As the car passed under the entrance arch and swept up the drive to the door, the mighty Cheviot Hills and the wild Northumberland coast suddenly felt light-years away. Every stone oozed with country house charm. I could hardly resist a hope that a butler would greet me or Lady Mary would emerge from the gardens.
As it was, I received a lovely warm Northumbrian welcome, before being shown around the hotel. The Georgian Room overlooks the estate, and looked the ideal spot to catch up on the daily papers in comfort. The Frank Henry Mason Room is perfect for private dining or an intimate celebration, while the informal cocktail bar boasts comfortable seating and a private bar serving your favourite tipple.
Suitably impressed, as I walked up the grand staircase I wondered what my bedroom would be like. I was not disappointed.
All of the 32 elegant bedrooms within the hotel are named after Northumbrian castles and icons, each one a little hidden gem to discover. Guests can choose whether they stay in Alnwick, Aydon, Bamburgh, Belsay, Langley or Lindisfarne; for those that prefer a person to a place, you’ll find Capability Brown, Grace Darling, Robert Stephenson, and the architect who built the hotel, John Dobson.
After I unpacked, I thought I would start with an early dinner in the George Runciman Restaurant.
Head Chef Mark Young was on hand as it was the start of service – and he was keen to help me identify the local sources of the delicious ingredients on my plate. Local lad Mark has been at Doxford since the restaurant won its coveted two red rosettes form the AA, and is a native of Morpeth only 20 miles away. The ingredients he uses often travel much less – the vegetables I devoured came from the Hall’s kitchen garden, and the lamb also grew up enjoying Northumbrian grass. Everything involved in dinner seemed to be local – except me!
Suitably replete, I lingered in the cocktail bar for a night-cap and the obligatory artily posed Instagram photo opportunity, before retiring to bed.
The next morning, I decided to explore the grounds after breakfast, home to an abundance of wildlife such as red squirrels, buzzards, and woodpeckers.
I bumped into the Head Gardener Esmond Black mowing the lawns in the immaculate gardens – “Call me Ezzie, everyone else does!”
He explained he could usually be found wielding a pair a pair of garden shears, as he looks after 10 acres of grounds and gardens and grows over fifty percent of the hotel’s bedding plants in his green house. When I complimented him on the tasty veg I enjoyed the night before, he smiled and said he’s also a good source of peaches, pears, apples and raspberries in season – as well as any amount of herbs for the kitchen.
No doubt keen to get back to work and stop me bothering him with taking yet more photos, Ezzie pointed me in the direction of the Millennium Maze, planted to celebrate the Millennium by local school children. It covers some 1200 metres and takes a week at a time to cut, is somewhere which provides guests with variable lengths of entertainment, exercise and enjoyment. Alas, in the words of Charlotte Bronte, reader… I might have got a little bit lost.
Back in the hotel, I took a peek at the extensive leisure facilities on offer including a pool, fitness room, sauna and steam room as well as the Aqueous Spa for complete relaxation. Next time, I vowed, I’d bring my swimming costume!
Next, I headed to the Georgian Room for a traditional afternoon tea. As I munched my way through a delightful selection of sandwiches, scones and cakes, I chatted to Dan Davison, who has worked for the hotel for many years and is a walking encyclopaedia. Listening to him, I thought I might never leave!
He told me Doxford Hall was built in 1818 by the architect of Newcastle’s best bits, John Dobson. Sipping my Earl Grey tea (well, I am in Northumberland!) I wondered aloud if they have any plans to celebrate its 200th birthday. Apparently they like festivals and performances – so maybe they’ll light up some fireworks in the gardens, with a tune or two.
I think I’ll be due a return visit round about then…
For a relaxing and luxurious holiday, short break or special event in Northumberland, Doxford Hall with it's superb facilities and excellent location is the perfect choice.