on November 5, 2012
Myself and Mr Tart recently took a trip up north which he offered to organise. On the drive up there he kept joking that we were going to a campsite. While I didn’t believe that I was definitely surprised when we turned up at Lumley Castle. Being a historian, staying in a 14th century castle was like a dream for me and excited didn’t quite cover it!THE CASTLELumley Castle was originally built turned into a castle in the late 14th century by Sir Ralph Lumley. After various transfers of ownership, including Durham University, it was taken over the ‘No Ordinary Hotel’ group in the 70s.CHECKING INThe Castle has ample car parking, both surrounding the building and in the courtyard between the main castle building and the annex. We went into the reception and check in was extremely quick and easy. The reception had a very old-castle feel, complete with old wooden furniture. Some of the staff were dressed in period costume which was a little random although plays to the tourist market! Once we’d checked in a nice man showed us to our room. The hotel is a bit of a maze so this is definitely necessary. On the way he pointed out the various public rooms and told us the various times we could use the bar and eat breakfast. I apparently walked through the hotel with my mouth open in a sense of awe. I was amazed to be staying somewhere like this and all the old paintings and authentic looking furniture made me very happy.THE ROOMOur room was in the main part of the hotel on the second floor. The room was small but I was staying in a castle so it could have been the size of a cardboard box and I still would have happy. The décor was quite Victorian to my mind, and very green. I believe that the rooms are all decorated slightly differently. There was a small awning around the head of the bed with green and gold curtains. In the corner was a comfortable wing-backed chair. Opposite the bed was a flat screen TV as well as tea and coffee making facilities with some really tasty biscuits (chocolate chip and orange were my favourites!). Next to the TV was a small hanging area which had a trouser press incorporated into it. In one corner of the room, up some steps, was a corner bath, with an elaborate curtain around it should you need privacy. This also had a shower above it. The bath was very comfortable to lie in and relax before dinner and there was plenty of hot water, although they do tell you that the hot water may take up to 5 minutes as the castle is old which is absolutely fair enough. There were no shampoos or conditioners on offer, but there was a bottle of shower gel attached to the wall which had a gorgeous smell. In the other corner of the room was the toilet, which had a door rather than a curtain. This reminded me of a Victorian washroom. There was soap provided in here. The bed was extremely comfortable to sleep in. There were two pillows and some cushions provided each. I think some people may have found the bed a little soft. We both slept really well although the pipes do make quite a lot of noise at times. The Castle is supposedly very haunted (the Aussie cricket team claimed they saw ghosts when they stayed there) but I’m glad to say I didn’t see any. Not sure if I’d feel so happy about staying there if I had seen one but it was worth the risk!FACILITIESThe grounds of the hotel are lovely to walk around. I just loved walking around the outside and looking at the castle.Inside the castle there is the Library Bar on the ground floor where we went for a pre dinner drink. I love old books so this was a perfect place for me. There was a log fire in here when we went in which really added to the atmosphere. We decided to treat ourselves to a bottle of prosecco which was delicious. This was £20 per bottle which I didn’t think was too bad. During the afternoon you can also order afternoon tea in this bar. While we were enjoying our bubbly we ordered our dinner. We had booked a table for 8pm and went to the bar quite early. They told us we could order at any time and then the food would be ready for the time we booked the table. We ordered at about 7pm and they tried to call us through almost immediately, so make sure they know exactly what time you want to eat. We did say we’d booked the table for later and that we wanted to finish our drinks first and they were absolutely fine with this.We then went into the Black Knight restaurant. The restaurant is decorated perfectly in a gothic style, with red flocked wallpaper. Again, for me it was like a dream, eating in a castle! We started off with some bread being brought to us, this was warmed which is always one of my tests for a really classy restaurant.The menu has some lovely choices on it, including some that you probably wouldn’t expect. For starters there are things like pea and lettuce soup, chicken terrine and Japanese style monkfish cheeks. I had the scallops, served with wild mushrooms, baby onions and cauliflower foam and they were absolutely delicious and perfectly cooked. Mr Tart had the crispy Chinese beef which came with a teriyaki dressing. This seemed out of keeping with our castle surroundings but he said that it was very tasty.For main course you can choose things like pork served three ways with apple beignets, apple and sage jelly, Savoy cabbage and sautéed Parisienne potatoes with a cider sage jus, duck with beetroot gnocchi and a blue cheese and rocket sauce. There was also a large selection from the grill. I had their signature dish: beef fillet, stuffed with blue cheese, wrapped in Parma ham served on potato rosti with wild mushrooms and port wine jus. This was amazing. The beef was perfectly cooked, very rare just like I asked. The food needed no extra seasoning. The blue cheese in the beef was not overpowering but just enough and had all melted, despite the fact that I was having my beef rare. Definitely in my top five of main meals ever eaten out. Mr Tart ordered the sea bass with sautéed garden peas with smokey pancetta, crisp Parmentier potatoes dressed in a seed mustard and dill hollandaise. He said that it was very tasty as well but he did have food envy because mine tasted so good (he won’t order the same thing as me as he wants to see what the kitchen can do!).Mr Tart and myself were pretty full after our meal and didn’t have dessert but the list looked pretty good. There was sticky toffee pudding (my favourite), mango panna cotta and iced peanut parfait. My starter cost £8.95 and my main cost £26.50, Mr Tart’s were £7.50 and £19. As a comparison the soup would have been £6.50 and the duck £16. Most of the desserts were around £6.50. These are definitely ‘treat’ prices but the food was worth it. I would have dinner there again even if I wasn’t staying in the hotel as it’s worth it just for the experience of eating in the castle!We also had breakfast in the Black Knight Restaurant. There was a cold buffet of cereals, pastries, juices, cold meats and yoghurts. You could then choose from a hot menu as well and I had the eggs Benedict as it’s one of my favourite things but I never have it at home because it’s such a faff to cook. This came with Parma ham so was extra delicious. The breakfast selection was excellent and there was plenty of it.PRICES Staying in Lumley Castle is not cheap. Our room cost £125 for the night, with breakfast included. It’s cheaper to stay in the courtyard part of the castle but there are rooms that are much more expensive. While I wouldn’t normally pay this much for a hotel I think to stay in a place that is this nice and that has this much history it’s worth it.OVERALLThis was definitely one of the best hotels I’ve ever stayed in. There wasn’t a swimming pool and there weren’t lots of modern five star luxuries but for me, staying in a 14th century castle was perfect. The staff at the hotel were very polite and attentive at all times. The décor was beautiful and the food was stunning. I would certainly stay there again and would recommend it to everyone.
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