The Romans were respected for their love of a bath, so it seems only fitting that North East’s newest spa should enjoy a view that reflects the origins of our spa-going passions.
Walwick Hall in Humshaugh near Hexham sits close to Hadrian’s Wall and the military fort, Chesters. It was here that Roman baths and steam rooms were discovered, pointing to an ancient desire for the pampering, cleanliness and rest that we like to think we’ve only just invented.
You don’t have to tramp the walls to get to Walwick Hall these days. And the beds are way comfier. In fact this new boutique hotel is fit for a king – or a weary Roman emperor for that matter.
The ten-bedroom boutique hotel was once owned by well-known North East entrepreneur Graham Wylie and is a neighbour to the Chesters Stud.
Walwick Hall opened for business just before Christmas. It’s very much the cosy winter retreat with rich country furnishings, the inevitable stag’s head on the wall lots of quality throws, rugs and plaids about the place in muted heathery country tones.
It’s easy to be drawn to the drawing room with expansive views across the Tyne Valley from sink-in sofas where you can nestle down with mags and papers aplenty. This is what a country retreat is all about – hiding away with too much time on your hands.
A neat cocktail bar offers up a nice bit of sophistication with an impressive cocktail menu to match – take your pick from signature cocktails, a glass of champagne or a pint of Wylam ale. Can’t imagine how thrilled the local villagers will be to have this slice of sophistication on their doorstop in times of cocktail need.
Love, style and class have gone into the décor of the hall from its young owner, Rachel Harrison. Choice of staff, attention to detail and a comforting approach combine to make this a unique boutique hotel in this part of the Tyne Valley.
It’s an intimate escape: the bedrooms are sumptuous places where you want to linger. Vintage cups and saucers and a great coffee pod experience tick bedroom boxes – as do cute home-made biscuits.
If you desire a bath with view – just like those Romans – then you’ll be spoilt for choice. Our bathroom was squeaky clean shiny – boasting a dazzling valley view from its roll-top bath, all the better piled high with Elemis bubbles and softy towels and robes waiting for you.
Elemis is the product range of choice in the adjoining spa, which is housed in a separate building overlooking the gardens, towards the distant hills.
It looks dramatic, especially at night, but is sympathetically designed to fit in well to its walled garden surroundings.
The pool is housed in glass pavilion with a Jacuzzi and steam room. It isn’t huge – there are three day beds to lounge on – so it’s an add-on to the hotel rather than a huge ‘spend the day’ destination spa. But there is a good selection of treatments available.
We can recommend the signature back and neck massage which sets those stressed shoulders to rights with pungent Elemis oils worked in by the skilled masseur.
This is one stylish getaway destination – easy to get to from all parts of the North East but you really get a sense of ‘away from it all’.
A good boutique hotel really has to mean great food – it is such a part of the package.
With the finest Northumbrian produce on the doorstep, Walwick has an unrivalled larder, so it was a joy to hear that the night’s special was a locally-landed roast pheasant.
The hotel’s dining room was a beautiful and dramatic place to enjoy it. The furnishings a soft rather than gaudy gold with heavy-print curtains, thick napery and an opulent feel.
Young staff are local and learning their stuff, but keen, capable and friendly.
The menu, from the hand of Steven Murray offered up classics with plenty of local inspiration. OK, my Stornoway black pudding with foie gras wasn’t entirely ‘local’ but deeply satisfying nevertheless. Other offerings were ham hock terrine, the perennial twice-baked cheese souffle and roast breast of partridge. My chum raved about fresh-as-anything lemon sole fillet with a rich stock-blessed lobster bisque and and lobster & crab potato cake alongside.
Ingredients are proudly from the Northumbrian larder such as locally-farmed beef and lamb from Tim and Jack Oliver who farm nearby. They rear belted Galloway cattle – and my friend knows them a bit – so she dined on a mighty rib-eye. A gutsy chunk of meat, marbled though with creamy fat and served with triple cooked chips, tomatoes and crispy onions.
Back to that roast pheasant from the ‘specials’. Gently cooked, it was succulent and gamey, coping well with rich berryish accompaniments of a intense raisin puree, fig and the crunch of macadamia nuts – with a cranberry jus. Like something from the school’s nature table – in the tastiest way.
Defeated by desserts, we could only think about food the next day, managing to welcome a great breakfast menu with a Walwick Health Drink (berry, honey, smoothie) to kick things off, decent hearty coffee and then smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast.
More supplier name-checking: Scotts, award-winning butchers in Ponteland village create unique Walwick bangers. Eggs are from Lynup Farm, Ingoe and milk and cream from a herd of Shorthorns and Ayreshires in Slaley.