Words by Irene Caswell
Most of us think nothing of driving to Gatwick to take a flight to Europe for a short break. Yet friends were a little surprised when I set off from Hampshire for Yorkshire for a few days. It has been some time since I visited and I had a hankering to experience the wild and magnificent Brontës’ moors again.
With the emphasis on sustainable travel I journeyed on the Grand Central ‘James Herriott’ from Kings Cross to Middlesbrough. Leaving just before midday I arrived at Gisborough Hall hotel by teatime. Situated on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors the red ivy clad walls of the ancestral home of the Chaloner family offered a warm welcome in the autumn sunshine.
Gisborough Hall is situated on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors Image credit: Irene Caswell
Autumn imbues a sense of melancholy and North Yorkshire did not disappoint. Each day began with ribbons of mist woven through the trees. This disappeared as the day wore on and temperatures rose to the low 20 degrees.
Two hundred years ago John Keats penned his famous Ode To Autumn inspired by a city in the south east but it could just as easily have been Yorkshire. As I set out on foot each morning the magnificent countryside and the crisp air put a spring in my step.
Gisborough Hall is surrounded by open countryside, ideal for guests who enjoy exploring the local area by foot Image credit: Irene Caswell
The four-star hotel is surrounded by open countryside. The Chaloner family connection with the town and parish of Guisborough dates back to Henry VIII’s time.
After the dissolution of the monasteries Sir Thomas Chaloner purchased the Guisborough Monastic Estate from the Crown for the sum of £854/13/4d. In 1856, Admiral Thomas Chaloner built “Longhull” on the site of an old estate farmhouse and some parts are still in evidence today.
The estate passed to Richard Godolphin Walmesley who was elevated to the House of Lords and took the title Lord Gisborough, with the original spelling. The family lived in the Hall until it was requisitioned by the army during the Second World War. Lord Gisborough continues a keen interest in the hotel and hosts a weekly Bridge game at the Hall.
The hotel has 71 traditionally designed bedrooms and a suite, featuring super king size or four poster beds
There are 71 traditionally designed bedrooms and a suite, featuring super king size or four poster beds and decorated in a combination of modern luxury and traditional features.
The Reception is the former Butler’s Pantry and evokes a Downton Abbey nostalgia. I stayed in the Admiral’s Room, one of the Old Hall Feature Bedrooms which were the original family bedrooms.
The rather masculine decoration included seafaring memorabilia and wallpaper patterned with 18th century sailing ships. The room’s quirky design featured a porthole and a forecastle ‘upper deck’ that offered a clear view of the countryside.
The comfortable room was equipped with a TV screen, good WiFi, a kettle and Nespresso maker and a decanter of sherry. The complimentary snacks and bottled water were replenished each day. The turndown service at night was accompanied by a mug and a sachet of hot chocolate on the bedside table.
The Admiral’s Room pays homage to Admiral Thomas Chaloner with nautical features including a forecastle ‘upper deck’ with countryside views
The sizeable bathroom included a bath and shower cubicle, a magnifying vanity mirror with integral light, guest toweling robes and slippers. The towels were warmed nicely by the heated towel rail overnight which was welcome on the chilly mornings. The guest toiletries were generous sizes of Molton Brown.
The water and heating system at the Hall are fuelled by Biomass boiler and Gisborough Hall has been awarded a Green Tourism Gold Award four years running.
On my first night I dined in the recently refurbished De Brus Bar & Grill. The design is contemporary with splashes of bright red glassware and accessories and a similar atmosphere to a cosmopolitan London grill.
I began with an appetising starter of Grilled Olive and Rosemary Polenta with a piquant shallot topping and, very fresh, pea shoots. The main course of Roast Scottish Salmon Fillet was beautifully cooked, succulent and with a crunchy skin.
The De Brus Bar & Grill has a contemporary decor with splashes of bright red glassware and accessories and a similar atmosphere to a cosmopolitan London grill
The bistro makes no bones (pun intended) about offering ‘comfort food’ and the dishes of chunky golden chips and onion rings appeared popular with diners. I opted for additional side dishes of Salt-baked beetroot and Steamed broccoli stems tossed with slivers of toasted almonds. For dessert I chose a delicate Pimms Jelly with sweet pickled apple, orange and mint syrup.
Chaloner’s Restaurant, where I dined on the second evening, offers a fine-dining menu under Head Chef David Southern. The Roast North Sea Hake with shellfish bisque, fresh mussels, seaweed gnocchi, samphire and peas was excellent.
The rich soup was creamy, smooth and imbued with flavours of the sea. The hake was meaty, full of flavor and very moist. The soft tenderness of the mussels added a little sweetness and the pillows of gnocchi soaked up the sweet tomato sauce.
Wines and spirits
The former safe stocks a wide selection of whiskies, brandies and gins from around the world. Image credit: Irene Caswell
The wine list was modest and included wines from around the world. Curiously though it did not include any of the award-winning English wines now produced in the UK.
Originally the muniment room for safekeeping of documents the former Chuff safe is now an impressive liquor room and stocks a wide selection of whiskies, brandies and gins from around the world.
A relaxation area located within the hotel is accessed via an internal corridor rather than through the main reception. In addition to a small sauna and a relaxation room the programme offers a selection of top to toe treatments up until 5.30pm daily, and I appreciated a relaxing Elemis facial after a day out and about. There are plans for a new designer Spa featuring inter-linking glass pods and located in the woodlands due to open in 2021.
A spacious yet cosy Drawing Room with comfortable sofas and chairs features a log fire in the winter
A spacious yet cosy Drawing Room with comfortable sofas and chairs features a log fire in the winter. There were plenty of newspapers and magazines to while away an hour or two with afternoon tea or something a little stronger from ‘The Safe’. There is also a wide paved terrace with wonderful views of the gardens for warmer days or nights.
What to see and do
There is much to see and do in this area of the moors. I took the bus into Whitby which stops outside the hotel or in the small town of Guisborough, a pleasant 10 minute walk away. I took a shortcut through a Kissing-Gate, helpfully recommended by the hotel receptionist, which passes by the ruins of the 12th century Gisborough Priory.
The ruins of 13th century Whitby Abbey stand sentinel over the town Image credit: Irene Caswell
People have lived on the headland at Whitby for over 3,000 years. Located on both sides of the River Esk it is joined by a swing bridge which closes from time to time to allow ships safe passage. Standing sentinel over the town is the splendid Whitby Abbey.
The ruins have claim to another literary figure, Bram Stoker, who was inspired to write his 19th century masterpiece Dracula. The Abbey is reached by a climb of 199 steps and my efforts were rewarded with stunning views of the town and the coastline.
There are many places to visit in this area including the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, where the seafarer once lived, and the Whitby Heritage Jet Museum. The semi precious stone originally mined from the local shale cliffs was used to create a wide range of artifacts from chess sets to perfume bottles. Queen Victoria wore jet mourning jewellery throughout her widowhood.
Whitby Old Town features pretty cobbled streets, original houses and quaint hidden alleyways
Whitby Old Town is reminiscent of Cornwall with pretty cobbled streets, original houses, quaint hidden alleyways and flights of stone steps.
There are fishing boats moored in the harbour and I spotted a fisherman cleaning his catch by the quay. Although fishing is no longer a major industry here it was good to see the tradition is still alive.
Although I only spent three days in North Yorkshire I felt both relaxed after my country house break and yet invigorated by a change of scenery and pace. It is worth taking some time out to dip a toe into this historically important region and to experience the wild beauty of the countryside and the coast.
There are fishing boats moored in the harbour and although fishing is no longer a major industry here, the tradition is still alive
Room Rates from £149 double room bed and breakfast. Three nights traditional Christmas breaks £610 per person (24th to 27th December)
Four legged friends are welcome in ground floor bedrooms but not in the public areas. An additional fee of £15 per night applies and if you let them know in advance there will be some ‘doggie treats’ in your room.
Address: Whitby Rd, Guisborough TS14 6PT
Phone: 01287 611500
For details of The Whitby Jet Heritage Centre visit whitbyjet.co.uk and for Whitby Abbey go to english-heritage.org.uk
Main image courtesy of Irene Caswell
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