For my very first visit to York, England, I was adamant to stay at a historic hotel to fully absorb the quaintness of this ancient city. I went through the National Trust property list and was immediately drawn to one place - Middlethorpe Hall & Spa, just outside the city center.
Constructed in 1699, Middlethorpe Hall is a classic William and Mary country house built for a prosperous master cutler named Thomas Barlow, who bought the Middlethorpe estate as a bid to establish himself as a country gentleman.
The style of the building was indirectly influenced by Christopher Wren's Hampton Court Palace, as reflected in its pattern of red brick, white sash windows and stone corners. In the 1980s Middlethorpe Hall was restored to its former glory and reopened as a luxury hotel. Now it's under the protection of the National Trust.
The main house is decorated in the manner of the 18th century and furnished with antiques and fine paintings. It also features a grand staircase with intricate carvings. There are 10 bedrooms in the main house, including a royal suite.
THE DUKE OF YORK SUITE
Named after the stay of HRH Prince Andrew, this is Middlethorpe Hall's flagship suite.
Historically grand mansions across Britain would always have a room designated for potential visits from the royal family, befitted with the best of the best that the households could afford, even though most of them probably never got used for the intended purpose.
One proud feature of Middlethorpe Hall is its 20 acres of gardens, and the park land that surrounds the house.
We visited the property in the winter when the grounds were at their dullest, but we were impressed by the numerous quaint little gardens that produce vegetables, fruits as well as a variety of fragrant flowers.
We also saw a ha-ha for the very first time. It's literally just a ditch in the house's back garden, with benches facing out to the countryside for an uninterrupted view of the surrounding greenery. What a perfect setting for watching the sun rise and set!
What is a
It's a ditch, in the garden.
The name reflects the reaction of unsuspecting visitors when they see the wide trench for the first time. (Haha!)
The ha-ha is designed to keep grazing animals out of the more formal parts of a garden, replacing the need for a fence.
It also allows an unrestricted view from the house and the garden to the vast countryside beyond.
Our home away from home.
Travelling as a party of three, the 2-bedroom cottage suite was the ideal choice. Just a short walk away from the main house, our apartment occupied the top floor of the cottage with a master bedroom, a single bedroom, and so much charm!
I loved our cottage suite. It was an easy climb up the stairs to the first floor (second floor for the rest of the world), and the interior is what I would call English-prettiness -- lots of floral patterns, antique furniture, sketches and paintings depicting bygone times, all in an inviting and comfortable manner.
The weather was bitingly cold when we visited, and I spent a lot of time by the gas fireplace. Not only because it was cozy and beautiful, but that despite cranking the heat to the maximum, the cottage still felt a bit chilly and never warmed up like a modern-day flat. I guess that was part of the cottage-living experience. :)
The cottage has a small, enclosed kitchenette where you'll find a tin of biscuits, English teas and Nespresso coffee. And if you reserve with the front desk the night before, in the morning the butler will bring you fresh coffee on a silver plate, at the break of dawn, so you can properly wake up before going to breakfast.
Delivered to your cottage at the break of dawn by the butler.
Country House Dining
From sunrise to sundown.
For me, the major incentive of getting up in the morning is food, and nothing beats a freshly cooked Yorkshire breakfast!
Breakfast and dinner are served in the 2 AA Rosettes restaurant in the main house, with two dining rooms overlooking the serene back garden. The dishes are nice and comforting, and the wait staff delightful. The all look like they've just come out of hospitality school, very professional and eager to ensure that the guests are well-looked after.
早晚餐是由主樓內的2 AA Rosettes級餐廳提供，菜餚美味，環境舒適，俯瞰著寧靜的後花園。這裡的服務生超級可愛，每個都像剛從餐飲學校剛畢業似的，每個動作都非常專業，認真的照顧客人。
What better way to walk off the hearty meal than to trek down the country lanes or explore the famous York Racecourse, located just right across from Middlethorpe Hall.
I'd also recommend the spa on site to anyone in need of relaxation. It's small and perfectly formed, with a swimming pool, whirlpool and really nice treatments.
York has a steep history in horse racing that can be traced back some 2,000 years to the Roman and Viking times. Today it's one of the most famous racecourses in Europe and the reigning "Northern Racecourse of the Year", attracting 360,000 visitors every year.