For hundreds of years Grantley Hall has nestled in a valley on the banks of the River Skell, on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. But the classic Palladian-style Grade II listed mansion – first built in 1680 as a private residence – had for decades fallen into dilapidation and decay until the Sykes family took it on with a bold ambition; to restore the once grand home and transform it into one of the UK’s most luxurious escapes. Having spent an indulgent 24 hours at the five-star hotel and wellness retreat, I can say with much confidence that they have succeeded.
Grantley Hall is steeped in fascinating history and rich heritage, making the hotel even more special to the guests lucky enough to stay there today. The estate was built by Thomas Norton and stayed in the family for more than two centuries. It was sold to shipping magnate Sir Christopher Furness and then businessman Sir William Aykroyd who, during World War II, loaned it out as a convalescent home caring for soldiers. During this time Dame Vera Lynn visited to sing to the troops. West Riding County Council took over the house and grounds in the 1940s before it was bought by Valeria Sykes and her family in 2015 who set out on a four-year £70 million renovation project. The doors to the hotel and spa finally opened in 2019 to rave reviews.
Grantley Hall stands proud in its landscaped grounds at the end of an impressive drive, the River Skell cascading past. The stately home holds a grand presence in the beautiful Yorkshire countryside, but it’s inside where this stunning property really comes into its own with surprises around every corner. The palatial reception hall leads onto a fire-lit lounge where traditional décor is accented with bold block-coloured furnishings. The historic building has been renovated tastefully and retains its original charm as a country home but opens out into a vast extension to the rear, with the award-winning spa, gym, meeting spaces and bedrooms set around a stunning triple-height staircase that curves up around a glittering contemporary chandelier.
The five-star treatment begins from the moment you arrive; a smartly-dressed gatekeeper welcoming you onto the estate before you make your way along the long sweeping drive. The river rushes alongside you and the grand façade emerges on the horizon. A team of porters came out to greet us and the valet drivers took our car as we were whisked inside into the warmth. All of the staff beamed with Northern charm and friendliness as we sat down in a cosy corner with home-made lemonade while the team checked us in.
The Hall’s beautiful grounds deserve to be explored, even if you visit on a grey, dreary day. Follow the gravel pathways along the river’s edge, take a peek at what’s growing in the vegetable patch, seek out the pretty, peaceful Japanese water garden, hidden behind the Garden Pavilion, or hop across the stepping stones to tree island for a quiet moment taking in the views. The front lawns offer a spectacular vista of the front façade of the building; a view that must be even more impressive from the air as the hotel’s most exclusive guests arrive via helicopter.
There are 47 exquisite bedrooms and suites split across the old house and the new wing. The large and luxurious superior suites – one of which we were lucky enough to be spending the night in – are situated on the top floor, surrounding a covered, open-air courtyard rooftop atrium. Our beautiful 78sqm room felt like a deluxe apartment straight out of the pages of an interiors magazine, with high vaulted ceilings, appointed with gilded pendant lights, elegant furnishings and finished with a chic but classic style in gold and cream hues. Wooden shelving, stacked with coffee table books and Yorkshire guides, make the room feel very homely and offer you reading material for your stay.
Our suite offered an emperor-sized bed, a comfortable dining area and a full lounge, with cosy sofas arranged around a coffee table which was packed full of treats including fresh fruit, Champagne, homemade sloe gin and Lauden chocolates. The mini fridge was filled with water, soft drinks and milk – all complimentary – and there was also tea and coffee available as well as nibbles; perfect for those mid-afternoon rumbling tummies.
The exceptional underfloor-heated, Italian marble bathroom is like a mini spa with a huge marble bath and a steam shower to enjoy. The team have spared no expense here, with a large his and hers vanity, luxury toiletries, and a smart toilet that heats the seat and even lifts the lid for you! And it’s not just the toilet that’s clever in these state-of-the-art suites; all of the rooms offer air-conditioning as well as modern technology such as adjustable lighting and TVs hidden behind picture frames that appear at the touch of the button to reveal Sky systems allowing guests to enjoy live sports and movies.
Food and drink
Grantley Hall has an exceptional choice when it comes to eating and drinking. The vast hotel is home to four restaurants and three bars, including one Michelin star fine dining restaurant Shaun Rankin at Grantley Hall, Asian-inspired bar and eatery, Eighty Eight, and Champagne and cocktail bar Valeria’s – named after the owner. Guests can also enjoy refreshments in the spa lounge, sample sweet treats in the Georgian Drawing Room at afternoon tea, or soak up the Alpine atmosphere at the brand new Après at The Orchard.
We headed to Norton Bar – named in honour of the Hall’s original owner – and made ourselves cosy in front of a roaring fire. The bar, which also boasts a pretty courtyard terrace in spring and summer, is very traditional with its low ceilings, dim lighting, wingback armchairs and bespoke artwork. We ordered from the cocktail menu and tucked into bar snacks of olives and nuts before we made our way through into formal dining restaurant, Fletchers, for dinner.
The small and intimate restaurant was a cosy and romantic setting. Friendly and knowledgeable staff took us through the menu and answered our questions before bringing us out a bottle of the house red wine and warm sourdough bread and salted butter.
Head chef Craig Atchinson has created a deliciously sophisticated menu which, while refined, offers lots of choice for all dietary requirements and I (a pescatarian) struggled to choose between a number of dishes. We finally decided on the wood pigeon with artichokes, chanterelles and black pudding, and smoked haddock and spring onion fishcake to start, before moving onto the Aberdeen Angus beef fillet and cauliflower and truffle risotto.
The risotto was very generous and packed full of flavour; musky truffle mixed with the nutty taste of roasted cauliflower, finished with a runny-yolked crispy hen’s egg and parmesan. Dessert was again difficult to choose but we eventually settled on the Madagascan vanilla crème brulee and the chocolate and stout cake which my husband said was the best dessert he’d ever had!
Just 12 hours later and it was time to eat again. We headed into the light and bright morning room, next door to Fletchers, which is decorated with cream panelling and patterned curtains. Double-aspect windows look out onto the pretty gardens and guests can tuck into the buffet of cereals, fruit, yoghurts and pastries, or order from the menu of cooked breakfasts. We tried the tasty and healthy Grantley Hall-made granola with yoghurt and honey before ordering smashed avocado and chilli on sourdough which was very flavoursome, although the avocado was a little cold! But the highlight of the breakfast was a plate of light, fluffy, warm pancakes topped with maple syrup, fresh berries and rich clotted cream.
It’s easy to see why Three Graces Spa is award-winning; the stunning purpose-built spa is a haven of tranquillity. Influenced by the traditional Roman baths, the spa has low vaulted ceilings, pillars, sandstone floors, marble statues and tropical plants in over-sized ceramic pots. Guests can relax in cabanas or on plush Rattan furniture and heated tiled beds.
The marble-lined pool is perfect for swimming lengths while the vitality pool has bubble benches, massage seats and powerful jets to knead and soothe aching muscles. Slide the glass door to swim out into the steaming outdoor pool or head to the cedar-crafted sunken hot tub (although we were a little disappointed to find the water level low and the filters gurgling).
I was lucky enough to start my day with a 60-minute Prana Vitality full body massage with my lovely therapist, Olivia, who made me feel very comfortable and instantly at ease. The light-filled treatment room soon transformed into a cosy, private space at the touch of a button, with thick blinds covering the floor-to-ceiling windows. Dimly-lit with flickering candles and pink salt lamps, the scent of lemongrass filled the air and the treatment started with a soothing foot scrub before Olivia started to softly rub my back and tense shoulders.
The heated electric bed ensured I was warm and the fluffy towels kept me comfy while the sounds of chirping birds and a babbling brook helped me drift off into a light snooze. I was guided into the relaxation lounge afterwards for a deliciously refreshing thick berry smoothie and more time to unwind on the rumbling massage beds.
The spa is lucky to be surrounded by pretty gardens and grounds, and large dual-aspect windows make the most of bringing the outside in. The spa garden and patio provides lots of seating options and areas to relax on a warm, sun-kissed day. On a chilly winter’s day – like when we visited – the best place to enjoy the views is from the glass-fronted sauna which is finished with a curved cedar bench and a window out onto the lawns.
In a nutshell
The Grantley Hall monogram is everywhere you look – from the bespoke robes and slippers to the silky linen and the pool steps are even curved into ‘G’s – and the team is clearly proud of what they’ve created here. And they should be. The beautiful setting, opulent hotel, stunning spa, excellent dining, and impeccable service make this an unforgettable getaway. You’re treated like royalty from the moment you arrive until you drive, begrudgingly, out of the gates. I can’t wait to return.
Rooms at Grantley Hall start from £600 per room per night.
Grantley Hall is a member of the Pride of Britain Hotels collection (never more than 50 hotels, to guarantee quality and exclusivity). Find out more about Pride of Britain Hotels at prideofbritainhotels.com.
Address: Grantley Hall, Ripon, HG4 3ET
Phone: 01756 620070