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Once a hunting lodge, Northumberland’s Slaley Hall is one of the UK’s best-kept secrets

Slaley Hall (QHotel)
Slaley Hall (QHotel)

PULLING back the curtains, the vista that greets us is vast, green and serene.

The rolling fairways of a golf course, trees and bunkers stretching to the horizon.

And the sound of… absolutely nothing. Not a car, not a soul in sight. It’s early morning and things are yet to get going at Slaley Hall.

Northumberland has been described as England’s best-kept secret. Tucked away as far north-east as you can go, it’s vast and absolutely beautiful. And that pretty much sums up Slaley too.

Slaley Hall (QHotel)
Slaley Hall (QHotel)

If Northumberland is hidden away, Slaley is even more so. We’re just a short drive from Hexham and a bit more from Newcastle but it’s an absolute world away.

Set in 1000 stunning acres, what was an old hunting lodge has become a very classy hotel indeed.

The original lodge dates back to 1912 and that part is all dark wood panelling, comfy armchairs and quiet lounges to lose yourself in a book.

The much larger newer parts have been built in keeping, with the panelling theme continued in the corridors.

It was taken over by Q Hotels in 2014 and there’s been hefty investment which looks money well spent.

There are 141 rooms and we are in one of the VIQ rooms which include robes, toiletries, feather and down bedding and a complimentary mini-bar.

Slaley Hall (QHotel)
Slaley Hall (QHotel)

It’s a four-star delight that’s a golfer’s dream, especially from spring to autumn.

There are two cracking PGA Championship-standard courses whose fairways have been graced by the game’s top names including Colin Montgomerie, Seve Ballesteros and Lee Westwood.

Golf director Jonny tells us he keeps his hand in with a weekly round just to make sure it’s playing OK – sounds like nice work!

Slaley Hall (QHotel)
Slaley Hall (QHotel)

As we are hopeless hackers, it’s the spa, the other big attraction of the complex, that we’ve got our eye on.

But first, after a relaxing evening in the Hadrian’s Brasserie, one of three restaurants in the resort, and a hearty breakfast, it’s time to see what else the area has to offer.

Hexham is the nearest town and we take a look at the jail, the oldest purpose-built lock-up in England.

Started in 1330 and completed three years later, we get a look at crime and punishment throughout the ages when fingers, hands, ears and heads were lopped off for various misdemeanours.

It’s surprising, actually, to learn what you could lose your head for and what you could do and still live.

It’s just a couple of hundred yards away from the magnificent abbey, full of the county’s religious history.

We’re in Hadrian’s Wall country so we step even further back in time just along the road at Vindolanda. It’s the site of a massive Roman fort – actually nine forts – used by the garrison that patrolled the famous wall.

Slaley Hall (QHotel)
Slaley Hall (QHotel)

You can see excavations still under way, with the most famous discovery being the writing tablets, the oldest surviving handwritten documents in the country and voted the British Museum’s biggest treasure.

If you want to see the wall itself, Housesteads Fort is a little further up the hill.

But we head to the Roman Army Museum just seven miles away on the B6318 and also looked after by the charitable trust that run Vindolanda.

The museum, packed with exhibits, interactive displays and a fun 3D film, is definitely worth a look.

Rounding off our day’s delve into history was Aydon Castle, a 13th Century manor house amazingly intact largely due to being lived in right up to the 1960s.

Slaley Hall (QHotel)
Slaley Hall (QHotel)

It’s now run by English Heritage and being invited to help ourselves to the ripe apples in the orchard was a nice touch.

Back at Slaley and after another chilled-out night, it was time to get even more laid-back in the spa.

All year-round spa breaks are big business and it’s a well-oiled machine.

I was also well-oiled, pampered, massaged and manipulated during the hour-long session – but I certainly wouldn’t class myself as prime machinery!

Then it was into the pool, saunas and steam rooms to round off our mini-break.

This is a secret well worth discovering.


Northumberland is a laid-back destination brimming with unspoiled beauty

Northumberland offers up eagles, mines and spectacular castles