At this stage of my journey into motherhood, I’m planning trips that enable me to spend as much quality time as possible with my fiance. I’m aware that things will change significantly when our baby boy arrives in April and I am looking forward to real family holidays, but it is fantastic when you find a destination that caters perfectly to the needs of a pregnant lady and her man. Let me introduce you to Rockliffe Hall, which my finace booked as a pre-Christmas treat.
Rockliffe is in Darlington, County Durham, which is close to Richmond where my fiance was born and where his grandparents lived. He knows the area well, but I had no idea what to expect as I’m from the Home Counties and I can count the number of times I’ve been ‘Up North’ on one hand.
As we drove up (approx 5 hours from London including rest stops), it started to snow and so my first sighting of the hotel was with white icing sugar covering it’s grounds. As we pushed open the doors, a wall of warmth hit us and it smelled beautiful thanks to some scented candles on the reception desk. You know that feeling where you shoulders drop and you feel like you can relax? I got it instantly.
I was quite tired after the journey but I woke up when I saw our Junior Suite. My fiance told me he took advantage of a great rate, making it super affordable, as he knew the first question in my mind would be ‘How can we afford this?’ It was lucky for the hotel that I’m pregnant as otherwise I would have jumped on the beds in celebration. Instead I raced around the room, exploring the bathroom (which had a TV above the bath), the dressing area, all of the sofas and then finally made myself a cup of tea, which I was able to serve in real tea cups with fancy biscuits on the side. Heaven!
The spa is open until 9pm on the weekends and so we were able to take a dip in the pool before dinner to unwind after the car journey. However, when I say ‘dip’ I’m underselling it. The Rockliffe Hall hotel spa has a 20 metre pool as well as a hydrotherapy suite, saunas, steam rooms, an igloo and an outdoor hot tub.
For an additional £30 per person you could buy access to Rockliffe’s new Spa Garden, in which there’s a heated outdoor infinity pool and relaxation loungers that look over the garden. There’s a more private sauna and steam room plus a spa butler, so you can order fresh juice or fizz to be brought to you as you relax. What a shame that I’m pregnant and not allowed saunas or Champagne!
For some reason, swimming always makes me hungry so I was looking forward to dinner in the hotel’s brasserie that night. My fiance and I would have preferred to have eaten at the hotel’s Orangery restaurant, which has a Michelin star, but it was closed on the days we were there. Apparently Michelin guide regulations mean some restaurants have to be closed at lunch and on certain nights of the week. If you want Michelin starred fare, then visit Rockliffe on Wednesday to Saturday nights.
That’s not to say the Brasserie food was disappointing. In fact, after the disappointment of the Michelin starred restaurant being closed, the Brasserie food was a bonus. The portions were large, which is important if like us you’d worked up an appetite after a long drive and a spa session. I had smoked salmon to start followed by roast turbot, while my fiance had risotto followed by roast turkey (it was Christmas time after all). We did both have a couple of warm bread rolls each, so maybe it wasn’t surprising that we couldn’t fit in dessert, plus I was drinking non-alcoholic cocktails which were fruity and probably quite calorific. I adored the options for the non-drinkers, as normally I’m limited to soda water or juice when I go out for a meal but I had an aperitif of a virgin raspberry mojito, which had lots of berries crushed inside the drink. In the gorgeous bar downstairs I had a baby bellini, and if I closed my eyes I could have sworn it was just as tasty as the real thing, except it’s made with sparkling elderflower instead of prosecco and won’t give me a hangover the next day. Even if you don’t drink, you must visit the Rockliffe Hall bar as it’s just like being in an elegant stately home, with barman that cater to your every whim. I could get used to that treatment. Don’t I look at home in this pic?
Thankfully, we were at Rockliffe for three nights and quickly established a little routine. Each morning, I’d wake up around 8 and hit the gym while my other half went for a run around the local area. We’d go for breakfast at 945 and order something hot, then fill up on fresh fruit and cereal at the cold buffet, and drink fresh orange juice with coffee for him and hot water and lemon for me. Then it was back to the room for a little rest before our adventures of the day. One day, I was treated to the sights of Richmond, which is a beautiful town, and we got inspiration for artwork in our flat by popping into lots of galleries. Later that day we travelled to Reeth in the Dales, where I lost badly at darts and we explored the snow capped Dales. Another day, we visited friends in a local village and then attended the Middlesbrough football game, which surprisingly they won. I got so into it that I ate chicken pie and chips and allowed my fiance to buy our boy a Middlesbrough FC baby rattle from the club shop. What was I thinking?
I’d definitely recommend exploring the villages around the hotel for the chocolate box scenes that you just don’t come across very often in London. Several times I felt like I was in an episode of Emmerdale Farm. Plus it’s so satisfying when you come across hidden gyms, such as The Bay Horse Pub in a village called Hurworth. I feasted on pheasant cooked three ways, while my other half had stone bass. He had a glass of wine and I had a juice and we shared a rich chocolatey dessert and it was less than £60 for the two of us. It would have cost double that in London and you wouldn’t have been able to recreate the rustic atmosphere the food was served in.
After three nights at Rockliffe Hall, I felt as rested as I would have been after a seven night beach holiday. My only regret is that I wasn’t able to sample the Michelin starred restaurant and I didn’t have time to try a pregnancy massage in the spa. My fiance regrets leaving his bicycle at home as he could have done some valuable training in the Dales amid stunning scenery. I don’t like having regrets in life so I guess that means we’ll have to go back…
You can find out more about the hotel’s facilities, rooms and rates on the Rockliffe Hall website. Have you visited before?