Durham town may be immortalised in Roger Whittaker’s famous song, but there is perhaps a more legendary destination just a few minutes’ drive out of town at the Ramside Hall Hotel.
Initially the product of a mistaken auction purchase, Ramside Hall Hotel has grown from a modest 12 room bed and breakfast to an impressive resort hotel with 140 bedrooms, 4 restaurants, 2 championship golf courses and a new world-class spa.
With a legacy of family ownership for over 50 years, third generation family member John Adamson, has invested heavily to catapult the hotel into providing some serious competition to international luxury hotel brands in the north-east.
For one thing, there’s no space shortage at Ramside Hall Hotel with over 350 acres of land to play with. Much of this is gobbled up with its two 18 hole championship golf courses; the Prince Bishop Course, and its new sibling the Cathedral.
But there is enough left to ensure the bedrooms can take full advantage, particularly in the new wing, where I am drawn to comparisons with some of the spacious living you find in Dubai hotels.
Before my visit, if anyone had mentioned I would be comparing a hotel room in County Durham with that of a top Dubai hotel I would have some serious doubts as to their sanity. Yet here I am doing just that!
My double premier room is seriously large with a Juliet balcony directly overlooking the golf course. The giant bed dominates the centre of the room, with plenty of green pillows and matching throw. There’s a strikingly plush tartan carpet, floor to ceiling drapes, one or two bits of Dubai bling around the walls, some serious dark wood furniture and a 50 inch flat screen TV.
The adjoining bathroom is a sea of white brick tiling and black slate flooring with a walk in shower, stand alone bath, ESPA toiletries and soft robes and slippers.
Talking of robes and slippers, I don them and slip down to the recently opened Spa at Ramside. This is serious WAG country. I can picture an army of Newcastle and Sunderland FC finest almost setting up home here.
The sign on the Spa reception offers a hint of what is to follow. “Think pure heaven, now hold those thoughts, they’ll soon be feelings.”.
Quite apart from the vast indoor pool, outdoor vitality pool, exercise studio and state of the art gym, there is enough spa, therapy and hairdressing here to service the entire Premier League of WAGS.
Who wouldn’t want to immerse themselves in the herbal sauna, Himalayan salt steam, aroma steam and drench showers. Of course after which it would be mandatory to lie on a soundwave therapy bed in the darkened sleep retreat or indulge in the Middle Eastern Mud Rasul Chamber.
There is even a private retreat area for hire with a hanging hammock and infinity pool for anyone with a one-upmanship complex.
This is of course a light-hearted way of describing a truly world-class spa facility with no less than 14 treatment rooms run by skilled ESPA trained in-house therapists.
As an added bonus, within the Spa complex lies FUSION, the Ramside Hall Hotel’s latest restaurant. Celebrating dishes from south-east Asia using only locally sourced ingredients is a curious move, but in the hands of an army of Thai chefs cooking fresh to order from an open plan kitchen, I find it works remarkably well.
Talking of food, there are two more restaurants over in the opposite wing; Pemberton’s Carvery, a huge family friendly buffet affair and something of an institution in the north east. The choices are plentiful and at £9.95 for a roast, very affordable indeed. For those in need of a little classier dining , the Rib Room is essentially a New York steakhouse, complete with leather banquettes. 32 day aged Durham beef takes centre stage in all its guises and at £24.95 for a 10 oz fillet, you can’t really go wrong.
For all its impressive facilities and top drawer expansion, Ramside Hall Hotel just falls short in a couple of places for me. The main building’s battlement type facade tries desperately to convince me I’m in an historic medieval mansion and bears no resemblance to the ultra modern Spa addition across the car park. Similarly inside, some of the public areas are very old fashioned and sit uncomfortably with the more contemporary additions.
Perhaps all this mish mash of styles just adds to the unique charm of the Ramside Hall Hotel, the way we all love an old blanket. So we forgive and just put up with its idiosyncrasies
I quite like that.
Food images (c) Andy Mossack
Tell me more about Ramside Hall Hotel
Superior room from £99 per night including breakfast
Suites from £199 per night including breakfast
Spa Breaks from £150pp per night including breakfast
Golf breaks start £99 per night including breakfast
Ramside Hall Hotel, Carrville, Durham DH1 1TD, England.
Getting to Durham
Virgin Trains East Coast runs frequent services to Durham from London Kings Cross from £132,70. There are special weekend fare packages.