Jacobean Grandeur at Chain Hotel Prices
Redworth Hall (Redworth, Co. Durham)
Member Name: koshkha
Redworth Hall (Redworth, Co. Durham)
Advantages: Fabulous old stately home
Disadvantages: Our room was rather dark and gloomy
Redworth Hall was the second of the hotels I booked for our trip to the north east of England and I picked up a great deal on Lastminute.com for a double room including breakfast for two for just £69. I found it by searching for hotels near to Durham and ended up buying this for the Sunday night (which almost certainly helped keep the price down) and Lumley Castle, just the other side of Durham, for the Monday night. Sundays and Mondays tend to be the cheapest nights for big hotels and I'm sure that if we'd wanted the Saturday night the price would have rocketed. I was reassured by the hotel being part of the Barcelo hotel chain since I've never come across a Barcelo that wasn't at least a little bit special although when we arrived - complete with paperwork saying Barcelo - it seems that the hotel is actually owned by a chain called Puma Hotels so I'm still quite confused about how the two are linked. I can only assume that Puma own Barcelo or vice versa.
We'd just spent two nights in a tiny little B&B in Robin Hood's Bay on the north Yorkshire coast and had stopped off at a few places along the coast before arriving in Redworth. The hotel is located in the countryside just a few minutes drive from Junction 58 of the A1M. It's south of Durham by less than half an hour and is well signposted from the roads in the area. That's a nice way of saying we didn't find it difficult to track the place down. If you don't have a car, the nearest train station is Darlington and the nearest airport is Durham Tees Valley.
You really can't fail to be at least a bit impressed when you pull off the road and onto a tree-lined driveway that swoops round to reveal a grand old grey-stone place that looks like a stately home. The historic part of the hotel dates back to Jacobean times and is built of honey coloured stone with gorgeous big bay windows and high ceilings. Of course with character hotels like this it's almost inevitable that the heart of the old building gets extended with much more modern wings to house the conference delegates and wedding guests who haven't paid extra for the rooms in the old building. We knew that as £69-a-nighters we'd be stuffed somewhere out the back as far as possible from where the historic 'action' was taking place. Checking the website, I got the impression that there are less than a dozen rooms in the old building and these are probably the ones used for honeymooners and very special occasions.
Reception is in the old building and it's a lovely old building indeed. To one side of the reception area is a lovely old 'library' type room and to the other another pleasant sofa-stuffed place perfect for overpriced afternoon teas. We had pre-paid in full and we weren't asked for a credit card to pay for any 'extras' which quite surprised me but only in a positive way. We were given two key cards which I always find handy when there are two of us in the room as so often if one takes the key to go out of the room a lot of hotels leave the remaining person sitting in the dark.
~Did you bring your white pebbles, Hansel?~
We set off down a long corridor passing the restaurant and the bar, through some doors, up in a lift and then down several more corridors. I was tempted to leave a trail of pebbles just so we could find our way back although we soon realised that we were actually quite close to the gym and so could escape out to the car park to collect our things without having to go all the way back through the hotel.
First impressions of our room were both good and bad. The good was that the room was very nicely and comfortably decorated and was a good size. The bad was the lack of light since the room looked directly out onto a grassy bank with trees on top. If you recall the day that England got knocked out of the Euros (the football, not the currency of course) it rained all day and the light was poor even in the afternoon. With all the lights on it was still dark. If I were there in winter it wouldn't be such a deal but at the end of June it was a bit miserable to be sitting in the dark in the middle of the afternoon.
The room had a large wardrobe with a measly four hangers - not that we were hanging anything other than our coats. There was an ironing board (again not something I need on holiday) but no room safe. There was a desk with drawers and another long counter with drawers under the old CRT television with the kettle and tray under. There were two comfy armchairs either side of a coffee table. Each side the king sized bed had a large bedside chest and the linens were smooth, soft and white. There were plenty of cushions and pillows to prop yourself up on. There was also a suitcase stand which is one thing I always look for and appreciate. The carpet was cream with swirls of purply-brown. Curtains in burgundy with outer curtains for show which outfoxed my husband who was trying to work out how to close them. The walls had two rather muddy-looking modern paintings and a full length mirror tucked into a corner by the bed where you would probably have to contort yourself or climb all over the bed to get any kind of view of yourself. A second mirror was over the desk and clearly intended for doing make up or drying your hair though the light was too
poor really. Free wi-fi was available throughout the hotel - and it worked.
We had a nice big bathroom in white tiles with shower over the bath. Only enough towels had been put out for one person but I hunted around and found more in the wardrobe. Everything was very clean but also rather ordinary. It takes a lot to excite me about a hotel bathroom
~Weddings and meetings~
The hotel gets most of its business with weddings at weekends and conferences and meetings during the week. Consequently there are a lot of large function rooms and a very large restaurant. The sports centre is impressive with a large swimming pool, spotless changing rooms, lots of gym equipment, sauna, jacuzzi and steam room, a children's play area and a fully equipped hairdressers, presumably for brides and wedding guests.
The grounds of the hotel are gorgeous and would have been really pleasant to wander around if it hadn't been raining for most of the month. Cafe tables were placed on the lawn in front of the hotel and I couldn't help thinking that we'd have got a lot more out of the Redworth experience if the weather had been better. I felt sympathetic for the brides and grooms who'd expected such a lovely setting but probably had to cut their photos short due to weather and whose stilletto clad guests were probably up to their heels in mud. The grass was so sodden that we had to stick to the driveway for our wanderings, the highlight of which was stopping to watch the dozens of big ginger bunny rabbits hopping around the gardens. There's even a children's adventure playground which looked fun but very muddy.
~Food for thought~
Given the low price we'd paid, I wouldn't have been surprised if breakfast wasn't included but I was happy that it was. The breakfast room is enormous but the selection of food was not as fantastic as I would have expected. For example there was no fruit salad - instead just a strange assortment of soaked apricots and sliced melon. The cereal was in strange tall dispensers and there was nothing to indicate which milk was skimmed and which full fat (though I can tell by looking). Typical for British hotels, the bread selection was pitiful and consisted of sliced bread and a DIY toast machine. The 'cooked to order' breakfast selection was good with extras like kippers and veggie sausages on request. All of the staff were elderly ladies and all of them local. That might sound like a 'so what' kind of observation but most UK hotels are staffed by younger people, most of them from other countries and it was nice to see that breakfast was staffed by grannies. I ordered the veggie sausages and some mushrooms and the sausages were very poor - more like a potato croquette with a few herbs and bits of carrot in them.
If you can get Redworth Hall at a great price - and I call £69 for two people including breakfast a great price - then it's a nice place to be. Don't expect too much heritage in your room - I'd have just been happy with some light - but if the weather is good, this would be superb place to spend the weekend.
Summary: If you can get a good price, it's well worth a visit.