Overlooking North Yorkshire’s moors is Middleton Lodge. Set on a private 200-acre estate amid livestock-sprinkled farmland, this boutique hotel, restaurant and bar is the charming honey-stoned little sister to the distinguished Georgian Palladian mansion. You can expect old-fashioned character with a bang-up-to-date approach to hospitality, all near the market town of Richmond.
11am; earliest check-in, 3pm. Both are flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £190.00, including tax at 5 per cent.
Rates usually include breakfast. Guests staying on a dinner, bed and breakfast rate will get a dinner allowance of £40 a person, each night, excluding drinks.
Middleton Lodge was built in 1780 by the architect John Carr for a local mining clan and it has remained a family home ever since, purchased by the Allisons in 1980. It is a textbook example of a Georgian estate.
At the hotel
200 acres of grounds, spa, tennis court, DVD library, free WiFi. In rooms: Roberts Radios, flatscreen TV, DVD player, mini fridge with free bottled water, tray of tea-making treats and Nespresso coffee machine, Noble Isle toiletries, hair dryer. Ask for hair straighteners or plug adaptors if you need them, and bikes are available to borrow.
Our favourite rooms
All have their own charm, character and exposed timber beams – most have freestanding roll-top baths and king-sized beds. The Hayloft rooms are up a narrow old stone staircase and have fabulous views over the courtyard and paddock. The Garden Rooms have their own mini outdoor seating areas. The ground-floor Tack Room is the most spacious. Taking inspiration from the blue-and-white pottery found in the nearby woods, it has a plush linen sofa opposite your own wood-burning stove.
With two treatment rooms and a tranquil terrace where guests are given mani-pedis, the Treatment Rooms is a delightful spot for a holistic time out. Eco-friendly Voya and Ren products are used in a range of signature mud masks, bespoke massages and facials, alongside seaweed wraps, and lavender and peppermint-scented sugar scrubs. There are special treatments for mums-to-be too.
Stout boots and waterproofs – you’re going to want to go walking, and the weather can be changeable. Some Tupperware in which to bring back all those delicious Yorkshire cheeses.
The main building is wheelchair-accessible and one bedroom has been adapted for mobility-impaired guests.
Welcome; it’s perfect for babies under one. Staff can supply foldaway cots and extra beds, a monitor, high chairs, and U-rated DVDs. There’s no charge for under-fives.
Babies and older children.
The Tack Room on the ground level is the roomiest and best suited to an extra cot or foldaway bed.
As well as the Forbidden Corner, kids will love Jorvik Viking Centre (01904 543400; ), an interactive museum that focuses on the Vikings’ time in York (‘Jorvik’ was the Scandinavian name for the city). Their favourite bit will undoubtedly be sitting in the little train that takes them through a reconstruction of a Viking village, complete with authentic noises and smells.
Highchairs are available. Middleton Lodge's kids' menu includes fish, chips and peas; minute steak, salad and fries; cottage pie and mash.
The Tack Room is within monitor range of the restaurant.
If the food isn’t grown within a few yards of the estate itself, it’s locally sourced, seasonal and free-range. All the heat on the estate comes from their wood chip boiler, which uses renewable biomass to heat all the water for baths, showers, under-floor heating and radiators. Waste is recycled as compost for the gardens, and their own borehole produces mineral water for the estate (rain in the Yorkshire Dales is filtered through miles of limestone before being drawn up here).
The far-end alcove is the best for tête-à-têtes. If six or so are suppering, the curved tweed corner banquette. Groups after proper privacy, book the candlelit private dining room.
Walking boots and waterproofs – you’re going to want to stretch your legs and the weather can be changeable.
The beating heart of this boutique hotel is its restaurant. The modern British menu is strictly seasonal and showcases the best of Yorkshire’s plentiful produce – much comes from this very estate. Head chef Gareth Rayner eschews fussiness for flavour and great-quality ingredients. Breakfast is a winner too, always made to order whether that’s eggs Benedict, a full English, or pancakes. Only breakfast is served on Mondays (guests must book their table by Sunday night), so take a tasting sojourn to some of the surrounding eateries.
There’s no need to leave your city-slicker cravings at home. The espresso martini and kir royale No 2 are some of the classic drinks with a quirky twist from in-house mixologist David, who is passionate about experimenting with new flavours. He has even been known to forage for herbs and honey for his concoctions, and he is armed with his own science kit to create his magic.
Breakfast is 7.30am–10am, (finishes 10.30am on weekends); lunch from noon–2.00pm (4pm Sundays); afternoon tea from 1pm–4pm (not available Sundays); and dinner 6pm–9pm (from 7pm Sundays).
The hotel doesn’t officially offer in-room dining, but if they’re not rushed off their feet in the restaurant you can sweet-talk them into rustling up a bacon sandwich or a cocktail to enjoy in private.
A 15-minute drive south-west from Darlington in County Durham, Middleton Lodge is a shorter drive from North Yorkshire’s historic town of Richmond.
Durham Tees Valley airport (www.durhamteesvalleyairport.com) is only 20 minutes away; Newcastle International Airport (www.newcastleairport.com) is a 45-minute drive.
Darlington is only eight miles away, and connects to London, Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh, Newcastle, York, Durham. Northern Rail Lines (www.northernrail.org) can take you from York into the North Yorkshire Moors or the Yorkshire Dales.
Don’t be deceived by the rural idyll: you’re only a mile from the A1, which means you’re poised to hit the M1 with ease. Cars are essential if you want to really poke your nose around North Yorkshire properly.
If you’re coming by chopper (get you!), you need to set your helicopter to coordinates 54.456744 N, -1.658978 W.
Worth getting out of bed for
This is one heck of a county to explore. Wander the woodlands of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and reach for your ordnance survey maps to ramble through rickety gates on your own adventures.
For awe-inspiring, 360-degree views of the North Yorkshire Moors – and, on a clear day, out as far as Teeside and the Yorkshire Dales – clamber up to the summit of Roseberry Topping, just east of Helmsley. Closer to home, the 100-foot-high tower at Richmond Castle promises impressive views over Swaledale. This English Heritage attraction is also interesting historically – it’s the oldest stone Norman castle in England, built by William the Conqueror’s cousin. Mais oui.
Richmond itself is the nearest market town and well worth a stroll around – but you’re best off skipping the pubs. Even though there seem to be lots, the best places to eat at are mostly out in the sticks. A great circuit on foot is from Richmond up to another English Heritage site, Easby Abbey, which is an easy-to-amble three-quarters of a mile downstream on the banks of the Swale. The ruins are hauntingly atmospheric, and even though so much has collapsed since it was built in the 12th century and long since condemned by Henry VIII, it makes compelling viewing. A good trail to follow is that in the footsteps of Richmond’s legendary disappearing drummer boy.
Masham is a must-visit market town, not just because it rather impressively boasts three breweries, but because it is also charmingly timeless, with old-fashioned shops such as the tiny traditional bakers and butchers.
Beer lovers, get thee to Theakston’s HQ (best known for its Old Peculiar Ale), and sample some of the brown stuff at the Victorian-era Black Bull in Paradise, plus poke your nose around theBlack Sheep Brewery – the offshoot from a Theakston descendent.
For an amazing drive through the Dales, head to Hawes, the main town in Upper Wensleydale. When you are there, go to Hardraw Force, an incredible waterfall. Also try Aysgarth Falls – both had starring roles in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.
If you’ve got whippersnappers in tow, be sure to book tickets for Forbidden Corner– it’s a sprawling eccentric maze well worth the trip to Tupgill Park for anyone with boys and girls to exercise. Self-dubbed ‘Strangest Place in the World’ it’s an antidote to the plastic and commercialisation of Disney, and its kooky walled gardens and fantastical grottoes are great fun to get lost in.
The Bay Horse in Hurworth, a 20-minute drive away, has a fabulous menu of upmarket 'pub grub' (28-day-matured fillet steak, bream with crispy squid in red wine), served in a cosy 15th-century establishment. We love the roaring mahogany fireplace and the antique knick-knacks. Excellent seafood and decadent desserts are the speciality at the Bridgewater Arms, a pretty Teesdale eatery a 20-minute drive away. The Black Horse Inn is another local favourite, a 20-minute drive away, serving up Thai-style pork belly, black-pudding Scotch egg and plenty of finely grilled beef. Wend your way west of Richmond along the River Swale to The Bridge Inn, a 13th-century coaching inn in Grinton, right in Yorkshire Dales National Park. It’s the stuff of log fires, Cumbria’s Jennings beer and game occasionally shot by the landlord himself. Cask ales and a convivial atmosphere next to some of England’s best-loved breweries may sound like lure enough to theWhite Bear Hotel, but it’s not just about the Theakston’s beer at this Masham institution. Dining at the White Bear is actually quite upmarket, but without any over-the-tip price tags: eat first-rate fish and chips or gourmet pies pub-style at a wooden bench or by a roaring fire, or sign up for slightly more special scenarios in the white-clothed dining room.
I’m one of those irritating Londoners who travel far and wide… but haven’t explored beyond the M25 when it comes to the UK. At 36 years of age, it was time for a change; so when I had the opportunity to visit Middleton Lodge in Yorkshire, the time had come for me to explore my homeland, and shake off the shackles of London-centric ignorance.
Middleton Lodge had a stately feel to it, with expansive grounds unfurling into the North Yorkshire Moors. Wide pathways lead in all different directions, and grandiose buildings are dotted across your eyeline. Incoming guests have three options: stay in the Main House (an authentic Georgian mansion), the Farmhouse, or the Coach House (a horseshoe-shaped building set around a considerably beautiful courtyard), where we were stationed throughout our stay.
The Lodge has a long, tree-lined driveway, which made me feel as if I’d pulled up at the entrance to Forrest Gump’s house, or a great plantation in the Deep South (my only previous point of reference for Yorkshire a David Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy in 2012). This was the quintessential northern-English version, with elms instead of oaks, sub-zero temperatures and even fewer comprehensible accents. We alighted from our car and were struck by the welcome sound of silence, soon broken by as my other half laboriously dragged their suitcase through the gravel.
The formalities of check-in complete, we were assigned a Garden Room named Methera. For those unfamiliar with Yorkshire vernacular, Methera, along with Yan, Tan, Tethera and Pip, are not – as I had presumed – characters from The Lord of The Rings, but terms used by shepherds for counting sheep. Useful to know if you accidentally find yourself on University Challenge. We, on the other hand, had accidentally found ourselves in a British version of City Slickers; I feared a participatory sheep-shearing exercise come morning.
Safely entrenched within our room, we took stock of our surroundings; a king-size bed, (large enough for a king and several mistresses); freestanding bath (who doesn’t love a freestanding bath?); under-floor heating, and the almost obligatory (for upmarket hotels) chaise-longue. Ms Smith dutifully informed me that the style was ‘farmhouse chic’. It was tasteful and well thought out, with exacting attention to detail. Rooms are Internet-friendly too, but you’re irritatingly logged out of the WiFi after a few minutes of inactivity; it’s as if the hotel’s deliberately steering guests offline during their stay, which I suppose is the point. However, as a Londoner, checking my phone every three-and-a-half minutes is a deeply ingrained habit.
We whisked ourselves off to dinner at the Coach House restaurant. This dining room set in an old, converted carriage house, has retained many original features: exposed brick mingles with wooden beams, farmhouse cottons with cast iron… Head chef Gareth Rayner’s menu reads Modern British with European influences; rustic, seasonal, locally sourced: it ticks off all ‘farmhouse bistro’ buzzwords, but here it feels justified. I dined on terrine of pressed, corn-fed chicken, and duck and ham with scorched clementine and a slick of onion jam. Ms Smith skipped the starter to make room for her 8oz rib-eye steak, with a hearty helping of skinny fries, drenched in Béarnaise sauce. I believe the simplest dishes are the truest test of a kitchen’s technical skill (like ordering a Margherita pizza in Naples); the steak was perfectly medium-rare, the sauce glossy. My main – duck with salsify and cavolo nero in a herb emulsion – was beautifully presented and flavourful, if lacking wow-factor. For dessert, an apple-and-vanilla mille-feuille, topped with toffee and brown-butter ice-cream, was decadent and moreish. Well-fed and exhausted from the four-and-a-half-hour drive, we retired to our luxurious bedroom.
We woke early the next day, intent on extracting as much from 24 hours in Yorkshire as possible. Middleton Lodge offers two activities: shooting and spa treatments. I opted out of the former, Ms Smith had to be forcibly removed from the latter. Muscles soothed, we set off to explore. The picturesque town of Richmond is filled with cobblestones, fudge-stacked sweet shops and hobbit-size doorways; here we began our ramble into the surrounding foothills. After walking south for 15 minutes, we found ourselves in a land of burbling brooks, rugged greenery and farm animals – rural England at its most spectacular. Even more awe-inspiring was stumbling across the ruins of Easby Abbey, which was founded around 1152. Walking around its remains, I felt as if I’d been transported back to mediaeval Britain. Other notable attractions include the Michelin-starred Black Swan at Oldstead. It’s an hour’s drive from the lodge, but it was one of the most exemplary displays of cooking I’ve been fortunate enough to eat in a long time, with pitch-perfect hospitality. It’s worthy of its Michelin-afforded status.
On the journey home, I reflected on cultural observations I’d made as a London-dwelling urbanite visiting Yorkshire for the first time. Middleton Lodge has been lovingly put together, straddling a well-plotted course that sidesteps stuffiness and makes guests feel special; it’s a family business and feels like it. Staff were genuinely warm and welcoming, as were the Yorkers we met during our stay; as a Londoner accustomed to more abrasive exchanges, it’s this that makes me eager to return.