Opinion is divided over Brexit – but one thing is for sure – it’s a great way of making sure we stay home and explore the incredible nation that is Great Britain.
Brexit of course will hopefully bring many opportunities, but it will no doubt attractive negativities of flight, accommodation and currency rates not being in our favour, encouraging many of us to opt to visit places nearer to home.
And that is really positive news, because we have so many wonderful places to see. My children Ruaridh (9) and Flossie (7) are old hands at travelling these days, but its great to see how much they get from it – broadening their minds and giving them so many opportunities too.
And they certainly know the drill when it comes to judging a good hotel. Ruaridh places Wi Fi and the size of the television as the most important on his criteria list, whereas Flossie’s preference is for a giant fluffy bed and nice bubble bath.
So they were certainly in luck when we travelled across the border and to Guisborough in North Yorkshire and to The Macdonald Hotels owned Gisborough Hall. An impressive driveway gives you a glimpse of the gem as the majestic hotel stands proudly at the top. Built in 1857 by Admiral Thomas Chaloner on the site of an old farmhouse, the oldest part of the hall is the result of his labours and the building was extended by its new owner Lord Richard Gisborough and lived in by his family until World War II when the army requisitioned it. It was then used as an old people’s home until in 2002, it was refurbished and extended and used as a restaurant and hotel.
As you enter, you are greeted by a roaring log fire and to Ruaridh’s delight, a fellow Ruairidh (abeit with an extra i in his name!), the hotel’s operation manager.
Ruairidh and his team run a slick operation and clearly enjoy working in such grand surroundings. The hotel has a stately home feel about it, but the staff are relaxed, friendly and efficient too.
The bedrooms are wonderful too, we stayed in The South Room, a beautiful spot with tasteful furnishings, plenty of luxury bubbles for Flossie, plus fancy soft drinks and nibbles for the youngsters and a decanter of sherry and sweets for the grown ups.
The attention to detail by the staff was impressive too, with the beds turned down ready for sleeping and a cup of hot chocolate available for all, before we called it a night.
The hotel has two restaurants, the upmarket Longhull where the cuisine is fine dining, with top notch starters of smoked salmon and home made soups and mains featuring the finest meats and fishes and puddings including Yorkshire’s best cheese and light as a feather tarts.
Tocketts restaurant is more pub styled with burgers and steaks and breakfasts are cooked to order using local ingredients too.
The grounds of the hotel are lovely to wander in and there is a revival spar where wonderful treatments such as hot stones massages will help you get in the mood for exploring.
And there is much to do in this area, dubbed Captain Cook country after the great explorer who lived in nearby Whitby and has a museum in his honour in the town.
Our first stop was Gisborough Priory, one of the first Augustinian priories to be built in England and founded by the Bruce family. It’s a wonderful example of Gothic architecture and looked after by English Heritage, who also care for Whitby Abbey, which was inspiration for the world famous Bram Stoker book Dracula.
Sitting high above Whitby, this impressive structure allows you to immerse yourself in 13th century Gothic splendour. An excellent audio tour lets you step back in time and hear snippets of tales from its former residents as well as a potted history. You can see why it set off Stoker’s imagination, as it really is a haunting building and for the energetic, you can climb the 199 steps from the town up to it!
Close by to Gisborough is The Kirkleatham Museum and neighbouring owl centre. The museum is free of charge and gives an insight into the area. Currently there is an excellent exhibition on revealing the life of Gertrude Bell, a local woman before her time, who played an important role in Britain’s imperial policy, exploring, writing and working with politicians in places such as Syria and Arabia.
The neighbouring owl centre is a lovely place to explore too, with lots of cute feathered friends to coo over and fantastic flying displays.
The countryside in this neck of the woods is beautiful, especially on a dry sunny January weekend and with all this on our doorsteps – maybe it’s time to embrace and enjoy what we have!
Gisborough Hall Hotel is a truly delightful country house hotel, just 20 miles from Middlesborough. Owned by Macdonald Hotels, this four star retreat is number one on the list of this chain’s impressive stable of hotels in the Hay household, anyway! The hotel is approached by a majestic sweeping driveway and the inside is just as stunning as the outside. With excellent, friendly service and delicious cuisine, it really is a treat to stay here. For special offers and up to date prices, log onto www.macdonaldhotels.co.uk
Things to do: Kirkleatham Museum is just a short drive from the hotel and free admission enables you to enjoy a treasure trove of artefacts and exhibitions which tell the story of the area. Currently there is a special display featuring Gertrude Bell, born in the area and highly influential to British imperial policy making, due to her knowledge and contacts in Arabia. There is also a lovely owl centre close by, with some very cute inmates. Check out: www.redcar-cleveland.gov.uk/kirkleathammuseum and www.kirkleathamowlcentre.co.uk
Dracula is still alive and well in Whitby. Author Bram Stoker visited the town in 1890 and the impressive gothic abbey was the setting for his blood thirsty novel. Now looked after by English Heritage, it is a great place to visit, we loved the audio tour. And in Guisborough, Gisborough Priory is worth a look too. Log onto www.english-heritage.org.uk