Hidden in Jesmond Dene, a two-mile stretch of leafy valley in the outskirts of Newcastle, we stumble across Jesmond Dene House like Hansel & Gretel discovering the candy house. A flash of stone between the leaves as we approach reveals itself as the glorious 19th century manor house-turned luxury hotel, and despite being just down the road from the bright city lights, there's no sign of urban life from within its grounds.
Room for romance
In keeping with the country-in-the-city vibe, the rooms have a homely, cottage feel with original features, but modern furnishings and little touches to sweep you off your feet; including Classic FM playing on the radio as you walk in, fresh coffee made especially for the hotel and luxurious Arran Aromatic toiletries. Speaking of the bathroom, it was spacious even with the large bath, separate shower and his & hers sinks, while the heated floor will get your toes curling in delight.
From of the 40 rooms and suites, no two are the same. We had the Noble Suite, which came complete with two flatscreen TVs, living area and private terrace; sitting on the roof surrounded by stone structures makes us feel like the king and queen of Jesmond Dene. However, with rain pounding down on the windows for the majority of our stay, we were just as happy to pull the duvet up under our chins and sip freshly-brewed coffee in bed. Newlyweds? Treat yourself to The Apartment – the hotel's largest room – which comes with the fairytale feature of access via its own private staircase.
But however cosy the beds may be, we were just too tempted by the pretty walks through the Dene to stay put. The wooded park is ideal for a leisurely stroll by the stream, and you can even bring out your inner child with a visit to Pets Corner, where you'll see real life lovebirds, as well as the slightly less romantic (but equally as entertaining) pot-bellied pigs.
Wine & dine
If good food is the way to someone's heart, Jesmond Dene House galloped away with ours. The AA Three Rosette-wining restaurant is one of the best in the North East, and in usual Geordie fashion the service is warm and attentive, without being pretentious.
The most tender steak of my life arrived under the name Tim Oliver's Belted Galloway Beef Fillet – Tim being a local beef farmer. My Mr ate the same for fear of being jealous, so tempting was Tim Oliver's cow. However, while I began our feast with big, meaty langoustines and veal sweetbread, he daintily dined on succulent scallops with wild garlic purée. There are some culinary curiosities on the menu, too, that simply beg you to try them, such as parsnip-flavoured ice-cream and the crisp bone marrow served with our mains – and the flavours are all carefully balanced so that everything on your plate complements each other perfectly. Alongside this lavish dinner menu sits a more budget-friendly house menu, and you can mix and match courses from each. It's all seasonal cuisine and it's not unusual to see chefs snipping away at herbs they've grown in the hotel's garden.
Let's get married
As well as being ideal for a romantic getaway, the venue is a dab hand at throwing weddings, too. You can choose from a variety of locations to host your ceremony and reception – outdoor or indoor, four people or 100, and formal setting or laid-back. The staff are relaxed and flexible, but there are ready-made packages to choose from to help get you started from £90 per head.
We love the thought of an outdoor summer reception being surrounded by rustling trees in the midst of nature, without a trek through rugged rural landscape to get there.
Rooms from £120 per night based on two sharing.
The next wedding open evening is on Thursday 5 June 2014. For more information visit jesmonddenehouse.co.uk/whats-on/weddingopenevenings
Find Jesmond Dene House at: Jesmond Dene Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 2EY. Call +44 (0)191 212 3000 to book or visit jesmonddenehouse.co.uk