Hotel Reviews Hotels UK

Rockliffe Hall Review – Luxury North East Golf & Spa Resort

Hurworth-on-Tees: the neighbouring village to the one where I spent many a summer holiday playing by the River is home to the five star hotel, golf and spa resort Rockliffe Hall.

The 375 acres of land and the private home of the Backhouse family (famous for co-founding Barclays Bank) was originally known simply as Pilmore. Dating back to 1863 this beautiful space, nestled away in the Tees Valley, was transformed into the luxury retreat we now know (and love!) as Rockliffe Hall.

Although the hotel is only 5 years old (quite a youngster in terms of many British five star estates) it still competes well with its more established counterparts in terms of grandeur, facilities, service and all round wow factor.

After a very kind invitation from Anna Addison to spend a night at the hotel I’m delighted to present Rockliffe Hall from a TLE perspective…….


We arrived on a bit of a damp Sunday afternoon but our spirits were soon brightened the minute we checked in to Rockliffe Hall. Before we’d even reached the reception the concierge had lightened our load and cases were whisked away to our room. Pleasant and professional receptionists welcomed us and offered us a refreshment as we completed the quick and easy check in process. We were then given a short guided tour of the hotel before being escorted to our room (top floor superior suite) where our cases awaited our arrival.

Our Suite

Our suite was located in the New Hall which was completed in 2009 and is an extension of the original building which dates back to 1863.

Our suite was extremely spacious; with a king-size bed and two sofas I could comfortably lie out on without my toes dangling over the edge. The suite was south-facing and overlooked the golf course. Contemporary in style and tastefully decorated with plush carpets (I always do the toe test and this passed with a 10/10 score) and all the mod cons you’d expect from a 5 star hotel (except an iPod docking station). I particularly liked the one switch lighting control with different mood settings (night setting was ideal for late night toilet stops that didn’t disturb the snoring husband!!).

Bathroom at Rockliffe Hall

The cream marble clad bathroom was luxurious with a featured tile TV at the end of the bath, his and hers sinks, walk in shower with rainfall showerhead and body wash hose. Separate toilet. The usual fluffy bathrobes and towels adorned the heated towel rail. A separate toilet room ensured the utmost privacy.

Rockliffe Hall Superior Suite & View

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 which we immediately set out to indulge in.

The Spa

Although there were quite a few bodies chillaxing in the spa it still felt relatively quiet and spacious which is probably due to the floor to ceiling windows that overlook the golf course creating the illusion of extensive space.

Anyone who knows me knows I like to earn my indulgence so before my relaxation started I wanted to splash out a few serious lengths of the pool. Annoyingly I’d forgotten my goggles, however this was not a problem given how gentle the chlorine was. You also didn’t have that lingering horrible pool-like smell on your skin when you left.

Spa at Rockliffe Hall

The Spa comprises of a 25m pool, hydro pool, sauna, tropic atrium, caldarium, igloo, trepidation and monsoon showers – although not as big as some of the spas I’ve visited there was perfectly enough variety to ensure you left feeling 100% relaxed. An abundance of fruit, water and herbal teas are all complimentary.

My fave spa room was the igloo – there is nothing like rubbing ice all over your body for the ultimate invigoration.


Although the sun had failed to make an appearance all day we were graced with its presence whilst we sat outside on the Cocktail Bar terrace for pre-dinner drinks and fruit. Yes fruit!! A beautiful tree adorned with Cape Gooseberries (Physalis fruit) which had been infused with orange liqueur bitters and grand Marnier (the base for The Orangery signature cocktail) was presented (along with smoked almonds to nibble on) with our pre-dinner drinks. A really unusual touch.

Rockliffe Cocktail Bar Terrace

We dined in The Orangery, (this part of the building was in fact an Orangery when the Backhouse family owned the property). The Orangery is the fine dining restaurant part of the hotel, however if you’d prefer something more informal then the Spa Brasserie or The Clubhouse are also options.

The Orangery at Rockliffe Hall

Service was outstanding and Catilian, our host for the evening, was superbly knowledgeable and made recommendations on both wine and food that were greatly received.

The Orangery at Rockliffe Hall Appetizer and Starter

A tomato gazpacho served with warm horseradish and chive bread and apple and cinnamon loaf was presented as our appetiser. I chose dressed Whitby Crab with celeriac Remoulade which was extremely light but very tasty. Everyone knows I find it difficult to ever look past pork so when I spotted braised pork belly served with red wine and apple purée, crackling crushed potatoes and sage jus I could look no further. And it didn’t disappoint. Although the crackling wasn’t quite as I’d hoped (I was expected my mum’s style crackling but as my husband pointed out my mum’s is probably a unique style of crackling!) it didn’t detract from the dish as a whole.

The Orangery at Rockliffe Hall Main & Dessert

Dessert was most definitely the crowning glory of the meal. We both opted for freshly baked apple tartin served with vanilla ice-cream. However much to our delight this was not all it was served with; butterscotch sauce and double cream were also presented for us to pour at our own free will. After literally scraping my plate to ensure every last morsel was enjoyed I couldn’t resist to fill my spoon with the butterscotch sauce and eat it like soup….naughty but very very very nice.

We opted for the A La Carte menu; however seven course tasting menus are also available. Grace Matterson, Sommelier, at Rockliffe informed me that there are over 500 wines (that she personally selects) on the wine list. One of her favourite parts of her job is when a guest doesn’t like a wine when sampled on its own but really enjoys it when accompanied with the selected food. She calls these the ‘Marmite Wines’.

With our telly tubby style tummy’s now fit to burst we retired to the 1863 Cocktail Bar to sample some of the fine alcoholic concoctions created by the cocktail team. All cocktails are seasonal and each of the team creates their own signature cocktails. To cleanse my palette of all the sweet treats I finished the evening with a peppermint tea. The tea was served with a chocolate truffle and fresh macaroon and believe me you could tell the macaroon was fresh. The supermarket slogan, ‘taste the difference’ immediately sprang to mind and I forced my husband to try just so he could compare to the M&S macaroons we’d nibbled on earlier in the day. No competition!!

The Morning After

The tranquil surroundings were the perfect setting for a peaceful night’s sleep. Awakening feeling fully refreshed I headed down for an early morning swim before brekkie.

Breakfast was served in the Orangery and a cold buffet consisting of fresh fruit, cereals, pastries, cold meats, salmon, yogurts and nuts, seeds and my favourite, a honeycomb was laid out for guests to help themselves to. Whilst the hot breakfast choices presented dilemmas for my husband and I as we simply could not choose-so many temptations!! When the waitress assured me I could have the porridge cooked as thick as I liked (I like it so think you almost have to cut into it) I eventually decided to opt for porridge made with jumbo oats. Cooked to perfection with a dollop of honey from the honeycomb I felt like Goldilocks had struck gold – breakfast heaven! A good strong coffee to follow and I was ready to start the day!


Check out staff were as equally helpful and friendly as the check in team had been and I really felt sad to be leaving as I’d thoroughly enjoyed my stay.

There’s More…………….

Although there was a bonus: as my husband was playing golf I had the privilege of spending the rest of the day (albeit working) from Rockliffe whilst he completed his 18 holes.

I explored the hotel to find answers to a few remaining unanswered questions.

In the 50 things to do at Rockliffe I’d noticed an Alphabet tree so set out to discover what this was all about. The knowledgeable staff informed me that The Backhouse family (the original owners) had a passion for plants and had brought plants and trees from around the world (one for each letter of the alphabet) and planted then in the grounds. They still remain today. As something for the children to do there are plaques with each letter of the alphabet hidden all around the hotel.

Rockliffe Hall Alphabet Tree and Spa

I also discovered that 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.


Would I go back? Absolutely!! The ‘home from home’ message communicated throughout the brochures and hotel literature are not just words but a value that is truly brought to life through the style, service and sentiment of the hotel.

So the only question still to answer is when can I move in???!!

Useful Information:

Room rates: From £200.00
The Orangery: Starters (£9 – £17), Main Courses (£17-£30), Signature Menu (£85pp or £140 with wine pairing), Desserts (£9-£14)
Spa Treatments: From £65

Address: Hurworth Place DL2 2DU
Phone: 01325 729999