Set in the neighbouring village to the one where I spent many a summer holiday playing by the river is the five-star hotel, golf and spa resort Rockliffe Hall. The 375 acres of land and stately house was once the private home of the Backhouse family (famous for co-founding Barclays Bank) and dates back to 1863. This beautiful resort tucked away in the Tees Valley, is a splendid retreat; ideal for friends to meet, couples to reconnect and families to gather. We were recently invited to stay, read our review to discover more.
Rockliffe Hall is a POB hotel – a collection of the very best independent hotels across the British Isles.
I first visited Rockliffe about 13 years ago, not long after it first opened, and I remember the vast open fields surrounding the driveway. Fast forward to the present day and the mature woodland that envelopes the wide and winding driveway looks like it has been there forever. It’s a distinguished entrance that is befitting of this five-star estate.
We arrived on a damp Friday afternoon, but our spirits were soon brightened by the seasonal Halloween decorations at the door and in the reception hall.
Pleasant and professional receptionists welcomed us as we completed the quick and easy check-in process. We were then escorted to our room (ground floor superior suite) where our cases awaited our arrival.
Our suite was in the New Hall, which is an extension of the original building and benefits from a south-facing aspect, meaning each room (or suite) presents guests with beautiful views across the extensive landscaped gardens and the championship golf course. Guests staying in a superior suite will also enjoy a Juliet balcony or ground floor patio. We were staying in a ground-floor superior so the ground to floor doors brings ‘the outdoors in’ and really accentuated the already extremely spacious suite.
The New Hall rooms were recently refurbished in partnership with leading local interior designers, Cocoon & Bauer. The result is a calming and classic aesthetic with pops of colour accentuating the neutral pallet.
The super king-sized bed was sumptuous, with luxurious bedding made the ‘sleep’ area a cosy haven whilst the plush sofa and perfectly positioned coffee tables in the lounge area created a relaxing space. The well-designed separate dressing room area offered privacy and separation so the rest of the suite allowing guests to do their own thing without encroaching on one another.
The mood lighting with bedside controls was a smart feature and I always love a room with a ‘global off’ to turn all lights off as you walk out the door.
The neutral-toned marble-clad bathroom comprised walk-in monsoon style shower and separate bath with a built-in TV’s so guests can really kick back and relax, the usual fluffy bathrobes and towels adorned the heated towel rail, and his and her sinks with Molten Brown toiletries completed the ensuite. A separate WC offered great convenience.
A bonus of staying in the New Hall is that all rooms are only a short fluffy robe-clad walk to the spa and gym facilities.
Old Hall rooms and suites, each of which is individual in design with traditional furnishings reflective of the classic and elegant era of the original building. Contemporary double rooms can be found in Tiplady Lodge which is a very short walk from the main hotel and rooms within overlook the golf course. For those wishing to enjoy the facilities of the hotel but with more independence there are self-catering apartments and a house – ideal for larger groups.
Dining here can be as formal or as relaxed as you wish.
The Orangery is the fine dining restaurant within the hotel, however if you’d prefer something more informal then opt for The Clubhouse which overlooks the golf-course and is open all day, every day. Nu Sana is above the Spa and serves healthy and fulfilling dishes, guests can even dine in their robes (until 5pm) and if the weather is favourable the terrace is a great spot to enjoy the tasty dishes served here.
We dined in The Orangery, which is part of the original building and quite a formal affair. We enjoyed a cocktail in the bar whilst we perused the a la carte menu, and our order was taken before we were escorted into the large high-ceiling restaurant overlooking the well-lit landscape gardens. The menu changes regularly and uses seasonal produce much of which is home-grown. The fine-dining dishes crafted by Head Chef, Paul Nicholson, were delicious and quality over quantity is the focus.
Appetizer: Beef And 36-Month Aged Parmesan Cappuccino, Onion Bread.
Starter 1: Pan Seared Foie Gras, Gingerbread, Pecan, Granny Smith, Brioche.
Starter 2: Orkney Scallop, Celeriac, Smoked Roe, Pine.
Main 1: Salt Aged Highland Venison, Oxtail, Chervil Root, Malt, Elderflower.
Main 2: Joshu A5 Wagu Sirloin, Jerusalem Artichoke, Black Garlic, Hen of the Woods, Truffle Hash Brown, Caper, Bone Marrow Bordelaise.
Dessert 1: Valrhona Chocolate, Caramel, Milk, Yuzu
Dessert 2: Pressed Caramelised Granny Smith Apple, Sable Breton, Calvados Mascarpone, Peanut.
Breakfast was also served in The Orangery, guests are asked to make a prior reservation and are welcomed by the Maître D. Guests can choose a starter and a main, with toast and coffee to compliment the meal. With my sweet tooth, I opted for two starters (Bircher Muesli and Homemade Pancakes) both of which were absolutely delicious – I could have eaten at least three more! Saying that I quite like this ‘order’ concept as I do have a tendency to overindulge at breakfast buffets. This approach is also a good way to good own on food waste which works towards sustainability efforts.
The Spa is open to hotel guests, members and non-resident day visitors. It’s extremely spacious at 50,000 sqft and the floor to ceiling windows that overlook the golf course enhanced the space.
The magnificent stain glass in the spa entrance and around the pool side were in fact the original windows from the chapel that was part of the original building. These touches of history help maintain the heritage throughout the newer part of the hotel.
With a 20m swimming pool, poolside loungers, hydro pool, multiple saunas, tropic atrium, caldarium, igloo, trepidation, monsoon shower, outdoor hot tub there is plenty of variety to ensure guests feel 100% relaxed. My favourite spa room was the igloo – there is nothing like rubbing ice all over your body for the ultimate invigoration!!
Fruit, water, and a seasonal herbal tea are all complimentary. Smoothies are also available to order at an additional charge.
The Spa Garden with a private infinity hydro pool, is popular with guests and use of this tranquil amenity can be arranged at an additional charge. We didn’t spend any time in here on our visit, but I’ve heard good things. Find out more
Spa and Wellness Treatments
There are several private, quiet, cosy and ambient treatment rooms for guests to enjoy a holistic wellness message or facial, and positioning themselves as innovators in the industry, Rockliffe Hall has just launched its FACE SPAce treatments in the Spa boutique. We were invited to be one of the first to try this treatment – before it launched to the general public – and despite my reservations I was very impressed with the results-driven facial. Read the full review here.
A gym can be accessed in the spa building, it boasts a great range of modern cardio and resistance machines with a free-weight area. I had a quick workout but didn’t spend as much time as I would have liked (breakfast was calling!) as it was a pretty smart gym. Guests can join group exercise classes and PT sessions can also be arranged.
There is a full-size tennis court, bikes for hire, beautiful riverside walks, a driving range and of course not forgetting the parkland 18-hole golf course.
As you pass through the hotel you may notice random but artistic letter plaques hidden in obscure places – they are not as random as they may look. They are part of the Alphabet Hunt, and the Alphabet Tree, is found in the Spa reception. This is a great activity to keep children (and adults alike!) entertained but also another nod to the history of the estate. The Backhouse family (original owners) had a passion for plants and brought many plants and trees from around the world (one for each letter of the alphabet) and planted them in the grounds – many of which remain today.
The Drawing Room and Library found in the Old Hall are beautifully elegant spots to sit back and enjoy a moment or two of peace – and be transported back to days gone by.
For UK guests, Rockliffe is easily accessible by road or rail – just a 10-minute drive from Darlington Railway station or for guests who prefer to use their own private transport there is a helipad.
We had a thoroughly lovely stay here. It combines modern facilities with elegant charm and perfectly caters for all sorts of celebratory occasions.
Address: Hurworth Rd, Hurworth-on-Tees, Darlington DL2 2DU