In December 2005 we travelled up north from Portsmouth to Darlington to see our family, this being a regular event for us as we love travel, and we stayed for a couple of nights in a hotel. It's called Sleep Inn Hotel & Conference Centre Darlington and can be found at the south end of the A167 at Newton Park approximately 35 metres from junction 59 on the A1(M) either north or south exits will get you there. At the entrance to Newton Park you will find a MacDonald's and a petrol station then it's straight on to the hotel and the automatic barrier that lets you into the car park. The hotel is only two and a half years old and is very well lit with it's very neat, clean and tidy landscaping and the very large free car park had plenty of spare places, in fact it was near enough empty. In front and at the sides of the main entrance there were plenty of disabled parking bays with a gentle slope leading in through the main doors to the reception.
It was very bright and modern looking in the reception with a few tables and chairs to rest in while you checked in. This being a simple check on the computer, as we had booked a few weeks beforehand through their website. The process of finding and booking a room on their website took only minutes and is very easy to follow, you check the availability and then select your room type. The two main room types are Executive or Standard and are priced at £65 and £55 with both these options offering full English breakfast included, normally £7.95. Your credit card details are taken at this stage but you are not required to pay until the day of your departure, they do ask what time you will arrive and if you want smoking or non smoking and if there are any other requests. That's it, you are booked in, your confirmation is sent to you by email and you can print it out and bring it with you, although you don't need to we did.
Check in time is after 2:00pm and check out time is before 11:00am on the day of departure, breakfast is served between 7:00am till 10:00am. One point to note is that if you decide to go out anywhere in your car you must remember to ask the receptionist for a four digit code which you need to type in the keypad to raise the car park exit barrier, the number changes daily for security reasons. Our room was on the first floor, luckily there are lifts at both ends of the building, and the fire doors in the corridors and the room doors where wide enough for a wheel chair to pass through with ease. On entering the room was about medium sized, bright, clean, neat and very tastefully decorated. There was enough room around and at the bottom of the king-size bed to get past with an easy chair in one corner. The window had curtains with rope like tie backs and nets, the view looked out over country fields with the A1(M) motorway in the distance but no noise could be heard even with the window slightly open.
We booked the standard room, we did check the Executive room out and found the only differences were that the more expensive Executive room was very slightly bigger with an additional seating area but apart from that the rooms were identical except for a difference in the colour scheme. The bed was gorgeous so soft and springy, oh and BIG. The long desk had the standard satellite colour television with remote control at one end and tea and coffee making facilities in the middle, with plenty of coffee, tea, milk and hot chocolate carefully laid out on a tray. Also every room has Wi-Fi and high speed Internet access modem point through the direct dial telephone. The temperature in the room could easily be controlled and we found that once we had set it we did not need to touch it again throughout out two night stay, and very pleasant that was too. Air Conditioning is also fitted to every room but with it being December we did not give that a try.
All rooms have alarm clocks with radio, toilet and shower cubicle with seat and a fitted to the wall shampoo dispenser. No bath but the shower made up for that because it was a power shower, with plenty of red hot water, what a treat it was too. An iron and ironing board in the cupboard was a nice touch, some of the other establishments I've stayed in could learn from this, as you always need to take out the creases no matter how good you are at packing your clothes. There was plenty of room to hang your clothes with plenty of drawer space as well, sorry I meant to mention that the shower and toilet were in a separate room and the wash basin was in the main room behind a screening wall. Wake up calls could be requested with the receptionist, as could newspapers be pre-ordered.
The hotel offers a very large meeting, conference and banqueting suite, we found this room when we were nosing about in and around the lobby area and very impressive it looked too. We found the bar, a bit small but ok, it had about six tables with comfy chairs that were very relaxing. A large flat screen television was hung up on the wall just above where we sat, we ended up moving from this table as it looked as if everyone was watching us very eerie. The restaurant, was not very big at all, was well laid out that seated approximately fifty which is not a lot considering that they have eighty standard and eighty executive rooms. The food we did not try as we arrived to late, and early booking is advised especially at weekends even though there were spare tables they said we were too late, but the breakfast we did have.
The breakfast, full English, was all that you could eat as it was buffet style so you could keep getting up for that little bit more, standards were high and the waiters and waitresses were always scurrying back and forth with more rounds of toast and asking if we needed more tea or coffee. A large variety of cereals and fruit juices could be had as well as yoghurts and several different fresh fruits. The restaurant was well laid out with plenty of room between tables and the decor was of the modern style. The bar/lounge and restaurant is open to none hotel guests and tea, coffee and light refreshments could be bought at the bar at any time of the day. All toilets, including the disabled, were very clean, new looking and well stocked.
If you need a taxi the receptionist will book you one, no charge for the call, with the hotel being on the outskirts of Darlington and there is lots to do there you will probably need one especially if you have a drink in the dozens of pubs and clubs scattered around the town. Other places of interest is the beautiful Raby castle which was built in the fourteenth century and is fifteen miles north west of Darlington. Croft racing circuit is only four miles south and Beamish Open Air Museum, where you can step back in time nearly two hundred years and see what life is like then, is only thirty miles north west of Darlington. Teesside airport is only nine miles away and the main line train station is situated in the heart of Darlington.
Back to the hotel just to say that overall it was a very pleasant experience and I would recommend it either as a base for tourists that want to go sightseeing in and around the area, and there is lots to see, or for those that need to break a long car journey in two and just stop over for the night. It's also just perfect for the business person as everything they need is under one roof. They have very friendly and polite staff that have plenty of knowledge of all the local events as well as the all the trips, excursions and touristy things that are happening in and about the surrounding area. Their website has a section on guest reviews and is good to read the experiences from all the other guests that have stayed there. It makes very good reading and does give you a good general idea of what you can expect, but be warned some people seem to be a bit picky.
We ended up paying one hundred pounds for the two nights and that included a very large breakfast that we both had. This is very good value for the money we paid and we will definitely be staying in this hotel again in the future. Active Hotels hosts the Sleep Inn & Conference Centre website and they are Europe's leading online reservation providers to this hotel and eleven thousand other hotels and brag at selling a staggering two million hotel room nights per year. There is a map on their website that will give you directions on how to find it, the text can also be read in French, Spanish, Dutch and Italian. All major credit cards are taken and check out was smooth and quick.
www.activehotels.com Just type DL1 3NL in to the search box
Sleep Inn Hotel & Conference Centre Darlington