Hotel Review: Rudding Park, Harrogate in Yorkshire
Harrogate has never previously struck me as a sunbathing destination. But that was before Rudding Park hotel spent £9.5 million building a new three-storey spa. Lazing by the rooftop pool, cossie on, wine in hand and sunshine out, I can’t think of a better spot.
Only an hour earlier we were twisting and turning past the sun-drenched Yorkshire dales before turning into the 300-acre grounds and up to the Grade I-listed Regency house. The estate may have been in the Mackaness family since 1972 but a continuous improvement programme has brought the hotel bang up to date whilst staying true to its heritage.
Following an effortless check-in we’re given a brief guided tour, our every question met with ease and a smile. Down the history-steeped hallway we pass photographs of the great and the good that have stayed at the hotel over the years, from Kofi Annan to Carrie Fisher.
Our bedroom is in the newer Follifoot Wing, a cursory look around reveals Molton Brown toiletries, a super king-sized bed and smart furnishings, if a little on the corporate side for a country house hotel. Floor-to-ceiling windows open directly out onto the garden and a stone’s throw across the lawn sits the all-singing, all-dancing new spa.
Featuring three floors of treatment rooms, relaxation areas and swimming pools, the new building is vast, filled with natural light and sympathetically designed to blend into the existing landscape. Downstairs amongst the treatment rooms is a ‘mind and senses zone’ so zen-inducing that even the most uptight of city slickers would struggle to stay awake.
On the ground floor sits a pool perfect for notching up lengths and so peaceful we almost put a halt to our explorations there. (You know you’ve hit peak relaxation mode when your biggest dilemma of the day is whether to lounge by the outdoor pool or the indoor pool.) Yet the weather is so good when we visit that we head straight up to the rooftop to make the most of it. Correct decision made, this is where Rudding Park really ups the ante. It’s heavenly.
Opening the doors onto the terrace a bubbling hot-tub and Finnish sauna are revealed in the garden before us. The new spa has barely been open a month yet we are just in time to grab the last two loungers. Inside, we’re spoilt for choice, flitting from tropical shower to log sauna, infinity pool and back again. The ethos of the spa is ‘to bring the best of the outside in’ and as we diligently drift from the outdoor hydrotherapy pool inside to the rosemary-scented sauna, it’s safe to say Rudding Park has stayed true to mission.
After a rejuvenating Elemental Herbology facial that soothes, massages and peels the last of my cares away we head back to the room for the necessary pre-prandial ablutions, only to discover our en-suite is better equipped than many another spa and has it’s very own Haman. The struggle to make it to dinner on time is real.
Truth be told, I was so giddy with excitement to be reviewing the joys of the new spa, I hadn’t clocked what a gastronomic treat we were in for come dinner. Following a highly lauded pop-up last year, Chef Murray Wilson now has a permanent home on the ground-floor of the new spa in the form of Horto fine-dining restaurant.
We gleefully tuck into the seven-course tasting menu, a culinary romp through the hotel’s Kitchen Garden. First, a trio of snacks bursting with freshly-picked ingredients from the grounds alongside mozzarella, smoked eel and Galician ox. It really is the best of British cooking and what isn’t grown in the grounds of the hotel isn’t from too far away; Whitby Crab and Wetherby Hogget each take a star turn on the menu.
Meanwhile, the drinks pairing takes us all over the world, from a G&T infused with goodies from the garden to begin, to wines from France, Austria and Australia then wrapping up with the unusual but nonetheless delicious ‘Akashi Tai’ sparkling sake from Japan.
Following a magnificent slumber and a deliciously hearty breakfast of eggs benedict and good coffee we set out to explore. A twenty-minute wander uncovers exquisite gardens, a Victorian Gothic chapel, two golf courses and a freshly landed helicopter. But it’s the Kitchen Garden which we’d heard so much about during our feast the previous night that steals out attention. We stroll through the vegetable rows, taking in the hundreds of different herbs, salads and edible flowers, trying to delay the inevitable departure.
It’s with heavy hearts that we head back to the car ready to journey home. Rudding Park is a veritable playground for the most serious of spa snobs and the most discerning of gourmands. The bedrooms might not have quite the cosy style of some of the hotel’s southern counterparts but the impeccable service and Yorkshire charm more than make up for it.
Address: Rudding Park Hotel, Follifoot, Harrogate, North Yorkshire HG3 1JH / 01423 871350
Twitter @RuddingPark @RuddingParkSpa