NEW REVIEW: Rockliffe Hall

Treat your groom to a UK weekend break in County Durham.

Romantic relaxation…

Hole up in the gorgeous rooms of the Old Hall, where you have a TV in your bathroom, luxurious beds, walk-in showers big enough for two, and room service! The decor is super-stylish – even the embossed Victorian-style radiators are pretty. Set your mood lighting just how you want it, with a 5-option control panel. Or choose a one-bedroom flat in the nearby annexe, where you can feel even more private while still having access to the hotel’s bars, restaurants and spas just a skip away.

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Cocktails by candelight

Start your evening with cocktails in the stylish bar. The Bellinis are especially good.
Then enjoy dinner at Kenny Atkinson at The Orangery, where the Michelin-starred chef, who shot to fame on The Great British Menu, creates imaginative and truly delicious food. Try mackerel with gooseberry starter (which won the fish course on The Great British Menu), Scottish salmon with a jelly of Scarborough lobster or duck egg ravioli. For an extra special touch, choose the wine-pairing menu. The dessert wine served with the chocolate fondant and banana was heavenly.

Imperial pampering

After a dip in the beautiful swimming pool, glittering with coloured reflections from the stained glass windows, relax in the thermal bathing suite, based on Roman principles, with lush mosaic tiling in rich deep reds and neutral tones to make you feel like an empress. Let your body relax on the warm tiled beds in the tepidarium, before blasting away neck and shoulder tension with the warm water jets in the hydrotherapy pool. There’s a steam room, sauna and an igloo room where rubbing ice flakes over your warm skin boosts circulation to relieve muscle tension. Go after 5pm at the weekend for a quieter, more intimate experience.

Couples spaaah…

For even more pampering, step into the treatment rooms area of the spa and enjoy a rasul, where you rub each other with an exfoliating scrub and then apply mineral mud to soften your skin. You then sit in a private mosaic steam room for about 20 minutes, followed by a hot tropical rain shower which washes you clean (£60 for 2 people, 45 minutes). Or book the couples’ suite in the luxurious treatment rooms and the signature Ila Sweet Pea and Rose Facial to rejuvenate (£80, 60 minutes) – ila-spa.com. Hot Rocks soothe away stress, with hot and cold stones boosting circulation and reducing tension (£50, 45 minutes).

Active adventure

Try Nordic Walking in the grounds of the hotel, or make the most of the huge golf course and the well equipped gym; the less energetic can have beginners’ golf lessons at the Academy or roam the grounds hand in hand as the sun sets. Drive off to the nearby North Yorkshire Moors National Park (northyorkmoors.org.uk) for a day in spectacular scenery, stopping in cosy country pubs along the way.

The essentials…

An Autumn Spa break at Rockliffe Hall (valid until November 30th 2010) costs from £235 per person Sunday to Thursday, £265 per person on Friday and Saturday and includes: a 60 minute holistic treatment (a prescriptive beauty treatment can be offered as an alternative, if preferred, or where a holistic therapist is unavailable): full use of wet spa facilities: a delicious two course lunch in The Waterhouse: gym and group activity classes: sleep retreat: dinner, bed and breakfast.

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East Coast runs direct trains to Darlington (a 10-minute taxi ride away from Rockliffe hall) from London, the East Midlands, Yorkshire and major cities in Scotland. Book via eastcoast.co.uk (08457 225225).