Seaham Hall, County Durham

Style and substance:

This is high end country house living – but not as we know it. Seaham Hall on coastal County Durham dates back to 1791 and over the years has been renovated and restored to its current reincarnation as an all-suite five-star hotel and spa. Think soaring ceilings, huge windows to let light flood in and a very strong line in eclectic contemporary décor. It might not be to everyone’s taste but it is impossible to fault the warm welcome on arrival and the endlessly courteous service everywhere you go.

At Seaham Hall it’s all about the spa, which is hugely impressive, with a wide range of treatments and likely the reason so many people seek out this corner of the north east.

The original house is famously the location of Lord Byron’s marriage to wealthy heiress Annabella Milbanke, it was her home and the place where they met and he proposed in a bid to ease his financial woes. So much for the great Romantics.

Sleeping matters:

Our 40 sq m first-floor junior suite looked out across the gardens to the spa. To say it was all mod cons would be a gross under-exaggeration – the control panel for the lighting and heating wouldn’t have looked out of place on the Starship Enterprise. Thanks to porter Tony for the top tips on how it all worked.

The free-standing bath and separate shower was a nice touch in the bathroom, as was the candle to burn while you’re having a soak. And the Temple Spa pillow spray left on the bed after the turn-down service was in-keeping with the whole wellbeing ethos of a top spa hotel.

Food for thought:

Did I say it’s all about the spa? Actually, it takes top billing with the food, which is equally impressive. Head chef Damian Broom never failed to surprise and delight with the amazing selection of dishes, featuring local ingredients whenever possible. He may not have received a nod yet from Michelin but that can’t be far away.

Make time for a drink in the lounge before dinner, there’s a packed cocktail menu and relaxing views of the manicured gardens. When the weather warms up and the sun comes out, sit outside on the terrace.

The large, airy restaurant has a relaxed feel, though still with the impeccable service you’d expect from a five-star hotel. Take a table at the window or one of the large booths for a more intimate experience.

Drink in the sights:

You can’t go to Seaham Hall and not visit the, rightly deserved, award-winning spa. It’s worth the trip alone for the subterranean walk that links the hotel to the spa, it’s like entering the very exotic lair of a Bond villain.

There’s a strong Asian theme, all dark wood, carvings and tinkling music, with indoor and outdoor pools and a full complement of bubbling hot tubs, steam, sauna and thermal hydrotherapy rooms. An Ishga massage, using products packed with rejuvenating and detoxing seaweed from the Isle of Lewis, is highly recommend. Then retire to the quiet of the Zen Lounge to sip iced fruit water while gazing out to the gardens.

Get up early and you’ll have the pool, with water the temperature of a warm bath, all to yourself. Then go outside to soak in a steaming hot tub and watch the sun come up.

Nice touch:

Book a garden suite with its own Scandinavian wood-fired hot tub for the ultimate personal spa experience. Pad outside in your complimentary robe and slippers for a soak in the healing warm water.

About the area:

Explore the web of woodland walks the 37 acres the house is set in, then go to the beach, just 10 minutes on foot and part of the Durham heritage coastline, to search for sea glass.

Historic Durham is six miles away. A UNESCO World Heritage site, visit the cathedral, stroll the winding cobbled streets and walk routes along the picture-perfect riverbank with the cathedral spires soaring in the background.

Doubles from £199.

Angela McManus