To the mansion born

This Georgian retreat in the Northumbrian countryside is the perfect place to go for a weekend away from it all

A weekend hotel break is not an occasion for formality, except perhaps for just one good dinner on the Saturday night.

Ideally that dinner should not involve putting on your coat or getting your shoes wet, and it should be timed so as not to clash with your favourite early evening television show.

The best hotels understand this and arrange themselves accordingly – and Linden Hall Golf and Country Club is one of them.

The Georgian mansion house is a welcoming place for visitors, set square in 450 acres of park and woodland in the Northumberland countryside. It's a vision of a past, grander world with an elegant facade of honey-coloured stone covered with ivy.

Inside is the relaxed atmosphere that signals the start of a good couple of days. There are friendly staff with a natural manner that is neither too casual nor too exhaustingly formal, and a definite willingness to keep the customer happy.

Once inside the Grade II listed building, the large reception hall is a natural draw for anyone who has just reached journey's end. On this autumn day a log fire was roaring and there were two empty sofas, one each side of the flames, enticing us to join them.

We accepted the invitation, pausing only to climb the grand double staircase – definitely wide enough to show off the most sumptuous gown of long ago – and deposit our bags in our room, which was one of 50 all decorated in a chic and contemporary style that doesn't jar with the Georgian architecture of the building.

Then we rushed straight back down to order coffee to be served at the coffee table between those sofas. Ten minutes later and we had kicked off our shoes, put up our feet and were combining people watching with reading the papers, as if to the mansion house born.

The reception hall is a great place to people watch, since all rooms lead from it. A stream of interesting guests passed by our comfy sofas, from cheery groups of men obviously keen to get on the golf course to wedding guests preparing to enjoy their day of celebration.

Eventually we decided to take a walk, nothing too taxing just round the grounds, but we didn't have to venture far to see some beautiful trees, brought to the hall by its original owner Charles Bigge.

In the 1840s he had his grounds landscaped with many trees not native to the area but brought back in the form of cuttings from trees he encountered on his travels in Europe and Asia.

Sharing the grounds with the trees and the hotel guests are red squirrels, deer, woodpeckers and sparrow hawks – and in autumn a beautiful display of leaf colours from ruby red to golden yellow.

There are two choices of dining venue at Linden Hall, so naturally we tried both. The Linden Tree is an informal pub with a beer garden and a children's play area and it serves good, plain food – the sort you might make at home and which goes down so comfortably.

The Dobson restaurant is an altogether smarter affair of thick linen, sparkling glass and gleaming cutlery and it has been awarded two AA rosettes for its food.

Golf is of course a big draw at the hotel with fairways set amongst woodland, streams and lakes, but Linden Hall is an equal attraction for those who have never placed putter to ball and never intend to.

The spa is definitely an equal draw for guests and offers an extensive range of calming therapies and energising spa facilities and is a marvellous spot to unwind – facials, massages, hot stone treatments and detox treatments are all there to give you that feelgood feeling,

especially if you follow your treatment with a little snack and then a wander through the wonderful grounds.

The hotel, in Morpeth, is ideally placed to visit the quaint seaside resorts close by, so we took a trip out to Craster, a tiny place on the cliff edge boasting one pub, one restaurant and one shop and a charming jumble of narrow steep streets.

Nearby is the much bigger Seahouses, a traditional seaside resort for north-east day trippers with plenty of cafes and fish and chip shops for a traditional day out.

Back at the hotel it was time to sit and enjoy the log fire in the drawing room this time – lit especially for us by the friendly concierge Dean Maddison – before enjoying dinner in the Dobson restaurant, where head chef Paul Blakey draws on the cooking traditions of the north east for some of his inspiration, producing dishes like pan haggerty – a mix of potatoes, cheese, onions and butter. There is plenty of fish on the menu from scallops and smoked salmon to roll mop herrings. Typical starters include rabbit and bacon terrine with a spiced apricot chutney or mackerel, roasted beetroot and pearl potatoes, and main courses include braised oxtail, or roasted fillet of monkfish

Next morning was crisp and golden, perfect for a walk amongst the trees and the red squirrels, completing a restful break before the journey home.

Factfile

To book a stay at Macdonald Linden Hall, Longhorsley, Morpeth, Northumberland, NE65 8XF, call 01670 500 000

For more information, visit www.macdonald-hotels.co.uk/lindenhall, or email: lindenhall@macdonald-hotels.co.uk

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