It has welcomed royalty – and now Katie Baldwin visits a historic house for a weekend of pampering
In 1947, the then Princess Elizabeth visited Wynyard Hall.
Over the intervening years, that young princess has become the second-longest reigning British monarch.
And the stately home where she once surprised trainee teachers has also proved its longevity.
Situated between Middlesbrough and Darlington, the hall sits in the midst of the stunning Wynyard Park.
Parts of the parkland now house a super-exclusive village packed with luxury mansions, where former residents include football stars like Alan Shearer.
But they pale into insignificance compared to the hall itself.
The former ancestral home of generations of the Marquis of Londonderry, Wynyard Hall is impressive.
An ancient bridge takes visitors to the front of the house with its portico and rows of imposing columns.
Grand doesn’t really do it justice.
Inside a small entrance hall makes way to an impressive centre hall complete with chandeliers and a domed glass roof.
The hall, which dates from the 1800s, is a little reminiscent of a smaller Harewood House.
It stayed in the Londonderry family until 1987, when it was bought by former Newcastle United owner and businessman Sir John Hall.
Initially he moved his home and business headquarters in, but in 2007 the Hall family decided to create a four-star hotel.
After more multi-million pound refurbishments, Wynyard Hall Country House Hotel opened the following year.
There are just 16 bedrooms in the hall but that small number was easy to understand when we saw the size of ours.
The Vane Tempest suite was generously proportioned in every way and boasted stunning views over the ornamental lake.
Ah yes, yet more impressive views, taking in a sweeping terrace around the side of the house.
It begged further exploration – so off on a stroll around the grounds we went.
Despite it being a sunny spring morning, we hardly encountered anyone else in the quiet countryside.
Walking around the house we came across the Grecian and Roman Temples, which are among the listed features of the gardens.
Further away from the hall are many remnants of is former life, including the dairy, the Wild Garden and the water lily tank.
Around every corner there was something else to see, from walled gardens to ancient gates to peek through.
Later we discovered that one stop on our stroll was to be the site of Sir John’s next project, to create one of the world’s biggest rose gardens.
Work hadn’t started yet, but the plans for the garden were another sign of the hall’s ongoing development.
One of the most recent additions is the newly-opened spa at Wynyard.
In the hall’s former boathouse, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect location than this hideaway at the edge of the hall’s lake.
The conversion has been carried out with real panache, with all the facilities you’d expect within a setting which nods to its former life.
We started our afternoon of relaxation with a drink in the sun room, looking out over the lake. With its retro decor, wearing period dress and twirling a parasol felt more apt than the robes and slippers we were donning.
But our road test of the spa showed it was well and truly in the modern world.
First we tried the rasul mud chamber, said to be an “ancient Arabic cleansing ritual” using “medicinal chakra muds”.
Not sure about the chakras, but the mud was fun – in a private steam room we were given bowls of different muds for body, face and hair and left to smear them on. Contrary to my holiday companion’s ribbing, the mud was for that purpose only and hadn’t been dug up from the edges of the lake.
Then we had 45 minutes in the steam room while the mud weaved its magic on our skin.
A shower later and we were mud-free and silky smooth.
Other facilities were equally impressive, including the salt inhalation room, the sauna and – not for the fainthearted – the drench bucket of icy water.
We didn’t use the outdoor vitality spa, a hydrotherapy pool set on a deck with views across the lake, but we put it on our must-do list for next time. That, and trying out some of the many face and body treatments on offer.
After all that hard work relaxing, we’d built up plenty of appetite for dinner.
Wynyard’s Wellington Restaurant is sumptuously decorated and with a live pianist it made for an inviting place to while away the evening.
The food has been awarded two AA rosettes and it certainly lived up to them. From the amuse bouche to the tiny loaves of bread served with the cheese board, attention had been given to every detail.
Yet the staff managed to avoid the stuffiness which can be a feature of formal dining and were only too happy to chat.
Highlights were numerous but the caramel brulee with popcorn and popcorn ice cream was mouth-wateringly good.
Wynyard Hall is very popular with weddings – they took place on both nights of our stay – and it’s easy to see why.
With its outstanding setting, gorgeous backdrops and not to mention its own private chapel, it is a venue fit for any bride.
Or, as history proves, fit for any queen.
For further details, contact Wynyard Hall on 01740 644811.
Visit www.wynyardhall.co.uk for information about all the hotel’s facilities.
The Spa at Wynyard Hall offers face and body treatments using products by Elemis and Karin Herzog, including the chocolate anti-aging detox facial and the Elemis coconut rub and milk wrap.
BareMinerals make-up and Jessica Nails manicures, pedicures and Geleration nails are also available.
For a limited period the hotel is offering a night’s stay, five-course evening meal, breakfast and up to two hours in the Spa Experience for £99 per person (based on two people sharing, subject to availability).