BESIDE THE SEASIDE
Seaham Hall offers visitors a relaxed stay with more than a touch of luxe. Emma Rowbottom visited to find out more.
S eaham Hall is a gem of a hotel housed in the heart of the ex-mining town of Seaham and nestled on the coastline of County Durham. The imposing Georgian mansion – now a five-star hotel and spa – sits within 37 acres of pristine parkland and has more than a touch of The Great Gatsby about it. And just like Gatsby’s home, the house, built in 1791, is steeped in a history of both decadence and drama – home to romantic poet, Lord Byron in 1814; a military hospital in the First World War; before becoming a secret bottling and distribution centre for Spey whisky in 1922 and rumoured to have been enjoyed by Al Capone during the prohibition era.
ROOMS WITH A VIEW
Fast-forward to today and the luxury location is a haven of peace and tranquillity. The hotel boasts 21 suites, four of which have their own private gardens (which we were lucky enough to enjoy) accessed via French doors and lined with perfectly manicured hedges for the ultimate in privacy. Our garden also had a hot tub, perfect for pre- or post-dinner relaxation. Rooms are spacious and comfortable, with super-soft carpets, super king-sized beds, a pillow menu and robes and slippers ensuring you can unwind in style. Our oversized bathroom (and bath) was framed by a beautiful bay window overlooking the garden, while a sofa and giant TV in the bedroom ensured R&R was at the top of the agenda. Rooms, which also have their own coffee machines and fridges of complimentary milk, soft drinks and water, are made user friendly with the addition of a desk-side tablet for all your requirements, allowing guests to order in-room dining, cocktails or book a spa treatment, all at the touch of a button.
If a bit of spa gazing is at the top of your to-do list, the Serenity Spa – opened in 2002 – will be the perfect addition to your stay. Housed in a separate building connected by a wonderful walkway from the main hotel, this Japanese-inspired setting allows guests to enjoy facilities including ozone-treated and hydrotherapy pools, Indian steam room with amethyst crystals and an ice fountain for the brave. There’s also a relaxation area, hot tubs and a roof garden – the perfect spot when the sun is shining. And if all that poolside relaxation whets your appetite, guests can remain wrapped in their robes to enjoy food and drinks from Ozone – a Pan-Asian restaurant and bar – perfect for pre- or post-spa snacks and drinks to toast to a day of decadence.
TIME TO DINE
Dinner is a formal but fabulous affair. Housed in The Dining Room restaurant (think luxury booths for two, dramatic, imposing 24-carat gold chandeliers and beautiful views of the grounds), guests are first accompanied to the bar, or – weather permitting – beautiful outside seating area. The grounds boast a Brideshead Revisited feel with fresh water ponds and landscaped gardens alongside a quirky blue beach hut housed on sand – a nod to the hotel’s cliffside location (you can see the sea from there, which marries its country estate with beach chic style perfectly).
While enjoying a pre-dinner drink, restaurant manager, Scott Patterson, took us through the daily menu, which offers seasonal delights procured by head chef, Damian Broom, renowned for adding a thoroughly modern twist to otherwise traditional ingredients. With provenance at the heart, ingredients are sourced from regional farms and suppliers, with fish bought from local, sustainable sources. With this in mind we opted for Isle of Uig scallop, BBQ-glazed pig cheek, pickled apple and grilled radish to start, alongside the slow-cooked sticky lamb cooked over embers, with spenwood, raw peas and elderflower. For main we sampled the ‘Day Boat Fish’ – melt in the mouth halibut (caught that morning), accompanied by steamed aromatic leeks, sparl brae mussels and seashore vegetables. The fillet steak with green peppercorn sauce, buttered seasonal greens and hand cut chips didn’t disappoint, and for those not sure which wine to choose, ask Scott to recommend a glass per dish, as we did, the perfect addition to a meal that was as delicious as it was relaxing.
LIFE’S A BEACH
Seaham Hall’s proximity to the beach is a delight, a two-minute walk leading you to the wild and rugged pebble-lined coastline that stretches north from Seaham town and harbour. Until 1921 Seaham housed the largest bottle works in Britain and almost a century later, the waste glass that was dumped into the sea is being washed up on the shore as sand-polished jewels – perfect for magpies looking for a memory of their stay (the hotel can also arrange for it to be made into a piece of jewellery for you).
As with any client-facing business, it’s the team who can make or break it. Service is attentive and relaxed rather than formal, which adds to the charm and character of your stay. A luxury setting with a relaxed, home-from home vibe – Seaham Hall is definitely good for the soul.