Helmsley was a part of North Yorkshire we weren’t familiar with prior to our recent stay at The Feversham Arms Hotel and Verbena Spa, but it is a pretty market town in the heart of the North York Moors National Park, with an eclectic mix of interesting shops, galleries, pubs and cafés. The hotel lies on the edge of the town centre and is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. It also won Independent Hotel of the Year at last year’s prestigious Catey awards on the back of a string of other accolades. After a warm welcome at reception, we made our way to our room (Room 15) – a family suite on the top floor. Most of the rooms at the hotel are in fact suites (22 out of the 33), giving you much more space in which to relax and unwind. Our room was tucked away at the top of the building which suited us fine, vibrantly decorated but very comfortable. It came with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a living area. “What’s that on the bed?” I hear you ask. Why, it’s a sheep, of course… and it could be placed outside our room if we wanted to indicate that we didn’t wish to be disturbed. We appreciated the additional space and comfort that a suite brought us, and no doubt Winter guests would enjoy the opportunity of having a small log fire in their room, too. The main bathroom was simply but tastefully finished and complete with sheep dip bubble bath from Avena and beautifully soft bath robes. Going by TripAdvisor reviews, the newer pool suites seem to be the most desired room type of all, but I didn’t see those so am not in a position to comment – we were very happy where we were. Dinner at the Feversham is possibly the highlight of any stay, at a 3 AA rosette restaurant led by Head Chef Simon Kelly. I started proceedings with the seared scallops, apple, smoked eel and horseradish powder which was divine and just melted in the mouth. I don’t think I’ve ever had horseradish as a powder like this before, so that was an interesting experience. For my main I was tempted by the breast of duck, vanilla pomme purée, girolle and cherry, but in the end was pleased with my choice of rump of Yorkshire lamb, potato ‘risotto’, sage and baby artichoke. The Harrogate blue cheese steeped in Black Sheep bitter with a spiced gooseberry chutney sounded like an interesting combination but instead we decided to retire back to our room and had the rest of our bottle of the Haan Classic Blend Merlot Cabernet Franc 2009, from Australia‘s Barossa Valley delivered up to us – this proved to be an excellent, light-to-medium bodied wine. Those looking for alternative dining options will also find a number of good pubs in Helmsley such as the Black Swan (owned by the same owners as the Feversham) and The Feathers. The food at the hotel is highly recommended, though, and should be tried at least once during your stay. Breakfast was also enjoyable but I felt that £17.50 for a young resident child’s breakfast was a bit much, even for a luxury hotel, particularly since a non-resident adult would pay the same. Other facilities at the hotel included a year-round heated outdoor pool which is a rarity in UK hotels – particularly in the north of England – so this was a welcome treat. Whilst we didn’t use the spa, it offers a relaxing haven for guests to unwind, with treatments ranging from Jessica manicures and pedicures through to Anne Sémonin and Elemis treatments. The hotel is also well positioned for a number of local attractions. We walked to the English Heritage-managed Rivaulx Abbey which I would recommend as a family day out from the hotel. The walk is a few miles each way (you might like to download this podcast to learn a little about the history along the way), and the impressive remains of the abbey are largely intact. Children will enjoy trying to find the hidden monks that are scattered around the site. There is a good café on the site, too. You’re also well positioned in Helmsley for a number of other attractions – the steam railway at Goathland, historic York, and the numerous walking and cycling opportunities within the National Park. Race-goers will no doubt enjoy the area, with a number of courses nearby, most notably at nearby Thirsk where racing has been taking place for more than 200 years. Garden-lovers will also find plenty of places to visit, and I understand that the hotel is also very busy during the shooting season, and deservedly so. We enjoyed our stay and will no doubt return to the area at some point in the future.
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