THEY say an Englishman’s home is his castle. Everyone knows that’s just a turn of phrase, of course. Except that no-one seems to have told Terry George and Michael Rothwell.
About nine years ago they bought Carr Hall Castle, in Holywell Green near Halifax.
They spent the next four years completely refurbishing it, installing all the mod cons you could think of – and a few you might not – and turning it into a retreat fit for a king.
The luxurious result is far from medieval.Channel 5 was certainly impressed – it named the property Britain’s Best Home in 2008. But you don’t have to take the broadcaster’s word for it.
Although Terry and Michael still live there, the castle is available to hire, to groups of up to ten, for unique breaks that are guaranteed to leave you feeling royally spoilt.
From the moment you drive in through the gates and up the long drive past the deer park – and the watchful gaze of its four-legged inhabitants – you’re left in no doubt that you’re somewhere special.
The castle itself takes a good 60 seconds to hove into view. It’s worth the wait.
In actual fact a folly, the Norman-style building was constructed in the 1860s by the Shaws, a rich family of mill-owners from Halifax who indulged a flight of fancy after seeing castles they liked the look of during visits to Europe
They never lived there – it was built merely to enhance the view they had from the manor house they occupied on the opposing hillside.
In fact it was largely uninhabited until the 1960s, when it was bought by another mill-owner.
But it wasn’t until it was taken over by Terry and Michael that the castle, set in its own private woodland with its own private lake, became something to behold within as well as without.
Now, it’s difficult not to walk around the property open-mouthed.
While opulent, the interior is not ostentatious.
The kitchen, complete with aga, has the homely feel of a decent-sized farmhouse.
It’s about the only room in the house that is anything close to what you might call ‘normal’. Off the kitchen is the dining room – or banqueting suite, to give it a more accurate description. The imposing glass-topped table, while not round, is certainly large enough to accommodate a few knights.
A log fire separates the room from a huge lounge with an enormous L-shaped sofa, a flat-screen TV the size of a football pitch, a games console and enough soft furnishings to stock a decent-sized homeware store.
Running parallel to the lounge is a luxurious conservatory overlooking the courtyard.
Upstairs there are five bedrooms. They’re all stunning. All come equipped with TVs or Apple Mac computers. Two are en suite.
One of the two family bathrooms is built into the castle turret. The other has a walk-in shower that doubles as a steam room and a television built into the wall over the bath.
Such details – found all over the castle – are a constant reminder that you’re somewhere extraordinary.
Through what they call ‘bedroom four’ is a door to a massage room and the stairs down to the large indoor heated swimming pool. There’s also a well-equipped gym and a lounge area with another giant TV.
On the other side of some French doors is a hot-tub, which is where we decided to start our stay.
It’s difficult to describe the completely indulgent pleasure of having the run of your very own luxury castle for a night. In truth, the things we did – hot-tub aside – were, on the face of it, everyday: a swim, a token half-hour in the gym, a bath and a sit in the steam room, a bit of food, some TV.
But the enjoyment you get from such apparently ‘normal’ pastimes is exponentially enhanced by virtue of their taking place in the most well-appointed, and most romantically evocative, accommodation you’re ever likely to come across.
‘Wow’ was the most oft-repeated exclamation during our 24 hours at Carr Hall.
We could happily have spent the whole time wandering around the castle in a state of blissful distraction, but we did manage to get out for long enough to go for dinner. And we’re glad we did.
The Hepworth restaurant, nestled in the beautiful Holme Valley countryside, is a 25-minute drive from the castle. It was well worth the journey.
Offering contemporary British cuisine, using local produce, in an environment that is at once laid-back and sumptuous, this is dining that makes you want to run to the top of the neighbouring Pennine hills and burst into song.
Renovated in 2010, the restaurant’s interior manages to pull off being modern and chic without seeming at odds with its rural surroundings.
The same could be said of the menu. Everything on it sounds fabulous.
For starters we had pan-seared pigeon breast, which came with a casserole of pancetta and puy lentil and a crispy walnut and date bar (£8.25), and roast scallops with sesame seeds, crispy pork belly, carrot and ginger puree and sesame oil (£9.25). They were both mouth-wateringly good.
The mains were sensational. We had seared duck breast, with a little pie of confit of leg and plum, woodland mushrooms and a honey and whiskey jus (£17.95). It was a plate of rich, fruity, earthy joy.
Our other main, oven-baked loin of cod with a coriander and chilli crust, red onion and beetroot cannelloni, tomato and lemon oil and sweet potato puree (£17.95), was a beautifully balanced delight.
Dessert, which we shared, was chilled coconut rice pudding with mango sorbet, fresh mango in star anise and pistachios (£5.95). It was a tropical treat worthy of ending a truly memorable meal.
Our evening out was a fittingly indulgent interlude in our visit to Carr Hall Castle.
Leaving for good the following day was much less enjoyable.
Carr Hall Castle offers you the chance to live out your very own modern fairytale.
The only drawback is having to return to real life.
Carr Hall Castle is available to hire for a maximum of ten people. Two-night breaks start at £3,845.
Last-minute, one-night stays are also available.
Visit www.carrhallcastle.co.uk, call Nicola Davis on 07540707686, e-mail email@example.com
The Hepworth Restaurant is open Tuesday to Sunday.
Address: The Hepworth, Sheffield Road, Near Hepworth, Holmfirth. HD9 7TP
Visit www.thehepworth.co.uk, tel: 01484 683775, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
For things to do in the area visit www.yorkshire.com