THE JEWEL IN RYEDALE'S CROWN
Want to avoid jostling with crowds of shoppers in packed city centres or joining an endless queue of vehicles to get into an out of town shopping outlet – then head to Ryedale and one of their picturesque market towns.
Helmsley is one of Britain’s best market towns and provides the perfect opportunity for a great retail fix, a blissful weekend or overnighter to recharge the batteries and time to blow away the cobwebs in the beautiful great outdoors that surrounds the town.
The town provides no shortage of accommodation from hotels, pubs with rooms and luxury boutique b and b’s, wonderful restaurants and amazing opportunities for retail therapy.
Sitting proudly opposite the church is the Yorkshire Stone fronted Feversham Arms Hotel and Verbena Spa. Originally a coaching inn it was re-named and re-built in 1855 by the Earl of Feversham.
The hotel is situated around an all-weather outdoor pool and over the years parts have been added to the main building including an underground car park which for us was much appreciated as its lift took us directly to the first floor to our luxury spa suite in the newest part of the hotel.
Our suite was spacious with sliding glass doors leading on to a balcony complete with two chairs and a table – just the place to have morning tea or enjoy a glass of vino at sunset.
The balcony overlooked the pool which at night was dressed in a glittering mantle of twinkling lights giving it a fairy tale romantic ambience.
The lounge area of the suite was exceptionally well appointed with a wonderful soft leather settee that faced the sliding glass doors with a large footstool to put your feet up after a gruelling day.
The décor of the suite had a rustic feel with wooden floors and ethnic inspired rugs in the lounge area.
There were numerous side tables with chairs in the lounge so there was a place to put and work from your lap top, somewhere to make your in room tea and coffee and in the corner an easy chair that had a reading light over it.
The bedroom led off the lounge and had a sliding door, very useful if someone wants an afternoon snooze, and for those who like their own personal choice of T.V. programmes there were two televisions one in the bedroom and one in the lounge. The king size bed was comfortable and had wonderfully crisp cotton sheets and warm wool throws.
One thing I did particularly like were the two entrances to the bathroom and toilet. One from the lounge and one from the bedroom. This means that if one person is sleeping and the other wants to use the bathroom they don’t have to trudge through the bedroom! And a big plus for me there was a well lit makeup mirror over table in the bedroom.
The bathroom was fully tiled and very large but had its problems in that it took half an hour for the toilet cistern to fill up after use and a walk in shower that flooded when in use and created a deluge so great we had to use towels and a dressing gown to soak up the flood.
We were told this was a regular problem – hopefully by now the design flaw will have been corrected.
On the ground floor a tiled corridor filled with local art work, which is for sale connects the Verbena Spa and the main part of the hotel and gives a light an airy feel to the hotel.
The Verbena Spa has a reputation for its spa experience and offers a comprehensive menu of individual treatments from massages, facials, wraps, manicures, pedicures, and indulgence packages.
The Spa itself offers a heat experience, steam room, aromatherapy room, saunarium and a monsoon shower plus a hot tub. What more could you ask for? The Spa has a very friendly and obliging staff who are there to help with any queries and will even advise you the nearest place you can buy a mascara if you have forgotten to pack yours – as I did.
I really loved the library with its comfy seating, great books, newspapers, box games and even a chess set great for a rainy afternoon or a relax after dinner.
At the bottom of the tiled corridor there were two bars with comfy leather chairs and sofas and a real log fire so comforting on a winter night.
Adjacent to the bar is the hotel’s restaurant that we found lacking in menu choice, content and customer service.
It is trying too hard to be something it is not and creating an over the top fusion of flavours in every course just does not bode well with customers seeking a simple alternative. When the highlight of a meal is the cheeseboard and the chef’s appetizer, as it was with us, something is wrong!
Our chef’s appetizer consisted of sour dough bread, mushroom soup and a cream cheese and chive gougere (a filled choux pastry ball) which was absolutely delicious.
For starters my Wild Mushroom Tart with a filo pastry was fine but I did ask for it not to include the Truffle Foam and Tarragon Emulsion. My partners Pumpkin Soup with Pickled Walnut and Herb Gnocchi was luke warm and had very little flavour and despite telling our server it was barely warm nothing was done.
Main courses presented a problem. As a restaurant reviewer and travel writer I was amazed that all the meat for mains was game and consisted of a choice of pigeon or venison a rarity on most menus! So I opted for the Halibut asking for it to be simply grilled. I also asked if it could be served with either some potato or a side salad as I did not want with accompaniments it came with. I was told, rather curtly, we will have to ask the kitchen if they can do that.
My Halibut arrived with no potato or side salad. A piece of lettuce, a tomato and some cucumber would have been acceptable as would a dollop of mash. My partner opted for the Whitby Cod, with its accompaniments of White Beans, Chorizo, Brown Shrimp, Lemon Curd, Clams and Samphire which he said was more than a little over the top in its content. True it was presented like a work of art but sadly the taste did not match its appearance.
With the whole dish removed literally un touched no comment was made and he tucked into a cheese board with gusto.
Our breakfast was I must say a veritable treat full of local produce, artisan bread and pastries and delicious sausage and bacon.
I have stayed at The Feversham before, albeit 20 years ago and everything then was of the highest order but with more competition arising in the area perhaps it should look at some of its offerings more closely.
The Feversham Arms &Hotel and Verbena Spa, Helmsley YO62 5AG.
Tel: – Hotel: 01439 770766 Spa 01439 772930
SO WHAT CAN I DO IN HELMSLEY?
First take a walk all around the town and discover some beautiful sites
Fancy a Retail Fix?
Friday is Market Day so there’s a myriad of home-made/home grown produce to be had.
The town’s food story started 900 years ago, when the Lords of Helmsley first started to build their stately homes. Enterprising locals recognised an opportunity and Helmsley was born, to provide luxuries and treats for the lords and ladies on the estates.
In the historic market square, you’ll discover a mouth watering range of independent butchers, bakers, fishmongers, confectioners, greengrocers – all sourcing their ingredients locally and championing local product
And in between shopping till you drop there’s top tea rooms and you can find the best family hand made ice cream in the country.
LOOKING FOR A GIFT?
A honey-pot for art and design lovers, Helmsley’s galleries and workshops rival major cities. Showcasing leading local artists, craftspeople and makers of furnishings and fashion, alongside collections of curiosities, you’ll find everything from the bizarre to the exquisite here, often handcrafted using local materials.
WHERE CAN I VISIT AROUND THE TOWN?
The National Centre for The Birds of Prey – see falcons and hawks in thrilling aerial displays.
Helmsley Walled Gardens – 5 acres of beautifully restored kitchen gardens and orchards. See where the new film The Secret Garden with Colin Firth and Julie Walters was filmed
Helmsley Castle – a towering ruin – a must see looks beautiful in the winter
AND DON’T FORGET
York is only around 24 miles away, Scarborough around 30 miles away and Whitby about 45 miles away if you want to extend your visit
For further information
Visit www.visitryedale.co.uk Views of the area by Ryedale District Council.