There is something about Northumberland. The romance of travelling ever northwards, encountering big skies and open moorland.
In the midst of this marvellous county can be found Hexham, and in Hexham there is De Vere Slaley Hall, a hotel that manages to combine down-to-earth friendliness with a magnificence that befits its county.
At heart, the hotel is an Edwardian mansion, but over time it has become much more than that. It has modern additions to the building, up-to-date facilities and a fantastic range of recreational activities.
Key to it all is the championship golf course. Golfers love Slaley Hall, they roam its course and its corridors looking happy.
Its 18 holes are a championship course, in July there will be a special World Cup Golf Open evening, it is all a golfer could wish for.
But if you are not a golfer, do not fear. You will still have a happy stay here.
The hotel’s setting is dramatic. Drive up to it and you will see - not much of anything. The building is surrounded by fully a thousand acres of Northumberland moorland and forest.
It means that the outdoors is every bit as important as the interior - guests can enjoy both in equal measure. Settle down in one of the lounges and relax, or take advantage of the great outdoors. It depends on the mood you are in. .
It is a busy, popular hotel with many guests passing through reception either arriving, leaving or making arrangements, but the staff are equal to that. They deal with everyone with efficiency and friendliness.
We were directed to our comfortable room and then left to please ourselves. The relaxation began immediately.
The modern building, attached to the main hall, is where all but seven of Slaley Hall’s bedrooms are located. The rooms are stylishly decorated with everything you could require from a hotel room, from a big comfortable bed to a luxurious bathroom - and windows that open. Always important for people like me who much prefer fresh air to air conditioning.
For families there are interconnecting family rooms, cots on offer and all that is necessary for family life.
After a restorative coffee in the relaxing lounge area we took advantage of all those acres and enjoyed a walk outside. The golfers were concentrating on their game, elsewhere we could see quad bikers, in another area a wedding party were arriving. Some, like us, were enjoying a stroll but Slaley Hall can accommodate all these different activities comfortably.
It is a hotel that opens its doors for lots of different activities and evenings, without seeming crowded or hectic.
There are comedy nights, wedding fairs, dinner evenings featuring different wines. In August two afternoons of jazz on the lawn are lined up and in June there is a father’s day event planned.
But simply relaxing was top of the agenda for us.
By the end of the afternoon some of our fellow guests were retiring to the Claret Jug and the 19th Bar for a pick-me-up, so we elected to join them and enjoy a cocktail.
For dinner, we had a choice of three restaurants. Hadrian’s Brasserie offers an informal setting where guests can sit back and enjoy the views while indulging in a locally-sourced and delicious meal.
At Duke’s Grill the steaks are the highlight of the menu, and for guests wanting a more classic meal there is a good range of dishes at the Claret Jug.
We had a good, flavoursome steak and fresh, moist fish in Duke’s Grill where we also chose from a wide-ranging wine menu.
The next morning it was time to try some of the hotel’s other facilities - namely, the spa. Down the stairs beyond reception is a self contained and luxurious world of pampering and delicious treatments. It is like discovering hidden treasure.
Clients wait in a pretty and calming relaxation room, reading, chatting or enjoying a drink of something healthy before a therapist collects them and leads the way to one of nine tranquil treatment rooms.
I enjoyed an ESPA facial that felt like the ultimate Sunday morning luxury.
It involved almost an hour of drifting on the edge of sleep while the therapist tended to my skin. I was left with a glow to my face and a feeling of wellbeing after my face was swept with a variety of cleansers, exfoliators and moisturisers.
Couples can be treated together in a double treatment room, which makes perfect sense rather than taking turns one after the other.
If you want to achieve that feel-good factor through a gym workout, that is on offer too in the well-equipped gym, or go the green gym route and stroll around the grounds.
The hotel offers various packages, depending on guests’ requirements. Nearby is Hexham racecourse for race days - and a wealth of stunning countryside.
If that isn’t enough then try any of these: quadbiking; 4x4 offroading; clay pigeon shooting; paintballing; segways; falconry; kayaking; corporate strategy games and archery. They are all on offer.
For weddings, Slaley Hall can also offer the complete package from initial table plans to end-of- night fireworks and all points inbetween.