Short Break - Middlethorpe Hall, York

The wood-panelled Oak Room restaurant

The wood-panelled Oak Room restaurant - Credit: not Archant

Magical Middlethorpe is charming and has even impressed the likes of the much-travelled Prince Andrew and actor Russell Crowe. REVIEW BY SUSAN PRESS

Superior bedroom

Superior bedroom - Credit: not Archant

Middlethorpe Hall offers a country house oasis just three miles away from York’s medieval splendour.

Middlethorpe Hall's beautiful gardens

Middlethorpe Hall's beautiful gardens - Credit: not Archant

Its stately portals date from 1699, when the house was built for Thomas Barlow, a master cutler from Sheffield.

Generations of families have lived here and over years it has also served as a girls’ boarding school and at one stage in the 1970’s it was a nightclub called Brummell’s.

Then in 1984 the builders began a careful programme of restoration which now puts it on a par with the most elegant of stately homes.

Decorated in 18th-century style and lavishly furnished with antiques and fine paintings, its look and ambience have a Downton Abbey feel which is clearly relished by its guests.

More than 30 years of painstaking work by Head Gardener David Barker have seen its 20 acres of parkland and gardens brought up to aristocratic standards.

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Attractions include a walled garden with fruit trees and a vegetable patch. A nearby meadow leads to a lake surrounded by beautiful trees.

Formerly a Historic House Hotel and now in the care of the National Trust, its gardens are also lovingly tended by a team of volunteers.

Middlethorpe Hall boasts 29 bedrooms (ten rooms and suites in the house, and 19 in the adjacent 18th Century courtyard)

Residents of note include HRH Prince Andrew, commemorated in the flagship Duke Of York suite, named after his stay here some years ago.

Film star Russell Crowe was a previous guest in our courtyard suite, which came complete with two bathrooms, a comfy lounge equipped with period-style furniture and a lovely view of the grounds.

Many of the regulars have been coming here for years. Over dinner, we chatted to a couple whose first visit here was in 1985. Like us, they loved the country house atmosphere and careful attention paid to every detail by the hotel staff.

One of the hotel’s highlights is its panelled dining-room where Head Chef Nicholas Evans is in charge of an exquisite menu focussing on local produce.

Signature starters include roast scallops, oak-smoked salmon and poached and roast quail with duck’s liver and a pea risotto.

Main courses offer the best of Modern British cooking: neck of Cumbrian ham with quinoa and broccoli, fillet of beef with hand-cut chips and a fragrant fillet of stone bass with pumpkin, potatoes and a red wine sauce. Puddings included classics like the ever- popular Sticky Toffee pudding and Yorkshire rhubarb and custard. There was also a wonderful selection of British and Irish cheeses served with grapes and tomato chutney.

The restaurant is open to non-residents and lunch and afternoon tea are also available with Sunday lunch at £28 for three courses and a different menu every week.

Just over the road is the hotel’s Spa, built behind two listed Edwardian cottages, offering the delights of a steam room, swimming pool, sauna and sheer luxury of facials, massages and other beauty treatments

The village of Bishopsthorpe, only a 15-minute walk away, has three pubs, a church and Bishopsthorpe Palace, the impressive residence of the Archbishop of York. Despite the country house feel, Middlethorpe Hall is only minutes away from major road networks. The hotel offers many special deals and last-minute breaks as well as spa packages offering a day of pampering and the chance to enjoy a meal at the hotel.

For details of prices and facilities visit www.