Review: We Check Out the Luxurious Wrea Head Hall
Peace, quiet and plenty of charm make for the perfect breakaway at Wrea Head Hall
The entrance to Wrea (pronounced Ray) Head Hall near Scarborough appears when you’re least expecting it, in the form of a relatively low key turning, with discreet but elegant signage. The pretty lodge that you pass almost immediately is a sure sign of grander things to come.
The tree-lined drive blends into the rural idyll we have all of a sudden become part of; meadows and fields of quietly grazing horses and somnolent sheep (I think they were hardy Herdwicks) to the left, an old-fashioned wheelbarrow on an area of grassland beneath a copse to the right. Not another house in sight.
The comforting crunch of gravel beneath the car wheels indicates our arrival. The Hall is an impressive building, the history of its past owners clearly visible. Reminders of an original kitchen garden in the form of an ancient lean-to greenhouse and a beautiful old brick wall conjure up images of bygone times.
A feeling of warmth and relaxation immediately enveloped us as we walked through the front door. The welcome from the staff was refreshingly natural rather than in any way forced, and the soft, gentle creaks as we climbed the stairs, the cocooning oak panelling and mullioned windows all gave an overwhelming feeling that life had at last, reassuringly, slowed down.
We were lucky enough to have arrived in sunshine so an early evening drink outside was inevitable. The terrace overlooks a stunning lawn, continuing, by way of a ha-ha, to the sheep-filled fields beyond. The garden itself was a melee of lavender-lined old stone steps, flower-filled pots and majestic trees, with glorious birdsong as soothing background noise – particularly the soporific cooing of turtle doves. It couldn’t have been more perfect.
With time before dinner we took a quick tour of the hotel. The lounge, the heart of the ground floor, is spectacular with its selection of sculpted works of art illuminated by the evening sunlight streaming through the tall, arched windows. Off the lounge the library is an elegant dining room, its walls lined with the original bookshelves and books. With its open fire, crystal chandeliers and stunning views, this intimate space can also be booked privately. Restaurant 1881 is the hotel’s larger dining room. A plethora of texture and rich colours, it is a heady mix of gilt wallpaper, oak panelling, antique mirrors and sumptuous carpet. The more contemporary bar had a very different feel to it and although many original features remain, it has been cleverly decorated to give it a more modern, sharper feel without departing totally from the character of the hall itself. Like the other rooms, this one also looks on to the gardens and a door leads straight out onto the terrace.
We ate dinner in 1881, the original oak-panelled dining room with views onto the garden and the National Park beyond. The hotel prides itself on sourcing as many ingredients as possible locally and all the dishes are prepared from scratch. During the summer as much produce as possible comes from the hotel’s own kitchen garden and there’s a wide ranging menu, but with Scarborough and Whitby ports virtually on our doorstep it made sense to go with locally-caught seafood; Whitby crab with fresh lemon for me, whilst the hake and samphire was my daughter’s choice. Both dishes were beautifully presented, together with delicious fresh bread and a crunchy, colourful salad to accompany. Choosing between the banana glaze lemongrass and ginger crème brulée with apricot and sultana biscotti, or glazed tangy lemon tart, raspberry millefeuille and raspberry sorbet for dessert was a real challenge, but we overcame it by sharing the chef’s warm trio of chocolate brownie, chocolate cherry sponge and sticky toffee pudding, which were all totally delicious.
We headed to our room via the grand, thickly-carpeted staircase. As it was a special mother and daughter trip we were given a twin room and the single beds greeting us were enormous and so comfortable – four pillows each! It was such a treat to lie back with windows open to the elements listening to not very much at all, in pure, unadulterated comfort… and to top it all, a granite-floored bathroom with a choice of clawfoot bath or shower, L’Occitane products on the side. We both slept like logs of course, looking forward to day two.
Breakfast – being my most favourite meal of the day – was no disappointment. A wonderful choice on the extensive menu kept us busy and happily we could take it at a suitably late hour of the morning so as not to feel rushed. My smoked salmon atop a carefully sculpted arrangement of scrambled egg and gently fried tomato with a fresh segment of lemon on the side was worthy of being the subject of an oil painting; what a pity to have had to set utensils on it!
My daughter had some work to do during the day and the lovely Michael could not have been more accommodating in finding her a suitable place to set up her laptop. What an incredible ‘office’ she had for a chunk of the day in the old library. He even kindly put a reserved sign on the door to ensure peace and quiet.
I decided to make the most of a bit of time on my own to discover Scarborough, just a few miles away (you can see Scarborough Castle from the hotel), and headed straight to the port full of colourful fishing vessels bobbing about on the swell. The views along the expansive beach and promenade reminded me so much of the old photographs that I’ve seen of Victorian seaside resorts and I wish I’d had longer to explore the town and some of the other parts of the coastline, but I shall have to save this for another visit as Wrea Head Hall is exactly the kind of place you look forward to returning to, time and again.