A handsome young man in uniform opened the door to my red Ferrari and out swung my tanned brown leg finished with the latest Louboutin stilettos. I had arrived at one of England’s most glamourous resorts, Rockliffe Hall. Ok, ok, only about 75 percent of that little story I just painted is true. My Ferrari was actually a bright red taxi cab from Darlington station; my leg, although nicely tanned from a weekend in Ibiza, was not finished with Christian Louboutin creations but rather Fit Flops I threw on as I exited the house in a hurry earlier that morning. However, a handsome man in uniform did welcome me to one of the most beautiful spots in England and I was ready to live the high life, Ferrari or not!
When I told friends I was invited up to experience “Rockliffe Hall in Darlington”, their first response was mixed. Darlington, as far as London is concerned, may not be at the top of the list when it comes to weekends away from the hustle and bustle of the city. However, with the recent opening of Rockliffe Hall the masses may need to readjust their thinking.
Rockliffe is actually an 18th century hall that has been given a new lease on life. Settled on gorgeous parkland, it is an ideal location to forget about the cramped tube you’ve ridden all week or the zigzagging you’ve done while navigating Oxford Street. You’ll find no fast moving here, unless you count the staff who seem to move faster then a speeding bullet when you indicate you are in need of anything at all from a spare towel to a hot chocolate with extra marshmallows.
My room for the weekend was bigger than my entire flat in London. In fact I’m not stretching myself in saying it was bigger than any flat I could dream of owning in London. The details in decor, the latest techno toys (including a touch screen tv in the bath), the soft surroundings and the fantastic amenities had me wishing I could move in. Who needs London anyway? Surely Darlington would offer a more peaceful lifestyle fitting for a creative mind- keeping in mind that I was in this head space before i stepped into the spa (more to come on that later).
While I am not usually a big fan of “old meets new”, I was impressed with the way in which Rockliffe managed to allow the two to coexist peacefully. The once private home now includes 61 rooms that are all “big on comfort and little luxuries”. The devil, however, truly is in the details. I was impressed with the selection of tea and coffees in the room. There was a fridge that contained two bottles of water, one sparkling and one still, and a small (and absolutely adorable) container of milk for your warm drinks.
The bedroom and sitting room were definitely both areas created with an idea of “extreme comfort” in mind. However, if I may offer one suggestion – in the sitting room it may be a good idea to lower the tv on the wall as I had a neck ache by the end of my in room dining experience from looking up and then back to my plate.
And speaking of room service- who doesn’t love a 24 hour service of guilty pleasures. I indulged in a gorgeous stone baked pizza, which I’ll pay for later on the size of my bum, and saw my food arrive only 20 mins after it was ordered. That’s faster than a Domino’s pizza and let’s just say it tasted infinitely more divine.
After indulging in unhealthy but delicious foods I decided more pampering was in order and headed to fill the soaking tub with ila bath salts. The bath filled quickly and before I knew it I was blissfully arranged in the massive tub watching Ray Liotta play a bad cop on tv (Don’t ask me how I settled on watching such trash. Being blissfully happy allows for all kinds of careless mistakes to be made). Directly after the bath I stood under the rain shower. Now most of you already know I’m 6’2. Fitting under most hotel shower heads is a bit of a joke for me. I’m so used to leaning down that my knees have developed an autopilot for adjusting when I get in a shower. So imagine my surprise to find that the rain shower head was situated nine feet above the shower floor! I’m not lying when I say I did an air punch and a scream out for victory for tall people everywhere!
I was tucked away nicely at the end of the night as my bed had been turned down and a lovely little figure had been left on my pillow. What this was for I forgot to ask but it was a touch I will never forget. A chocolate on your pillow lasts but a moment. A crazy voodoo type figurine will stay in my mind for a lifetime.
Memorable moments were plentiful at Rockliffe Hall. Dinner at the Orangery is definitely a treat you must indulge in while in residence. Here’s a look at what the celebrity and Michelin Star chef, Kenny Atkinson, brought to the table…
However, the real memories for me were created in a spa like nothing I have ever seen before. I’m not one to want to spend more than an afternoon in a spa but Rockliffe had me wishing I had a week to do nothing but self indulge. The spa is 50,000 square feet of pure pamper-age! ila products are used everywhere. I know ila chooses very carefully which spas to partner with so I took this as a good indication I was in good hands.
I was booked in for a specialist massage at 4pm in the afternoon. At 4:15 I was blissfully unaware anything else on earth existed. Claire, my masseuse, had taken me to another world. When the massage was complete I was lead away to relax further in the sound-wave therapy bed room. If heaven does exist on earth, it exists here. I was tucked in by Claire in a bed that vibrates you to sleep as you listen to soothing music and enjoy your faux fur throw. I didn’t even know such a room existed. An hour later I woke up and had completely forgotten where I was. Yes, momentarily I was more freaked out than I’ve ever been. Be careful with that! It’s a little unnerving but then again that’s the big idea behind a spa, right?
Note to readers: I didn’t take any pictures in the spa as 1. it might have seemed a little weird if I turned up with a big nikon poolside and 2. this is one place a camera truly fails to capture the magic. So instead of many spa pics, here’s just me in total blissed out mode!
After awakening and re-establishing where I was, I slipped out of the bed and made my way downstairs to the thermal bathing suites which include a caldarium, rasul room, tropicarum, hydropool and an ice fountain (named the igloo). I allowed for every indulgence including a paddle in the 20 metre pool as I awaited the arrival of a glass of champagne from one of the spa butlers. Oh yes, you can have anything you can imagine poolside from champagne to a banana smoothie.
One thing to keep in mind, ladies. If you’re headed to Rockliffe with your man rest assured he will be very pleased with your selection of hotel. Rockliffe is home to Europe’s longest golf course (350 acres) and has won numerous awards since it opened. My taxi driver on the way to the hotel informed me it may even be a future home for the Ryder Cup. Very impressive indeed!
The bottom line here was that I didn’t want to leave. I’m writing this as I am being hurled back to London on an East Coast train from Darlington (thank you East Coast for the complimentary first class travel). As I think about what I have coming up in the week ahead I wish I could jump off now at the nearest station and run back to the hotel entrance and beg them to take me in as a bellhop!
Here are a few extra pics I’ll leave you with to ponder…
Fashion Foie Gras was a guest of Rockliffe Hall for one night. Thank you Rockliffe Hall, for an amazing weekend of extreme self indulgence and thanks to Mango PR for making it all happen!
Note: I travelled by East Coast train to Darlington, which is served by direct trains from London, the East Midlands, Yorkshire and Scotland. Lowest fares online at www.eastcoast.co.uk: times and fares also on 08457 225225 or from staffed stations and agents.