Not an area I know that well in all honesty, other than passing through on the train to Edinburgh. But the rolling hills and soft countryside are glorious and nestled in the village of Middleton Tyas, just 20 minutes or so from Darlington, is Middleton Lodge. A beautiful stately home where weddings are held and the recently renovated Coach House restaurant and boutique rooms opened last autumn. Where to start?
Probably not with the fact our car broke down on the way, turning a 4-hour journey into a 10-hour one! Except that it’s the perfect way to illustrate just quite how welcoming and on point with hospitality Middleton Lodge and its team are. Sparing you the mechanics, in a nutshell I arrived with a sleeping Gus over my shoulder minus husband and car at about midnight, our 9pm supper reservation well and truly missed. A rather surly taxi driver deposited me in the tree-covered carpark and I headed for the lights.
Immediately, a member of staff appeared and helped me with my suitcase. I’d phoned ahead and explained our delay and had asked if some cold food could be put aside. What I didn’t expect was the wonderful warmth of the bar and low-key guests enjoying the tailend of their meals. And certainly not a delicious full spread – the food is out of this world, btw – soothing words and a glass of red wine. I lay Gus down on the table booth seat (a pillow thoughtfully brought for his head!) and realised I could properly relax. No one was rushing me to get to my room, I could wait for Myles to arrive and just wind down.
And that really set the tone for the rest of our stay. Relax, take it easy, enjoy, everything you could possibly need is at hand and taken care of. And that totally made sense meeting James and Becky, the lovely couple behind the whole project. An engineer (him) and an architect (her) – the perfect combination really – they have exquisitely renovated and designed the restaurant, rooms and just-opened spa with perfect attention to detail (retaining original brickwork and fixtures where they can) while creating a lovely sense of space and calm and a team of staff who are truly passionate about working there. The decor is spot on, beautifully thought out with gently themed rooms (ours was Swallow & Amazons) furnished with relevant books, old travelling trunks and pictures.
I never know quite how to do these posts in order to give you the best sense of a place, but here are a few environs photos before I break things down. I completely fell head over heels with the gentle sandstone colouring and metal-framed windows and doors…
The 2000 square foot restaurant with its defining exposed brickwork and industrial shelving (love!) was where we had supper and breakfast. I loved how breakfast was laid out in such a homely way on a country kitchen table with homemade muesli, buttery soft croissants, fruit plus full English and eggs how you like them menu.
We whiled away at least an hour that morning nattering with Becky, James and their lovely little girl Daisy (just a little younger than Gus so they really hit it off!). Later on we had lunch outside in the courtyard – risotto, the pea soup, everything we had was delicious and expertly explained by the staff. Award-winning, locally sourced – there’s a kitchen gardens in the works – and overseen by head chef Gareth Rayner, I savoured every mouthful.
The Treatment Rooms
Just across from the restaurant and bar are the newly opened treatment rooms. The whole Coach House a labour of love for the couple, the treatment rooms are Becky’s special project and her efforts have completely paid off. I was blown away. I think because the whole nature of the place is so conducive to unwinding and feeling looked after but I happily floated into my treatment, two and half hours of the signature Secret Garden Escape, scrub, massage and facial and floated out feeling blissfully restored. This is what birthday’s are all about!
The rooms were airy and soothing and the therapist perfectly trained. I was super impressed by the choice of product too; new to me was the organic Irish seaweed range Voya used for my treatment and my eyes lit up to see one of my faves, REN Skincare, also being used. I haven’t had such a long treatment for ages (such an indulgence!) but the invigorating dry brush scrub (reminding me to do this at home again!) followed by full-body massage and facial left me feeling like I’d had the perfect body and mind overhaul…
The nine bedrooms are split into the hayloft ones above the courtyard and a little row of garden rooms with outdoor sitting space alongside the Coach House. Our hayloft Swallows & Amazons room (inspired by the swallows who used to nest in the rafters) with gorgeous timber beams was perfect with a huge bed and a little single bed set up for Gus. Lovely big bathroom and I got a little bit obsessed with the beautiful circular window.
After our long journey and midnight feast, I slept like a baby… I had a peek at the neighbouring rooms, and was completely taken with the free-standing bath by the bed – why does this always feel so wonderfully decadent? The room next door to us was inspired by Becky’s super adventurous aunt and charmingly decorated with an old travelling chest that belonged to her.
The House, Grounds & Final Thoughts…
Really we should have stayed another night, could easily have stayed a week! We spent the morning strolling around the verdant grounds and taking a peek at the main house and marquee which was being set up for a wedding that night (they’ve won all sorts of awards for the weddings here!) . It looked lovely and downstairs was an old wine cellar turned into a bar for latenight parties and film showings with a projector set up… very cool!
I honestly adored every minute and if you live locally get thee there for lunch and a treatment immediately, otherwise, at just 2 1/2 hours on the train for London I’d say this is a very special weekend away, for occasions, birthdays or just a lovely treat. There are lots of things to do locally as well – falconry, kids’ trips – so if you can drag yourself away from the grounds you can really turn it in to the perfect staycation. When we left – so sad to go! – guests were languorously playing croquet and sunning themselves in deckchairs on the lawn, such perfect idyll!
Stylonylon was a guest of Middleton Lodge – a huge thank you to Becky, James, Daisy & the whole team for such a wonderful stay. And the jump leads, ahem… 😉