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Travel

Weekend break with a touch of class

After fire devastated its east wing two years ago, Brian Claridge discovers that Crathorne Hall Hotel has regained all its Edwardian elegance in a £4m restoration

There's an air of grandeur and historic charm as you enter Crathorne Hall Hotel, a luxury four-star country house hotel in North Yorkshire. The hotel was built during the reign of Edward VII for the Dugdale family and is steeped in history. The Queen Mother was a regular visitor, as was the Prince of Wales. Other distinguished visitors over the years include Prime Ministers Sir Anthony Eden, Sir Alec Douglas-Home and Harold Macmillan.

Set in 15 acres of private grounds, near the market town of Yarm, the hotel overlooks the Leven Valley on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors with picturesque views towards the North York Moors and surrounding countryside.

My wife and I were keen to enjoy a weekend in North Yorkshire and stay at this historic hotel which has played host to royalty, politicians and socialites over the decades. Owned by the Dugdales until 1977, it has been awarded the accolade of four Red Stars and is among the top 200 hotels in the UK and Ireland.

It has 37 bedrooms, 17 of which have recently been refurbished following a £4 million restoration of the hall’s east wing. Our room had large picture windows overlooking the beautiful landscaped gardens and included a comfortable king-size bed, armchairs, large flat-screen television, tea and coffee-making facilities and a modern en-suite bathroom with shower/bath and luxury toiletries.

The Leven Restaurant, with its award-winning two AA Rosettes, is the perfect place to experience the fine dining experience, with its wooden panelling, gilt ceilings, oil paintings and magnificent fireplace. The large windows offer great views over the lawn and surrounding countryside.

Executive head chef Alan Robinson has created a choice of menu ranging from classic, simple dishes to contemporary modern cuisine, and the food is the highlight of any visit to Crathorne Hall.

At breakfast you help yourself to cereal, orange juice and fresh fruits, then order from the menu which includes Full English Breakfast, Eggs Benedict and poached or fried eggs on toast.

The restaurant is also open for lunch and traditional afternoon tea with a selection of dainty sandwiches, cakes, pastries and fruit scones.

The dinner menu includes a selection of table d’hôte and à la carte dishes. For example, Starter: smoked salmon, poached egg and mushroom dressing. Main: ribeye steak, chunky chips, tomato, mushroom and charred onions. Dessert: Vanilla crème brûlée, roasted nut granola and rhubarb textures.

The hotel had a setback in 2014 when fire damaged the east wing. Eighteen fire engines were called after smoke was seen billowing from the roof. More than 100 firemen battled to save Crathorne Hall as the fire ripped through the roof, and residents and staff were led to safety.

In consultation with English Heritage and Hambleton District Council’s planning and conservation officer, a team of specialist craftsmen worked on refurbishing and restoring grand architectural features. As a result of their work, the team discovered a splendid archway in the County Suite corridor in the east wing, which has been restored and replicated to create a grand colonnade.

The restoration team also came across an old stove in the former nursery. In its day, it would have been used to heat the Main picture: Crathorne Hall Hotel; inset, the hotel grounds Opposite page, top, the exterior steps; bottom left, one of the hotel suites and, bottom right, Whitby iron for pressing clothes. This has also been preserved and incorporated as a feature at Crathorne Hall.

Specialist structural techniques were employed to extend doorways and openings to create more space, and fireplaces were uncovered and restored in some of the bedrooms. The restoration work was completed a year later.

Julia Hands, chairman and chief executive of Hand Picked Hotels (the collection of country house hotels that includes Crathorne Hall), and Lord Crathorne, whose family owned the Edwardian country house for more than 70 years, joined general manager Peter Llewellyn and the team to celebrate the restoration.

Julia, a former lawyer, who runs the award-winning Hand Picked Hotels collection, said: “The restoration of Crathorne Hall is a magnificent achievement and the result of an excellent team effort by everyone involved. We remain indebted to the fire services for saving an important part of the history and landscape of this part of North Yorkshire and we are very proud that the hotel takes its place once more as a wonderful place to meet and to stay.”

During our weekend break, we visited Yarm, one of the most scenic towns in the region, with boutique shops, coffee shops, pubs and restaurants. The Yarm Viaduct is an amazing feat of engineering and provides the backdrop to this historic Yorkshire town. Costing £44,500 to construct in 1848 and 760 yards long, it was built to extend the Leeds and Thirsk Railway from Northallerton to Stockton and Hartlepool. With the River Tees flowing below, the viaduct took seven and a half million bricks to build.

The town is within easy driving distance of many local attractions, including North York Moors National Park with its stunning moorland, ancient abbeys and picturesque villages.

We also visited Whitby, one of the North East coast’s best-loved seaside towns, famous for its award-winning fish and chips. We strolled along the cobbled lanes with their abundance of cafes, pubs and restaurants. There’s plenty to see and do in and around Whitby, including the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

There are also the ruins of Whitby Abbey – a Benedictine abbey on the East Cliff; and Captain Cook’s Memorial Museum on the harbourside where the young James Cook trained as a seaman which led to his epic voyages of discovery. Before we left Whitby, we had to try its famous fish and chips and weren’t disappointed.

Have you visited Crathorne Hall? What did you think to it?

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