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A short break at Wynyard Hall Hotel in the Tees Valley
12:49pm Saturday 3rd March 2012 in Leisure
MIKE LAYCOCK follows in the footsteps of Prime Ministers, writers and war heroes with a visit to Wynyard Hall.
IF THEY had a plaque for every famous visitor who had stayed at Wynyard Hall over the years, the front wall would disappear under a sea of blue.
Built in the 1820s for the Londonderry family, hostesss Lady Frances Anne made it the talk of Europe in Victorian times, entertaining royalty, prime ministers, generals and writers. Charles Dickens, King Edward VII, Winston Churchill and the Duke of Wellington all fell under its spell.
More embarrassingly, a regular visitor in the 1930s was Hitler’s representative, Von Ribbentrop, who liked meeting one particular Londonderry, who was rather keen an appeasement.
In the 19th century, Benjamin Disraeli reckoned he “never left London with such a sense of relief and anticipation of happiness” than when he came to stay at Wynyard.
Nowadays, as a four-star country house hotel just over an hour’s drive up the A19, ordinary mortals from York can anticipate plenty of relief and happiness there as well. Guests approach through extensive grounds, cross a bridge, park up and then enter through a Corinthian portico into a world of luxury, beginning with the statue gallery. More than 100ft long, 80ft wide and 60ft high, this features 48 towering columns, a stained glass dome and a minstrels gallery.
We had been invited to stay in one of the sumptuous bedrooms, the Duke of Wellington Suite, named after the victor of Waterloo, who was a regular at Wynyard.
This circular room comes complete with an incredibly high ceiling, huge chandelier, sofa, concealed door into the en suite bathroom and views across the lake where swans were swimming.
The Duke popped up again when we went for our evening meal – after a drink in the library – and found ourselves escorted into the Wellington Restaurant. Recently awarded two AA Rosettes for food and service, there was not one but two roaring log fires, one on each side of the room. Huge paintings hung on the wall and a pianist who was tinkling the ivories came round at one point and asked us to pick our favourite tunes for him to play; nice touch.
Other rooms worth visiting at the hall include the Mirror Room, walled with huge mirrors and ornate cornicing, where Edward VII held a council in 1903, and the chapel, with an elaborate ceiling supported by grand columns of Pavonazza marble.
Since our visit, a spa has also opened at Wynyard in a former boathouse on the lakeside, which apparently features facilities including a Rasul mud chamber to assist with exfoliation, a salt inhalation room to help you breathe more easily and an ice fountain where a handful of ice flakes is rubbed over your body to strengthen your immune system.
After a splendid full English breakfast back in the Wellington restaurant, it was time to depart and pay a visit to the historic city of Durham, about a 30-minute drive from Wynyard, before returning to York. The historic heart of the city, encircled by the River Wear, is gorgeous even on a winter’s day. A wander through the attractive market square and along winding streets led us up to the cathedral, a world heritage site which was founded in its present form in AD 1093 and is said to be the greatest Norman building in Britain. It houses the shrine and related treasures of Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, and is home to the remains of the Venerable Bede.
• Wynyard Hall Hotel, Tees Valley, TS22 5NF.
• For information, phone 01740 644811 or go to wynyardhall.co.uk