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Hotel Review: Rockcliffe Hall, Darlington in County Durham

LLM travel writer Amy Ockleford heads to this five-star country estate steeped in history.

By Amy Ockelford  |  October 16, 2021
Rockcliffe Hall header
Image Credit: Stan Seaton Photography

Rockcliffe Hall is the perfect destination for a his and hers getaway that’s sure to keep everyone happy. With beautiful design and architecture, sweeping grounds, fine dining, an award-winning spa, and a championship golf course, the stunning five-star resort has everything you need for a luxurious break in the North-East countryside.

Dating back to the 18th century, Rockcliffe Hall is a country estate which is steeped in history and oozes luxurious charm, so you can indulge in style. Once a private estate, the hotel now comprises of the old, original building – known as Old Hall – along with a large tastefully-designed extension, called New Hall.

Room

rockcliffe hall room
The hotel offers a variety of stylish accommodation with country views

The hotel offers 61 bedrooms and suites across the resort with large, sumptuous, and traditional rooms in the older part of the building. In the new part of the hotel, bay windows and high ceilings meet modern, stylish décor with sweeping views across the course. There’s further accommodation in Tiplady Lodge, Armstrong House Apartments and the Woodland Mews Holiday Homes.

My guest and I were staying in a cosy and beautifully-appointed Old Hall bedroom on the first-floor. Finished with warm, golden hues and rich fabrics, the suite is designed around the large fireplace. There’s plenty of space with a super king-sized bed, cosy seating area, dressing table and a large marble-topped bathroom.

The mini bar is stocked with bottled water, coffee and tea, but the swanky cocktail bar is also nearby if you fancy something a little stronger. Out the door and at the end of the corridor, a grand curved staircase with a stunning double-height stained glass window casts shards of multi-coloured light across guests as they head to dinner.

Food

rockcliffe hall orangery
The Orangery is an exquisite space with towering glass vaulted overhead and spectacular views of the starry night

While there are several dining options within the resort, we were lucky enough to be sitting down to a seven-course tasting menu in Rockcliffe Hall’s flagship restaurant, The Orangery, led by creative head chef Steven Lamb. The unique restaurant is housed in, you guessed it, the Hall’s orangery; an exquisite space with towering glass vaulted overhead and spectacular views of the starry night.

The team couldn’t have been more friendly and helpful, seating us and even bringing over a small stool for my handbag. We were presented with the intriguing menu and started with warm sourdough bread and tasty butters, one subtly mixed with the punchy ‘you-either-love-it-or-you-hate-it’ Marmite (we loved it!). The bite-size canapes may have been small morsels but they were packed full of flavour and set the tone for the rest of the meal.

I had the vegetarian menu – named the Root and Branch tasting menu – featuring coconut and cauliflower, Walldorf salad and a beetroot baked Alaska comprising 10 variations of beetroot. But my favourite course was the starter; a chickpea dahl that was refined, flavoursome and absolutely delicious. My husband opted for the classic Orangery tasting menu of duck liver parfait, Orkney scallops, and salt-aged Ripon lamb.

One course called cheese and onion – made up of onion ice cream and strong blue cheese – left us both a little confused but was quickly followed by a delicious, sweet treat of dark chocolate and orange to finish. The sommelier gave us a detailed explanation of the flavours, the origin, and the reason why he’d selected each paired wine; which washed down our courses perfectly.

Spa

rockcliffe hall spa pool
The hydrotherapy pool bubbles and roars with the sound of jets, fountains and waterfalls

Arriving at Rockcliffe Spa is like arriving at a high-end hotel in itself; inside is spacious and colourful, dotted with large, sumptuous sofas to sink into and bright artwork. Rich, deep carpets and dark-coloured walls are lit with flickering candles. The shop sells creams, oils and lotions used by the therapists and a long, dark almost theatrical corridor leads off to the treatment rooms which are relaxing and serene.

Erin, my therapist, gave me a wonderfully soothing 45-minute full body massage using Neom oils infused with lemon, basil and mint which left me feeling incredibly relaxed and ready to explore all the spa’s facilities. Ripples wash across the sparkling pool as you dip your toe in the edge and the rainbow colours from the tall shards of stained-glass dance across the water. Curved rattan loungers line the edge and guests sip on thick, green smoothies from the juice bar.

Through the doors there’s a hydrotherapy pool which bubbles and roars with the sound of jets, fountains and waterfalls. Outside, the sun-drenched spa garden is serene and peaceful with a small, neatly-trimmed lawn where you can bask in the sunshine, as well as a cute flower wall which is perfect for Instagram shoots. The open-air hot tub was filled with giggling groups of girls which meant we, unfortunately, didn’t get to try it out.

rockcliffe spa garden
The Spa Garden is a private area with indoor and outdoor nooks to snooze and relax

The pool was a little cold but the hot sauna soon warmed me up. After sweating it out, we headed to the hydro pool to sit back in the whirling jets and wait (for what seemed like forever!) for the bubbles to re-start. The experience showers offer a chance to unwind or invigorate; sample rainforest mist or a tropical monsoon, and there are a whole host of other experiences to try too. There’s an infrared treatment room, an igloo, a tropicarium and a caldarium. My favourite, the tepidarium, is a dark, cave-like crevice with warmed, mosaic-tiled beds. The hot and quiet cocoon is lit by a ceiling of twinkling lights and soft music plays in the background; a peaceful break away from the hustle and bustle.

For an extra special treat, book a slot in the exclusive Spa Garden; a private area with indoor and outdoor nooks to snooze, relax and sunbathe. Inside, comfy seats encircle a firepit and large bifold doors open onto a deck. Order a glass of Prosecco and sink into the warm infinity pool with views over the golf course.

If you’re feeling peckish, Nu Sana is a light and bright restaurant at the heart of the spa, with views over the gardens. The menu is diverse and offers a mixture of light bites, healthy salads, tasty snacks and Asian-inspired dishes. Here, health meets decadence so you can wash your lunch down with Champagne fizzing with bubbles or smoothies packed full of goodness (depending what sort of break you’re on!).

Golf

rockcliffe hall golf
The championship golf course wraps around a large lake

My husband, who is a keen golfer, was excited to try out the challenging championship course which wraps around a large lake. As the sun was shining and we had a smart, new buggy reserved, I decided to join as the chauffeur. Staff were very friendly and readied us for the greens before we headed off to the first tee where the course manager offered us fresh apples, balls, tees and scorecards and sent us on our way.

We spent three hours zipping around the undulating greens practising his drives and putts. The greens are mown with perfect precision and there is barely a blade out of place. While that precision didn’t quite reflect in his game (there were a few bunker balls and drop-ins!), it was a lovely, relaxing afternoon and he was pleased to record a score below 100. My level of play tends to lean more towards ‘whack-it-and-see-how-far-it-goes’ so we headed to the academy for some fun at the driving range where we had eight bays all to ourselves.

The Clubhouse is a sleek wood-clad building that sinks into the landscape with pretty wild borders, a living roof and manicured topiary. There’s a bar and restaurant, which can be hired for events, as well as a golf shop and changing rooms. Spike Bar was bustling with members as we finished out game and headed to the restaurant to sit out on the sun-kissed terrace and grab some lunch.

In a nutshell

Rockcliffe Hall is a beautiful hotel, golf and spa resort which is perfect for a couple’s retreat, a girls’ getaway or a family escape. There’s so much to do to keep golfers, foodies and those who long for luxury happy, in fact, you may never want to leave!

Factbox

Rooms in the main hall of Rockcliffe Hall are available from £265 per night. Spa days can be booked independently, and golf green fees start from £30 per person.

Address: Rockcliffe Hall, Hurworth-on-Tees, Darlington DL2 2DU
Phone: 01325 729999
Website: www.rockliffehall.com