Head through North Yorkshire up the A1 to Scotch Corner, take a right at the roundabout to Middleton Tyas, drive through the village bearing leftish, and there it is – a magnificent corner of paradise known as Middleton Lodge.
I went to Middleton Lodge – or, to be more accurate, the Coach House Restaurant and Rooms at Middleton Lodge – for a facial, and drove slowly away 24 hours later feeling as if I was ever so slightly heartbroken at leaving behind a fabled land, a secret garden, a magical, blissful, peaceful and utterly beautiful haven, indeed heaven, on earth. I am not usually so enthusiastic, I promise, but Middleton Lodge really is a very special place.
To begin at the beginning, the Middleton Lodge estate centres around a splendid Georgian mansion which, since 1980, has been home to James Allison, who grew up there with his parents and siblings, and now, with his partner Becky, is dedicating himself to restoring and developing his childhood playground into a stunning destination that guests and visitors can enjoy.
Middleton Lodge was built a few miles from Richmond in 1780 by John Carr of York for George Hartley, of a local mining family, and it’s described as a “typical and unusually complete Georgian estate”, with main house, coach house and stables, kitchen garden, glasshouses, estate cottages and parkland.
It was designed as a family home and remains so to this day, these days as home to James and his family, although since 2008 it has been given over at weekends to weddings and private events, which take over most of the house and its bedrooms, plus a marquee on the lawn. A friend of mine went to a wedding there recently and was particularly impressed by the snug area tucked away somewhere in the house itself (she can’t quite remember where, exactly), which she described as like a fairy grotto, all lit up with candles for the late night guest revellers.
We stayed in the Tack Room at The Coach House, a courtyard of hotel rooms which have been renovated with real flair, thought and attention to detail (James credits Becky with the stunning design and decor). A stay in one of these rooms is a real treat in itself, as it is simply sitting and marvelling at the surroundings of the bar and the restaurant, where original brickwork, beams and fixtures have been retained and restored and everywhere there are objets and pictures and so many flowers to delight and inspire (I especially loved the towel basket in our huge bathroom – I want it).
The Treatment Rooms are here in the courtyard too, and I had the most amazing REN facial in one of the gorgeously designed spa rooms, which are a relatively new and most welcome addition to Middleton Lodge. The therapist was professional and soothing – it was a truly blissful experience. Well worth a trip there just for a treatment, especially bearing in mind it’s just off the A1, and then maybe follow with a spot of afternoon tea in the courtyard outside, or do as we did and stay for dinner in the excellent Coach House Restaurant, and, if you’re really lucky, spend the evening watching a film (James puts on an open air cinema some nights – it was Woody Allen’s Paris by Midnight when we stayed, and visitors came with their rugs to watch. We watched from the patio outside our room).
Back to the 2,000 square foot Coach House restaurant, which serves award-winning, locally sourced food by head chef Gareth Rayner. It all looks and tastes wonderful – again, well worth a trip just for lunch or dinner, although it would be hard to tear yourself away with those rooms beckoning.
The renovation of the Middleton Lodge estate is an ongoing process continuing with the restoration of the kitchen gardens and wider grounds. The latest addition to the Middleton Lodge experience is the newly renovated Farmhouse, which would make just the best place to go for a special celebration with friends or family. There are five bedrooms.
We were away at Middleton Lodge for just 24 hours yet it felt like a luxurious long weekend. We were just 30 miles away from our home and yet it was as if we were in Tuscany or Provence, so removed and beautiful and magical was our stay. And if I ever get married again, I know exactly where I’m going to do so. Vow renewal? Anniversary party. Now I’m thinking …
For more details and lovely pictures go to http://www.middletonlodge.co.uk/