IT’S not every day you can take breakfast in the bath – but that is the intriguing prospect offered by Seaham Hall.
The five-star boutique hotel and spa set in a cliff-top position on Durham’s Heritage Coast has just completed its latest refurbishment and created a suite perfect for a romantic break.
The Ada Lovelace Suite has two slipper baths in prime position on a wooden deck in front of a giant bay window overlooking the Seaham estate.
Luckily, the room is on the upper floor of the Georgian mansion house, so no-one can see you as you slip into the bath for an early-morning soak (croissants and coffee close at hand, although reading the morning paper is a little bit more challenging).
The suite dovetails deliciously with the hall’s most colourful story.
Romantic poet Lord Byron was married to Lady Annabella Milbanke in the actual room. The suite is named after their daughter, Ada – Byron’s only legitimate child – who was born in 1815.
Ada became countess of Lovelace, but is celebrated in her own right as a brilliant mathematician who is credited with being the world’s first computer programmer.
The suite pays homage to this extraordinary connection with a collection of framed portraits of Ada and her father, as well as some prints of her mathematical work.
It is a lovely room; its high ceiling affording a sleeping mezzanine, with the lounge and bathroom beneath. There’s a huge squishy grey velvet sofa to flop into and a large flatscreen TV on the wall if you are seeking some chillax time.
But given the fact Seaham Hall boasts one of the best spas in the UK, chances are you won’t have that much time to be hanging around your room (as lovely as it is).
We dived straight into the Serenity Spa soon after arrival (a mere 90-minute drive up the A19 from York).
It was a brilliant way to recharge our batteries and begin our weekend of relaxation.
We were impressed with the 20 metre pool, which allowed you to have a decent swim, but also liked the jets around a fountain at the far end which pummelled different parts of the body.
The heat rooms were excellent too, and there was plenty of choice for “cooling down”, from rainforest showers to a double plunge pool that was Arctic cold.
There were plenty of beds around the poolside and in the treatment area if you simply wanted to snooze, or cuddle into a fluffy blanket and read the latest magazines.
Treatments are available too, and I enjoyed a Garden of Deep Calm Massage which was an hour of bliss. Using Thai-techniques, the therapist used aromatic oils to knead away the knots in my legs, back and shoulders.
It was so relaxing, I almost nodded off.
The hotel has two restaurants, the Ozone, set in the Serenity Spa, or the more formal Byron, just off the main hall.
We selected to have the chef’s tasting menu in the Byron restaurant, which was an orchestrated affair, with plate after plate of tiny morsels brought before us to try. Guests can choose the more traditional a la carte, and if you are exceptionally hungry, this might be the way to go. If you like adventure and taste experience over feeling full, the tasting menu is for you.
The head chef is Ross Stovold, who joined Seaham from Eriska Island where he earned a Michelin star. Ross champions local suppliers and says he has the utmost respect for the source of his ingredients.
Menu highlights include: South Shields-landed turbot, baby gem, brown shrimps and truffle; Cumbrian lamb rump, pickled young vegetables, braised shoulder and fresh curd, and hazelnut praline sponge, baked white chocolate, cocoa-nib ice-cream and malted milk.
After dinner, my husband and I had coffee and petit fours (a box of giant macarons) in the sports lounge, where we played a few rounds of pool.
The following morning, after breakfast in the bath, we explored the great outdoors.
For me, that amounted to a second visit to the spa and the outdoor hot tub while my husband cycled along the coastal path.
Later, we retraced his tyre tracks and enjoyed a brisk walk along the coast, dipping down to the beach every now and then via stone steps.
The coastal landscape is very different to that of Yorkshire; the area wears its industrial past like a scar. This stretch of coastline was once home to the biggest coal mine in Europe – and to some of the worst coastline pollution in the world.
But thanks to a massive clean-up operation, the beaches are no longer a no-go area for people and wildlife.
In fact, the area is well known for its spectacular wildflowers, particularly the fields at Blast Beach where you can see plants such as bloody cranesbill, dyer’s greenweed and devil’s-bit scabious creating a riot of colour in the summer.
The beach itself was like nothing else I’d ever seen, the sand and pebbles blazing a rusty-red colour, and the watery pools like puddles of Irn Bru, tinged so apparently by iron oxide and other minerals.
Fittingly, the beach was used in the film, Alien III, and features just after the opening credits. A memorable walk after a memorable weekend.
Seaham Hall Hotel, Lord Byron’s Walk, County Durham, England, SR7 7AG
Tel: 0191 516 1400