It may be difficult for some to believe that reviewing hotels can be a stressful business. But this particular visit fell on deadline day, so before arriving my head was full of all the to-do’s currently not on my ‘done’ list. Luckily, the minute we walked through the door, the attentive staff and beautiful surroundings of Rockliffe Hall made me determined to forget about work. My sense was that this was a special place and it would be a real waste not to make the most of it. Arriving mid-afternoon for our overnight stay, we quickly came to understand how essential good staff are to delivering a five-star hotel experience. From beginning to end we were spoiled by the hotel’s team who all seemed both genuinely interested in us, and entirely invested in making our stay as easy and enjoyable as possible. Our ground floor room was spacious and stylish, with doors that opened onto the beautiful grounds. It was my partner’s birthday on the day we arrived and in our room was a thoughtful welcome gift – exactly the kind of touch that makes this hotel stand out from the rest.
A quick explore of the hotel soon found us in the spa. It had already been explained to us that the hotel was very relaxed, and that walking around in our dressing gowns and slippers was no problem. It’s not always an easy balance to pull off both ‘luxury’ and ‘relaxed’ and yet Rockliffe seem to have nailed it.
Given our dinner plans, complete with wine tour and tasting experience, we didn’t have too long to enjoy the spa. Usually this wouldn’t have been an issue, however after realising the number of different sauna-based rooms there were to try we had to devise a strategy for the hour we had. Fortunately, we managed to fit in the Temparium, infrared room and sauna – with time for a swim too. As someone who likes to avoid risking frizzy hair at all costs, I was surprised to find myself in the pool at all. It also speaks volumes for the spa, that my partner, who loves nothing more than eating, is willing to risk being late to dinner to stay there for an extra 15 minutes.
Arriving at dinner, albeit a little late due to the unscheduled spa experience, the staff didn’t blink an eye; all were kind and full of advice, and none more so than the resident wine expert, Daniel. I have to say, I know nothing at all about wine. I could safely say that I am the type of person who chooses wine by colour, and then goes for the second cheapest on the menu… I did not say this to Daniel. However I am sure could sense our total ignorance, and yet his passion for the subject even had my partner considering attempting to invest in the wine industry after just 15 minutes!
Leaving Daniel and the magical Rockliffe wine cellar, our immediate thoughts were of how soon we could bring our families back to share the same experience we were currently enjoying. Before our starters had arrived we had mentally booked in for Easter weekend.
The Orangery, where we enjoyed dinner, is beautiful, with ceiling-high pillars and a towering glass roof. The decor is perhaps somewhat dated – but it works – adding character to the room. Despite having deep concerns after hearing that the menu was themed with beetroot (it’s a favourite of Aaron Craig, Rockliffe’s impressive resident chef) I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised. This is the type of cooking that leaves you wondering how on earth they have managed to make it taste so good.
A good night’s sleep, and we’re back in The Orangery for breakfast. There’s nothing worse than a skimpy hotel buffet breakfast but Rockliffe certainly does not disappoint. The spread includes a vast array of cereals, meats, fruit and some of the best pastries and croissants we’ve had. There is also an à la carte menu which, based on our experience the previous night, we were sensible enough not to miss. Feeling considerably heavier (just what you want before getting into a swimsuit for the morning) we headed back down the corridor to the spa, where we we had booked a treatment each and enjoyed a couple of hours in the exclusive Spa Garden area.
I had opted for a Neom treatment. I am a massage kind of girl, however, this treatment adds an element of the unknown to a regular massage. You are given four candles to smell, and whichever candle scent appeals to you most determines the treatment you receive. Some candles (sleep and destress, for any one who wants to cheat) result in relaxing, massage-style treatments. Others in scrubs and wraps. I ended up choosing the ‘happiness’ candle. At that point I was not aware that this would result in a very unique treatment which includes reflexology, breathing exercises, a full body scrub and even a shower part way through. Not really my kind of treatment on paper, but did I enjoy it? Absolutely. It would be hard not to – the spa’s therapists are so skilled at making you feel relaxed.
With my body buffed to within an inch of its life, I headed back out to the Spa Garden. This is an area of the spa which requires a separate booking to the traditional spa to access but it’s well worth it. A serene space, highlights include a sauna with gorgeous views and a warm outdoor infinity pool.
There are not many reviews I write where I know with absolute certainty that I will be back – hopefully with family in tow – and soon!