Hotel rooms Inhabit a Separate Moral Universe
Georgian architectural rigour meets quirky contemporary styling at Seaham Hall. With the indulgent and cocooning Serenity Spa a slippered stroll next door to boot, you may struggle to drive away
Review and Photography by Andy Barnham
There’s always a sense of trepidation and expectation when you make your way down a long driveway for the very first time. The car slows to a creep as you peer out the windows to examine the view and attempt to extrapolate the final destination from the details you drive past. Will the goal live up to the expectations seen in photos, is it as large as you think? Driving through the gates to Seaham Hall, the hotel keeps its cards close to the chest. On a glorious evening Riddle made its way past the spa, the car parks and followed the road as it opened onto the magnificent frontal aspect of the restored Georgian country house.
Built in 1791 the former marital home of Romantic poet Lord Byron sits inside lovingly manicured grounds, a stone’s throw from County Durham’s coastline. The hotel, consisting of 21 individually designed suites, recently underwent a £3 million refurbishment and the classical architecture has been infused with contemporary styling. Greeting visitors is the vortex water sculpture, flanked by stairs, which hints at the colourful and quirky hotel interiors. The high ceilinged lobby, home to the hotel reception and magnificent staircase, is covered with a multi- coloured glass roof with a Byron quote embedded amongst the detail. The large and spacey suites, with stunning views, are perfect for unwinding. And yet, they are just the tip of the Seaham Hall iceberg – literally.
For visitors escaping to the serenity of the hotel, Seaham Hall offers a cornucopia of distractions and relaxations. The ground floor of the hotel is home to various lounges and spaces catering for all types of guests, individual and corporate. While the lounge offers views of the 37 acre grounds to curl up and enjoy, the sports lounge is home to a 9ft purple baize and slate American pool table for the more competitive guest. Alongside these are the ballroom, capable of hosting 120 people, and Annabella and Vortex rooms. Both available for private hire, the Annabella is a traditional Georgian room (recommended for dinner parties and small business meetings), while the Vortex room, playing Mr Hyde to Annabella’s Dr Jeckyll, draws design inspiration from the hotel’s water feature and is a more playful and modern space (recommended for more unconventional gatherings and film evenings).
Completing the hotel are the bar and The Dining Room. Situated at the back of the hotel, the bar, with seasonal cocktail offerings, overlooks the garden with the restaurant on the other side of the house. With large windows, the restaurant’s tables and banquettes are bathed in natural light and the space is quite stunning during long summer evenings. Committed to locally sourced produce the AA rosetted restaurant is worth a visit for the food alone. Serving contemporary British cuisine, the food reflects the styling of the hotel; colourful, imaginative, and a delight to indulge in (the very generously portioned Whitby Crab starter and the Saddleback Pork main were the stand outs for dinner). The garnish topping off Seaham Hall is the service; unfailingly polite and professional the service is reassuringly positive and unobtrusive.
Which brings me to the iceberg… no getaway is complete without the chance to pamper yourself at a spa and Seaham Hall’s Serenity Spa is no exception to this rule. A stand-alone spa, open to visiting custom, hotel guests can access the location via the underground path linking the hotel and spa together, allowing for a leisurely dressing gown and slippered stroll. Clocking in at 44,000sq ft the spa has 17 treatment rooms, including double rooms for couples or mother- daughter experiences, a 20 metre pool, an outdoor hot tub and comprehensively equipped gym, just to mention a few distractions.
The oriental themed spa includes treatments featuring ishga, a 100 per cent organic seaweed hand harvested from the Hebrides containing naturally occurring anti- oxidants. Accompanying the treatments is the Ozone brasserie style restaurant. With a cocktail bar, wooden floors and open kitchen spa guests are encouraged to dine at the pan- Asian restaurant alongside their spa experience in their robes and slippers. Unsurprisingly the Serenity Spa has been voted one of the world’s top 100 spas.
So, does Seaham Hall (and its drive) live up to expectations? With so much on offer, it’s hard to fault. Most hotel visits are for the purpose of a bed and pillow for a night; indeed most guests frequently do not dine at the hotel restaurant, preferring to find somewhere external, if possible, to their accommodation prior to turning in for the night. Seaham Hall challenges this stereotype; this is a firm exception to the rule where guests won’t want to leave – and why would they?
Enquires: Seaham Hall, Lord Byron’s Walk, Seaham, County Durham SR7 7AG / 01916 408546 / www.seaham-hall.co.uk/
Serenity Spa: www.seaham-hall.co.uk/spa-pampering/
Riddle’s road trip was generously supported by Jaguar Land Rover with the kind loan of a Jaguar XF R-Sport Saloon (RRP from £35,735) #riddleroadtrip