Stuart Forster reports on the experience of a spa day and overnight stay at Matfen Hall in Northumberland.
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Birds are chirping and geese are honking on the far side of the fairway as I raise the sash window of my vast guest room at Matfen Hall in rural Northumberland. It’s pleasant to wake up with a view overlooking a golf course.
The country manor in which I’m staying belongs to Sir Hugh and Lady Blackett. The Neo-Gothic house dates from the 1830s. Buildings have occupied the site since the Middle Ages.
The great hall at Matfen
Out on the corridor, I can peek through an arched window into the great hall. The stone wall bears coats of arms of families whose members married Blacketts.
A lion is sculpted into the wooden balustrade of the broad staircase. It’s a popular spot for photographing brides and grooms who choose Matfen Hall as the venue for their wedding reception.
Matfen Hall rooms
I’m staying in Room 4, one of 53 bedrooms within the four-star property.
My room is classically furnished, has a dark wood desk, a table in the bay by the window and a broad, flat-screen television. Last night I relaxed by reading on the sofa while sipping a cup of Earl Grey tea.
Looking up at the high ceiling and enormity of the room, it fleetingly crosses my mind that it would probably be big enough to practice three point shooting here if a basketball ring was mounted on the wall.
I’m sure guests in neighbouring rooms are pleased that isn’t the case. Who knows what they might suspect I was getting up to.
It’s possible to book rooms at Matfen Hall via Booking.com:
A Matfen Hall Spa Day
I’m planning on swimming a few lengths of the 15-metre pool in The Retreat, Matfen Hall’s spa, before unwinding in the sauna and steam rooms.
Unfortunately, all of the treatment slots were already fully booked upon my arrival, so I won’t be getting a massage. Next time I’ll know to call in advance of my arrival.
There’s a fitness room too. It has weights, exercise mats and cardiovascular equipment.
However, I’m planning a circular walk around Matfen Hall’s 300-acre estate and through surrounding farmland. The team at reception have already supplied me with a sketch map of walking trails in the area.
Matfen Hall Golf
A couple of the footpaths cut across Matfen Hall’s golf course. It opened for play in 1995.
Now a mature parkland course with water features and a dry stone ha-ha, Matfen Park has 27 holes arranged in three nine-hole circuits. That means guests playing a couple of rounds over a weekend can introduce variations to their 18-hole circuits.
There’s also a nine-hole, par-three course plus a driving range with ten bays. It forms part of Matfen Hall Golf Academy, where golfers can request personalised coaching aided by computerised training aids.
The driving range stands close to a Go Ape Matfen course, where people can monkey about while climbing, zip-lining and axe throwing.
Matfen Hall’s Emerald Restaurant
Tables are arranged beneath wooden shelves laden with leather-bound books in Emerald Restaurant. I dined there last after relaxing with a gin and tonic in the comfort of one of the leather sofas in the subtly lit drawing room.
With an ornately sculpted fireplace and gilt-framed oil paintings, it’s everything I imagine of a room within a stately manor house.
Regarded as one of the region’s premier fine-dining venues, it serves modern British cuisine. Dishes are made with seasonal ingredients plus organic lamb and beef supplied from Sir Hugh’s farm.
For my starter, I plumped for scallops and then enjoyed succulent Beef Wellington for my main course. The jus that accompanied it had a memorably rich, chocolatey texture. I also ordered a delicious side dish of cabbage prepared with pancetta.
For dessert, it proved impossible for me to resist the call of the soufflé.
Dutch-style formal garden
I’m looking forward to a traditional Northumbrian breakfast served in the Emerald restaurant. First, I’ll let my appetite grow by taking a morning stroll in Matfen Hall’s Dutch-style formal garden.
I exit from the conservatory, which houses a bar. Crunching across the gravel of the terrace, I pass an outsized draughts board.
Morning sunlight shines through the framework of the garden’s pergola to dapple the ground. The gentle scent of roses and fresh grass wafts through the summer air and I look forward to a day in the Northumbrian countryside.
A look at eight great reasons to stay at Matfen Hall, a hotel and spa at a historic manor house in the countryside of Northumberland, 30 minutes’ drive from Newcastle.
7 Things to do at Matfen Hall
Here are seven ideas for things to do while staying at the Matfen Hall hotel
1. Play a round of golf
Pack your clubs and play a round of golf on Matfen Hall’s beautifully maintained, championship-standard course. Residents’ packages and reduced rates mean you get a good deal on playing.
Prefer practicing your driving? There’s also a nine-hole, par-three course plus a driving range with ten bays.
2. Start the day with a workout
The fitness area at Matfen Hall has cardiovascular equipment, weights plus mats for stretching and participating in aerobics classes.
If you pack your trainers you could also go for a run on some of the trails looping through the manor’s extensive grounds.
3. Tuck into a traditional English breakfast
Treat yourself to a cooked breakfast. The Northumberland breakfast features eggy bread, black pudding and Northumberland sausage in a neat stack. It’s a tasty option and sets you up for calorie-burning activities during the day ahead.
Waiting staff bring orange, toast and coffee or tea to your table, meaning you can sit back and enjoy the ambience of the wood-panelled room.
The leather-bound books ranged on the shelves are a legacy of the pre-internet era in which people pored over printed pages to acquire knowledge and information.
4. Unwind in Matfen Hall’s spa
Remember your swimwear, so you can swim lengths in the 15-metre pool before time in the hot tub, saunas and steam room.
Call in advance to book a treatment if you fancy the idea of having a massage while you’re staying at Matfen Hall.
5. Enjoy Matfen Hall’s heritage
Set aside a few minutes to stroll around the building to get a feel for Matfen Hall’s long history.
Information boards at the reception convey the history of the Blackett family and their story. You can still see traces of the Jacobean-style forerunner of the current property in Matfen Hall’s entrance hall.
Wander through the corridors and into the grand hall before taking a look at Matfen church. The place of worship was reputedly built so that Sir Edward Blackett could look towards its 117-feet spire and ride home after hunting in the surrounding countryside.
6. Take a country walk
Sketch maps are available at reception so you can orientate yourself on walking trails around the grounds of Matfen Hall.
If you’re looking for something a bit more challenging why not pack your hiking boots for a day out in the Northumbrian countryside.
7. Sip a gin and tonic by the fireside
Sink into a leather sofa and order a pre-dinner gin and tonic by the fireside.
On summer evenings, sit outside on the terrace, and enjoy the sunshine by the conservatory.
Alternatively, you could always work up an appetite by playing a game of draughts on the enormous board on the terrace.
Travel to Matfen Hall
Matfen Hall is in the village of Matfen, under 30 minutes’ drive from the centre of Newcastle upon Tyne. It is approximately 15 minutes’ drive from Newcastle International Airport.
The Google Map below shows the location of Matfen Hall in Northumberland:
See the Matfen Hall website for further details about the hotel, spa, dining options and golf course.
Discover more about attractions elsewhere in the county on the Visit Northumberland website. You can also find things to do and see in the country’s most northerly county on the Visit England website.
Stuart Forster, the author of this post, has reviewed places to stay for The Independent, The Telegraph and Our Man On The Ground Travel.
Thank you for visiting Go Eat Do and reading this review of a stay at Matfen Hall in Northumberland. If you are planning a trip to the region, you may benefit from reading this post about places to visit in Northumberland.
Photos illustrating this post are by Why Eye Photography.
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A version of this post was originally published on Go Eat Do on 11 June 2016.