Liz Coggins escapes to the ultimate country house hotel
My mode of transport seemed totally inappropriate as I drove through the golden gates of Wynyard Hall. I really felt I should have been in an open top vintage Sunbeam sports car or a chauffeur driven Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost.
There was something ethereal as I journeyed down the long, winding lanes of the 150 acres of parkland that makeup the estate – perhaps it was the mist rising amidst the trees and over the lake – or just that I’d seen too many episodes of Downton Abbey and recently re-read Brideshead Revisited.
Eventually the 19th century hall was within my sight. Imposing and stark from the outside with its Corinthian pillars it looked a little foreboding. But nothing in the whole wide world could have prepared me for what I was about to experience as I opened Wynyard’s solid oak doors and stepped inside.
They say seeing is believing and what I saw literally took my breath away. In the middle of this mind blowing space called the Statue Gallery was a grand piano. Above it a radiant stained glass dome supported by statues of Atlas, the giant who supported the sky. Around the dome was a viewing gallery with intricately carved gilded figures. And it didn’t stop there as I gazed in absolute wonder strains of grand opera arias were softly wafting into the room.
The atmosphere was such that my imagination began to run riot. I imagined a butler, footman and a couple of housemaids coming into the gallery followed by a Mrs Danvers type housekeeper to welcome me to the hall.
That’s the beauty of Wynyard Hall it doesn’t feel like a hotel. Over the years I have stayed at dozens of country house, castle and stately home hotels both in the UK and abroad but non have even come close to having the special ambience that abounds at Wynyard.
No wonder it’s been and still is a firm favourite with royalty, statesmen and the rich and famous. Recent visitors include Russell Crowe who absolutely loves the place, The Countess of Wessex and more sportsmen and celebrities than you can care to mention.
Dating back to the 19th Century the Hall was built as an affluent stately home and its visitors included Queen Elizabeth II, Charles Dickens, Disraeli and the Duke of Wellington
Wynyard was the English seat of the Marquises of Londonderry but was sold and since 1987 has been the home of Sir John and Lady Hall.
The hotel oozes old world charm and some absolutely astounding rooms. I was back in Versailles when I strolled into the Mirror Room, decorated with 15 gold floor to ceiling mirrors; whilst the library with is original ebony, ormolu and tortoiseshell bookcases has real books on its shelves that you can actually take out read if you feel in the mood over a quiet drink or afternoon tea. Both these rooms have wonderful views over the ornamental lake and are perfect for some real “me” time.
To say Wynyard is palatial is an understatement. The ballroom is ornate and close your eyes for a second and you can image the wonderful balls that must have been held here in times gone by. The Hall also has its own Chapel – perfect for weddings of all denominations – and what’s more its accessible through the hall so no need to go outside if the weather is bad. Built in Italian marble and decorated with grand paintings it even has a traditional organ.
Afternoon is a must if you are a guest at Wynyard Hall. In summer you can take it on the terrace overlooking the rolling parkland. There’s four choices of afternoon tea including one with champagne or prosecco and the famed Duke of Wellington Gentleman’s afternoon tea complete with a glass of Glenfiddich whisky.
Dining at Wynyard Hall is a veritable feast. The menus come under Head Chef Alan O’Kane. Sunderland born Alan has had an interest in cooking since he was a small child “I used to watch my grandfather cook traditional dishes at home such as pigs cheek and was absolutely fascinated even then by cooking”, says Alan.
Alan came to Wynyard 2 years ago after a career which saw him training at The Savoy and working in some of the country’s most prestigious restaurants. “When I came Wynyard had only one AA Rosette now it has three”, says Alan.
He describes his style of food as “Modern British” “I source all my ingredients from the British Isles and use as much locally produced food as I can. It’s all about quality” he adds.
And quality is the way to describe dining in the famous Wellington Restaurant. Seasonal menus here cater for every taste and diet. From game, poultry and meat to fish and tasty vegetarian options every course is a work of art in presentation and has a fusion of flavours.
When its time to rest your head the rooms at Wynyard are simply amazing. Their décor is perfect, relaxing and just as sumptu