Rockliffe Hall, County Durham – Review

rockliffe hall durham review exterior

A Stay-and-Play Break at Rockliffe Hall

By Richard Jones, July 2022

Golf can be a frustrating game.

One minute, you’re marching confidently down the fairway after hitting the perfect drive, and the next you’re scuffing, slicing or shanking your approach to green, before carding a double bogey, if you’re lucky.

Although there is no magic formula to becoming an expert golfer, thankfully, there is a solution to the stress that everyone who has ever swung a club will understand.

One of the fastest growing sectors in the travel market is the spa and golf break – one person heads off to the golf course, while the other can relax in the spa with a rejuvenating treatment.

However, there is no reason why groups of friends can’t do both during the weekend.

rockliffe hall durham review golf

The golf course at Rockliffe Hall


I was joined by my friend and golfing buddy Stu for two days and one night at Rockliffe Hall, a five-star resort nestled away in the Tees Valley.

I had heard a lot of good things about the place before I arrived, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Located on 375 acres of land and the private home of the Backhouse family, Rockliffe was originally known as Pilmore before being transformed into a luxury retreat.

Although the hotel is relatively young, it more than holds its own against more established counterparts in terms of grandeur, while its facilities and service are second to none.

Some of Rockliffe’s old-worldy feel comes from the magnificent Old Hall section of the hotel, which dates back to 1863, and has held onto many original features, including the stained-glass windows and fireplaces.

Adjacent is the New Hall extension, which was completed in 2009, and gives the resort a modern twist.

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The New Hall extension


Stu and I arrived at Rockliffe Hall on a Saturday evening and were immediately struck by the friendliness of the staff, many from the local area.

They couldn’t do enough for us, and their laughter and chit chat was refreshing in a place of such prestige.

After unloading the car, our golf clubs were whisked straight to the clubhouse in preparation for the following day’s round, while Stu and I checked into a ground-floor Junior Twin Suite in the New Hall part of the hotel.

Extremely spacious, with two queen-sized beds, the south-facing views from the patio doors were of the golf course’s first tea and the Veuve Cliquot Champagne bus and cocktail bar in the gardens.

As well as tasteful decor and fresh carpets, the room had all the mod cons you’d expect from a five-star hotel – the ‘mood’ lighting control switches were a nice touch.

Other in-room amenities included a kettle and cafetière, with a massive selection of teas and coffees, as well as Molton Brown toiletries in the bathroom, and a tile TV at the end of the Villeroy & Boch tub.

rockliffe hall durham review suite

A suite in the Old Hall

“Worth every penny”

After freshening up, Stu and I headed down the corridor to The Orangery fine-dining restaurant to sample dishes that promised to be “homely and comforting, with a touch of Rockliffe flair”.

Despite being very tempted by several dishes on the à la carte menu, we went for the innovative eight-course Signature Tasting Menu.

After beautifully presented canapés of trompette and truffle macarons and baby Ragstone beetroot, we devoured the delicious hand-dived Orkney scallops, with pork belly and carrots.

That was followed by duck liver parfait with rhubarb and smoked eel, before a light but very tasty piece of halibut, with mussels and wild garlic from the estate’s garden.

For the main course, it was salt-aged beef with chard and smoked ratte potatoes.

Finally, the palette-cleansing lavender ice cream with Rockliffe honey and white chocolate, paved the way for a chocolate pave dessert with raspberry yuzu.

Although the taster menu comes with a hefty price tag (£95 per person, with an optional £50 for wine-pairing), it is worth every penny, and you will leave the restaurant feeling like you have been on a culinary journey.

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The Orangery restaurant

“Fluffy robes”

The next morning, Stu and I headed back to The Orangery for breakfast.

For those not feeling over hungry, there is generous buffet of fresh fruits, cereals, granolas, breads and pastries.

This can be followed by the hot à la carte menu, including The Orangery full breakfast, pancakes, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs or smoked haddock.

After breakfast, Stu and I grabbed our fluffy robes from the suite and headed to Rockliffe Hall’s acclaimed spa.

We lounged by the 20-metre pool, sweated it out in the steam room, rinsed off in the monsoon showers and relaxed in the hydro pool.

For those looking for an even more enhanced experience, book out the Spa Garden, where you can bob about in the infinity pool, heat up in the sauna and lie down on a Bali bed, while gazing over the gardens watch the wildlife.

Over the past few hours, the pair of us had seen golfers come and go and couldn’t wait to get out on the course for ourselves.

rockliffe hall durham review spa garden

Spa garden


After making our way past Middlesbrough FC’s state-of-the-art training ground, we enjoyed a sandwich and drink in the Spikes bar in the clubhouse, before heading to the driving range and putting green to get our eye in.

Our buggy (a godsend in the hot weather) arrived bang on time and the guys in the pro shop got us stocked up with equipment and drinks before tee-off.

There is a real professional tournament feel to the course, with the knowledgeable starter in the hut next to the first tee providing branded tees, pencils, scorecards and fresh fruit for those embarking on a challenging 18 holes.

Not only is Rockliffe Hall one of the longest courses in England (measuring nearly 8,000 yards from the championship tees), with its countless fairway bunkers, water hazards and thick, tangly rough, it is also fearsome.

However, that’s not to say Stu and I didn’t find a modicum of success hitting off the yellow tees and down the wide fairways towards the large greens.

Some of the holes, designed by the Hawtree family of renowned architects, are particularly memorable.

rockliffe hall durham review course

A round of golf at Rockliffe Hall starts at £50


The par-three fifth is Rockliffe’s signature hole and requires a pinpoint tee shot to carry the water over to the island green.

That’s followed by the monster par-five seventh, before the 15th – another par three in which water cuts in down the right-hand side.

The closing dogleg 18th that ends on a green below the clubhouse.

It’s fair to say that Stu and I had a mixed round, performance-wise.

However, any golfing disappointments faded into insignificance thanks to the beauty of the course, the splendour of Rockliffe Hall, and the hospitality of the staff.

Richard Jones was a guest at Rockliffe Hall in Hurworth-on-Tees, Darlington, DL2 2DU
New Hall doubles from £265 per room per night, including breakfast and full use of the spa facilities
Eighteen holes on the Rockcliffe Hall golf course can be booked from £50
For more information on breaks at Rockliffe Hall, go to:
Alternatively, call 01325 729999 or email


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