Matfen Hall Hotel, Northumberland – Review
By Rachel Howard
Vacation or staycation? It’s tricky question, so many things to consider… cost, weather, activities… the list goes on. Throw different age groups into the mix and you’ve got a real dilemma on your hands.
Well, worry no more, as Northumberland’s Matfen Hall may well be the answer to your family affair – whether you’re after a summer holiday or a winter wonderland.
Situated in the picture-postcard setting of Matfen village, the hotel is just 15 miles from Newcastle city centre, but could be a world away from the hustle and bustle. The 19th-century country house, surrounded by idyllic countryside, is owned by Sir Hugh and Lady Blackett. As well as being the family seat, the Hall has also operated as a care home in its time, but the decision was made to transform it into a hotel, and the doors finally opened in 1999.
As we arrive, it’s hard to imagine it as anything other than the luxury hotel majestically standing before us. Luxury? – definitely, but something for all the family? – absolutely! Alongside the beautiful mix of traditional and contemporary décor and manicured gardens, there is also a 27-hole golf course (including driving range, practice areas and the must-have 19th hole!), the Aqua Vitae spa (including a 16-metre pool), a 2 AA Rosette award-winning restaurant, informal conservatory bar/restaurant and all the outdoor pursuits you can shake a stick at.
As we are shown to our Principal room, we pass the Great Hall, which showcases another of Matfen’s specialities – weddings. Staff are busy setting up for the fourth ceremony of the week, and the Harry Potter-esque hall looks a total dream. Despite the level of attention and care given to the regular weddings, non-wedding guests are not left to feel hard done by. The service we received in all areas of the hotel was fantastic. Nothing was too much trouble, and we were met with warm and friendly smiles at every turn.
Our room is huge, definitely the largest we have ever stayed in. It includes dual aspect windows overlooking the beautiful gardens, a separate dressing room and a very modern bathroom with rainfall shower and luxurious Gilchrist and Soames toiletries. As temping as it is to stay put, we drag ourselves away to test out the facilities at the Aqua Vitae spa.
Located within the hotel, the spa includes the aforementioned pool, spa pool, aromatherapy room, steam room, sauna, ice-cold bucket shower, monsoon shower, ice fountain and a state-of-the-art fitness suite. There really is something for everyone – from toddlers to grandparents, offering total relaxation or high-energy activity – whichever suits. We decide to sample a bit of both – I choose the hour-long full body massage while my other half, Pete, opts for a gym session followed by a swim.
After an initial consultation, my therapist, Jess, soothes away my tensions with a massage tailored to my own unique needs. An hour later I float out of the treatment room to meet up with Pete. He was suitably impressed with the facilities on offer in the gym and we both round off our spa experience with a few minutes in the steam room and sauna, followed by a soak in the spa pool. Utter bliss. Residential spa breaks and spa-day packages are available, and children are also welcomed in the pool during specific times.
Later on that evening, we are still floating on air, and head down to the Library restaurant. We are welcomed in the Drawing Room, for pre-dinner drinks, before being shown through to the restaurant. It is classically decorated in a formal style, with a stunning fireplace and antique bookshelves, and the views over the gardens and on to the golf course provide the perfect backdrop.
Before our starters arrive, and as we enjoy a G&T, we are presented with a mouthwatering appetiser of smoked mackerel pate, served with a selection of breads. It is delicious, so we know we’re in for a treat. My starter, Tastings of Beetroot, is not only a work of art, but also one of the tastiest dishes I’ve had – who’d have thought so much could be done with one ingredient! Pete’s Spiced Mackerel Fillet is served with chorizo, quails egg and heritage potato salad and is deemed to be excellent.
He follows up with a main course of ‘Mille Feuille’ of Pigeon, served with seared foie gras, rosti potatoes and a truffle jus. My Seared Loin of Lamb is accompanied by feta cheese, braised shoulder of lamb and a summer vegetable broth. Both dishes are cooked to perfection, and showcase local, seasonal ingredients at their very best. For dessert, I opt for the Dark Chocolate and Cherry Chibouste – a meringue topped chocolate tart. This was the only part of the meal that was a slight let down as the pastry was a little too thick for my liking. Pete’s selection of cheese allows him to try out some new varieties and is served with plentiful crackers and fruit. The whole meal was washed down with an excellent bottle of Malbec.
For more family-friendly, less formal dining, you also have the option of the Conservatory bar and the Keeper’s Lodge.
After a great night’s sleep in our super-King bed, we head down to the Library restaurant for breakfast. Another superb selection of dishes are on offer, plus a great cold selection of fruits, yoghurts, cereals and pastries. Everything you need to set yourself up for the day ahead – be it another day of pampering in the spa, or – as we did – a trip out to explore the beautiful local area including Hadrian’s Wall, Sycamore Gap (famous from Robin Hood Prince of Thieves) and the Vindolanda Roman Fort tourist attractions.
“Warmth and hospitality”
For a bit of activity closer to home, Matfen Hall has the bonus of an on-site Go Ape high-rope and zip-wire course. As well as this, the grounds of the hotel are also home to TurboVenture outdoor activity provider. Here, adventurers of all ages can try out paintballing, tank driving, quad biking, target shooting, off-road experiences, archery and clay-pigeon shooting.
Whether you’re a couple looking for some luxury and relaxation, a group of golfing friends or a family looking for an activity-filled week away – Matfen Hall covers all bases and does it all with genuine Northumbrian warmth and hospitality.
Matfen Hall Hotel, Matfen Village NE20 0RH
Matfen Hall Hotel, Golf and Spa winner of Large Hotel of the Year 2015 at the Visit England Awards is located just 15 miles west of Newcastle in the charming village of Matfen and is the ancestral home of Sir Hugh and Lady Blackett. This stately home is set in 300 acres of parkland and has been a hotel since 1999. Enjoy true Northumbrian hospitality at Matfen Hall Hotel. The Hotel offers 53 bedrooms, individually decorated in traditional and contemporary styles. Our golf estate includes a 27-hole course, par 3 course and driving range.
Offers available matfenhall.com/seasonal-offers/hotel-seasonal-offers/