October 2015

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14th October: Anniversary Adventure (Part 1)

Hubcap and I have just celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary in grand style, with a wonderful weekend in North Yorkshire and an overnight stay at this fabulous country house hotel, Wrea Head Hall. The Gothic-style Hall was built in 1881 as a summer residence for the wealthy Quaker MP John Ellis and his wife Maria (nee Rowntree, of the famous chocolate-making family); subsequently inherited by their daughter Edith, who gave it to the North Riding County Council in 1948; then sold in 2004 and converted into a hotel. The conversion has been carried out sympathetically, (as you can see from the photograph below left, which shows the hall where we had tea on Saturday afternoon); and its location in Scalby, 4 miles from Scarborough on the edge of the North Yorks National Park, is magnificent - the photograph bottom left shows the view from our bedroom, with Scarborough Castle just visible on the distant headland.

We happened upon it thanks to Yorkshire Life, which featured an advert for this almost unbelieveable deal: a cream tea, dinner, bed and breakfast for a mere £64.95 per head (their 'Winter Warmer' package, which runs from December to February, is even cheaper at £54.95!). Because we only stayed for a single night, we were put in a standard double room - one of the former servants' rooms on the second floor - which was quaintly shaped, pretty and comfortable, with en suite facilities, a flat-screen TV and wi-fi access; although if we'd spent Friday and Saturday nights there, we could have had one of the more sumptuous first floor rooms (see the website for all accommodation options and prices). But we were well satisfied; the welcome was warm, the service excellent and courteous, and the food... wow! We started off with a pot of tea and big fluffy scones served with clotted cream and strawberry jam at 4 pm; took a stroll round the grounds and down to the village duck-pond to work up an appetite for dinner; and then enjoyed one of the best meals we'd ever eaten in the beautiful Rose Dining Room. Mick started with a ham knuckle and pheasant terrine, followed by curried halibut, crevette korma and fragrant rice with fresh coriander (which he's still raving about). I had a sort of rough smoked salmon mousse served on salade nicoise containing cooked French beans, tomatoes and quail's eggs, followed by a highly sophisticated version of bangers, mash and beans: venison sausages, potatoes with cheese and cranberries and a fantastic smoky white bean cassoulet - and if I'd realised how big the portions would be, I wouldn't have ordered the side dish of honeyed baby parsnips with sorrel! It was all perfectly executed and delicious, my only minor quibble being that it made us too full to try a dessert (unlike a couple nearby, who somehow put away a cheeseboard and port too!). After all that, it's a miracle that we had room for Sunday breakfast - but we both managed fresh fruit salad and toast, which I followed with Eggs Benedict and bacon on a grilled muffin, while Mick had a pair of fine fresh kippers garnished with lemon and grilled tomato. So if you fancy pigging out on gourmet food in a glorious setting, I can certainly recommend Wrea Head Hall - which also makes an excellent base for exploring the area, as I'll report in a future post!

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