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Food director Leah Hyslop’s pre-wedding to-do list gave her too many headaches, so she let the train take the strain to visit this gorgeous pile in North Yorkshire...

When my partner Craig and I turn up at Rudding Park, we’re frazzled. In the past month, we’ve moved to a new house 80 miles away, started a new job (him) and, to top it all off, are getting married in a fortnight. I’m not sure I remember the last time I brushed my hair. Luckily, this is one of those magical places that makes life’s little niggles float away.

Located just outside Harrogate, it was originally a country pile where Regency ladies flirted with their Mr Darcys after taking the town’s famous spa waters. However, a recent £9.5 million facelift transformed it into a thoroughly modern hotel and spa set in 300 acres of gorgeous grounds.

Despite its country-house roots, there’s nothing stuffy or old-fashioned about Rudding Park. Rooms are simply but stylishly furnished, with luxurious touches like Molton Brown toiletries and, if you’re lucky, a mini sauna, hot tub or steam room in the bathroom. Communal spaces feature contemporary sculptures and splashes of colour. I love curling up with a book in the suspended ‘bubble chair’ in the library, though I do have to fight for it with a flower girl (the hotel is, unsurprisingly, popular for weddings).

The spa area pays homage to Yorkshire’s beautiful countryside. Its rooftop pool, outdoor spa bath and sauna are set within a leafy garden created by top designer and Chelsea Flower Show regular Matthew Wilson, while my favourite room, the herbal bath steam room, is scented with rosemary and other herbs plucked from the restaurant’s kitchen garden.

Open to guests, this is filled with glorious raised beds growing everything from rhubarb to radishes. Much of the produce is used at Horto, the hotel’s fine-dining restaurant, which turns out to be one of the best places I’ve eaten at all year – no wonder it has 3 AA Rosettes. Head chef Murray Wilson’s dishes are delightful; I particularly like his playful tribute to childhood favourite the Mini Milk, now flavoured with blackberries and verbena. We’re feeling jolly enough after dinner to visit the Clocktower bar, where bartender Jonay shakes and stirs up cocktails; I’d recommend a Martini made with local gin Slingsby, which sources many of its botanicals from Rudding Park’s garden.

You could easily spend a whole weekend here without needing to visit the outside world (there’s even an on-site golf course), but if you do fancy sightseeing, pretty Harrogate is only a 10-minute drive away. Enjoy afternoon tea at Bettys, the family-run tearoom famous for its ‘fat rascals’, Yorkshire’s answer to scones. They’re so good, I sneak a few into my luggage for the journey home. After all, you’ve got to work hard to get that bridal figure.

Getting there

A one-night Sleeping Beauty Spa Break at Rudding Park costs from £185.50 per person, including dinner, bed and breakfast, plus a spa treatment. Ruddingpark.co.uk. For more on Harrogate, go to visitharrogate.co.uk.

 

About the author

Leah Hyslop
Leah is our lovely food director. You'll most likely find her scoffing cake in our test kitchen...