North-East’s se­duc­tive se­crets

There’s much more to the Northum­ber­land than hen par­ties and the Metro Cen­tre, says Anthea Ger­rie

The Jewish Chronicle - - Travel TRAVEL -

Could rau­cous New­cas­tle, the hen-party cap­i­tal of Bri­tain with its show­boat casino, vodka bars and fa­mously scant­ily-clad ladettes, re­ally be a se­ri­ous venue for a ro­man­tic hon­ey­moon?

Se­ri­ously, yes, now Jes­mond Dene House has opened on the edge of an en­chanted for­est in the sub­urbs.

This strik­ing ren­o­va­tion of a Ge­or­gian man­sion is the work of Terry Lay­bourne, who helped so­phis­ti­cate New­cas­tle with his Miche­lin-starred cui­sine at Café 21. It is still a fix­ture on the quay­side, and it can­not be long be­fore his new en­ter­prise, in a beau­ti­ful, leafy neigh­bour­hood en­hanced by hand­some 18th- and 19th-cen­tury houses, brings the city a sec­ond star.

Since it was de­vel­oped by a chef rather than a hote­lier, the rooms in this for­mer home of a ship­build­ing mag­nate who en­ter­tained the likes of Rud­yard Ki­pling and Baden-Pow­ell, have their quirks — robes are skimpy, and you need deft foot­ing to make a safe exit from the deep Ja­panese-style bath­tubs. But hon­ey­moon­ers would love those tubs, and what may be the largest, most com­fort­able ho­tel beds in Bri­tain.

We were soothed to sleep by the sound of run­ning wa­ter in our room over­look­ing the Dene, but had to en­ter what was once a fan­tas­ti­cal private gar­den to find its source — a gen­tle wa­ter­fall framed by huge, curly­rooted trees straight out of “Harry Pot­ter”. The park is framed by walls of mel­low golden stone, and other de­lights in­clude step­ping stones, pic­turesque bridges and a pedes­trian tun­nel be­neath the for­est. An arts and crafts mar­ket ev­ery Sun­day morn­ing com­pletes the pic­ture.

Those stay­ing — or hon­ey­moon­ing — here must pro­ceed to Holy Is­land, one of the most ro­man­tic spots in Bri­tain with its cas­tle and ru­ined pri­ory. Cut off daily from the main­land, it is reached via a cause­way at low tide. Apart from iso­la­tion and ro­mance, it of­fers mon­u­ments. And what mon­u­ments they are — the im­pos­ing 16th-cen­tury cas­tle on the head­land was re­fur­bished by Lu­tyens as an Ed­war­dian hol­i­day home, and is now set up for vis­its by the Na­tional Trust. A hike around its walls, fol­lowed by a wan­der round the haunt­ing grounds of the even more an­cient pri­ory, build an ap­petite which will not be dis­ap­pointed, at least by day. The el­e­gant Bean Goose café, its hand­some ta­bles laden with fresh­baked scones and cakes, de­serves the ti­tle of best café in Bri­tain; all-or­ganic lunches are served here as well as teas, and the two sis­ters who run it have a pas­sion­ate com­mit­ment to

Pic­turesque Bead­nell Har­bour on the wild and beau­ti­ful Northum­ber­land coast

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