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Review: Lumley Castle, County Durham

Brimming with character and mystique, this period hotel is the perfect setting for a storybook romance

First impressions

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As light fades over the valley, Lumley Castle becomes spectacularly illuminated from the grand entrance to the highest turret. There’s a quiet calm in the parklands as we arrive – although it’s abruptly broken when two pheasants flap across our path.

Inside, stone flagged floors and rounded ceilings are filled with plush red carpets and period art, as well as the odd throne. It’s like walking into a scene from Beauty and the Beast, and I half expect a candelabrum to come to life or a teacup to burst into song. The route to our room is a journey up a swirling staircase past a hanging chandelier, across a quiet courtyard and through creaky corridors, until we’re deep in the heart of the castle.

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Room for romance

Our period-novel romance continues in our chamber, a feature room complete with a fireplace, standalone bath and four-poster bed. The mattress is so high it requires a small leap to mount it, like the bed from The Princess and the Pea. With a flick of the gold tap, I fill a deep bath and watch Sunday night TV on the flat screen from behind a steady swirl of steam. No, the Mr wasn’t allowed in – this was all mine.

It is a royally red affair, with dark wooden panelled walls and iron-framed alcove windows overlooking the courtyard. All the rooms are decorated individually, but for a truly lavish experience book the King James Suite – a former chapel that comes with a Jacuzzi bath and the best views over the grounds. Its regal 20ft high poster bed – supposedly the tallest in Europe – is the stuff of wedding night dreams.

The staff are adoring of the castle’s gothic atmosphere and keep the mystique alive by telling the legend of the Lady of Lumley at reception, whose ghost is supposed to roam the castle. Supernatural rumours might fill the venue with unique charm and curiosity, but nothing went bump in the night during our stay.

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Wine and dine

Dishes are inspired by the historical surroundings, but all have a modern execution. Pan fried pigeon breast with blackberry and rosemary Scotch pancakes is a highlight on the starter menu and seared duck breast with beetroot tart tatin for the mains. Our Signature Dish meal was a generous beef fillet with a blue cheese middle, wrapped in Parma ham. Indulgent, yes, but if you can’t dine like medieval monarchs in a castle, when can you? The hearty dinner in the Black Knight restaurant was followed by a drowsy nightcap next to the roaring fire in the Library Bar, surrounded by rows of leather-bound books.

If you’re looking for a statement wedding venue, Lumley Castle has a host of atmospheric spaces. The elegant Garter Suite has intricate white walls with contrasting crimson drapes, or the Baron’s Hall with its dizzyingly high ceilings and red interior is filled with ornate candelabra. If you’re planning a family-only affair, there are candlelit private dining rooms that seat fewer than 20 people.

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We love

Catching sight of people roaming the corridors in period costume after attending the award-winning Elizabethan banquet, where guests tackle a five-course feast armed with just a dagger and a bib.

Go there

Rooms from £102.60 per night.

Lumley Castle Hotel is offering you the opportunity to hold your ceremony in its magnificent surroundings with luxury overnight accommodation for just £2500, thanks to their Fairytale package. The offer includes a wedding breakfast and evening buffet for 40 guests and is available throughout January, February and March 2015, Sunday to Friday.

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Lumley Castle Hotel, Chester le Street, County Durham DH3 4NX; lumleycastle.com