is low, though they are a visual feast throughout the day. 

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Food for thought

The hotel’s 2 AA Rosette-awarded restaurant boasts imaginative menus, full of locally sourced game and presented in gourmet style. Head chef Ashley Binder and pastry chef Paul Harrison preside over the two dining rooms – The Oak and The Pineapple – both overlooking the perfectly manicured lawn (where you may see brave deer playing in the early evenings). Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, the sheer quality of the food is one of Middlethorpe Hall’s biggest draws. Chef Binder’s presentation alone is Michelin-worthy, while the creativity with which he presents his haute-style Oak menu dishes offers a new take on classic flavours and locally sourced produce. 

Stand out meals from the seasonal dinner menu include seasonal grouse with blackberry, beetroot and black pudding; sea bream with champagne velouté, oyster tempura, sea aster and baked potato; and salt-aged rump steak with heritage carrot, onion, ox cheek and bone marrow. Opt for the sommelier’s perfectly paired wine suggestions for a truly indulgent treat, or go full hog with the carefully designed Tasting Menu, which entices guests from around the area as well as hotel guests. 

 

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After this exquisite formal dining experience, we are easily tempted to book into Afternoon Tea the following day. A more casual, relaxed experience, we sink into the sofas of the Yellow Room with a glass of champagne in preparation for the classic English tea – a variety of Hoogly Teas are on offer to accompany three styles of finger sandwiches – North Atlantic prawn, honey-road ham and free-range egg mayonnaise, tomato and watercress – and warm slices of delicious home-made sausage roll before a course of home-made scones with jam and clotted cream and, finally, a selection of seasonal pastries and fruit cakes. 

If this feast does not sound tempting enough, the Hall’s spa, in its beautifully-manicured private garden, offers signature treatments from Aromatherapy Associates – from essential oil-enhanced massages to expert facials – ready to melt your cares away.

With all profits of your stay benefitting the National Trust, this is a step back in time that will leave you feeling and doing good. 

Middlethorpe Hall & Spa opens on 17 May