When I moved back to England eleven months ago I swore I would do more exploring in my own country instead of pinging around the world like a rubber band. That wasn’t entirely successful: so far this year for work I’ve been to Moscow, Stockholm, New York (twice), Milan, Florence, Paris (twice), Barcelona, Singapore, Poitiers, New Jersey, Venice and Miami.
But next up I’m making amends by heading to Hampshire in southern England, to take my sister away for a recuperative break, and it reminded me that our last trip together was my sole UK adventure of 2011 so far.
When Julian & Cathy got married in Durham in August, lil’sis, P Bad and I hopped in my little car and set off for a four day road trip through beautiful England. I asked Twitter where one should stay in Yorkshire with a small grouchy dog in tow, and was inundated with recommendations for The Feversham Arms Hotel in Helmsley (above), right on the southern edge of the North York Moors.
And, oh, they were right. We loved it from the moment we drove into Helmsley’s historic market square, round the corner, past the church, and into the hotel’s forecourt where a lovely man popped out the front door like a rat out a trap to help unload the car and get us checked in.
Of course a really great hotel has comfortable beds with wonderful linens, spacious rooms, delicious food, and attractive interior design, just like The Feversham Arms, but it is the service, the service that needs to transcend everything else to make a guests’ experience memorable, and this is where The Feversham Arms gets it so spectacularly right.
Proper good service can’t be faked. I’ve stayed in plenty of hotels as a journalist and even though the staff knew exactly who I was, I’ve had a meh experience. (Sometimes so meh that it’s beyond a joke. I refused to write up a hotel in America recently that I was hosted in, as I just couldn’t recommend it to you all.) But no hotel staff could fake the efficiency allied with cheery goodwill, chatty good humour, welcoming smiles and all round loveliness of the staff of The Feversham Arms.
The hotel itself is pretty impressive too. The thirty-three rooms & suites, Verbena spa complex, and public areas are all grouped around a very English landscaped garden (all herbaceous borders & drifting lavenders) designed by RHS director Matthew Wilson, and a glorious heated outdoor (open all year) swimming pool.
As for the room, it was the tiny details that impressed me the most. The biscuits for P Bad, the pretty pincushion for emergency repairs. The do not disturb sign was a large sheep beanbag. Which unfortunately the dog became obsessed with, and we only just prevented sheep-icide.
I bought lil’sis a massage in the hotel’s Verbena Spa for her birthday present, and she came out relaxed, unknotted & smiling. I splashed through the spa’s excellent heat, steam, and cooling complex and wished we had more time to indulge ourselves in there. (It would be a lovely place for a day retreat.)
And the breakfast, oh the breakfast. Normally we eat downstairs, but because we had P Bad bouncing off the walls, we thought we’d take a leisurely morning and order room service instead.
Look at those eggs! Proper orange yolks from proper country chickens. And supper the night before — which was actually lil’sis’ birthday — was perfectly pitched too, with an emphasis on local & seasonal produce. (That’s my first course soup on the right.) And of course the menus benefit from the local game in season, and close access to the Yorkshire coast.
Here’s the legendary explorer checking out the balcony of our room, which overlooked the gardens. (I took the photos of the garden above from it.)
The hotel is perfectly situated for tramping the North York Moors, or for taking day trips to Whitby. Riveaulx Abbey is just up the road too. Walking boots and Hunters are a must, as are your National Trust & English Heritage cards. SO much to see.
I really can’t recommend The Feversham Arms highly enough. I may have grown up in the English countryside, but I make no bones about being a picky city girl where hotels are concerned. I expect proper service, refurbished rooms and a modern sensibility. So many regional UK hotels are stuck in the Eighties: from their knicker blinds & pelmets to the apparent belief that they are doing the guests a favour by allowing them to stay. (Lunch ending at 2, and mousetrap cheese sandwiches if you want to eat outside restaurant hours. If you are lucky.) So, it’s always wonderful to find a Victorian building like The Feversham which has been renovated with style, whilst still being of its surroundings, where the guest’s comfort is paramount and nothing, absolutely nothing is too much trouble.
And if you haven’t time to stay, then maybe book lunch or a spa treatment. It’s really worth checking out (& in.)
The Feversham Arms Hotel & Verbena Spa, Helmsley, North Yorkshire, YO62 5AG www.fevershamarmshotel.com
LLG was a guest of The Feversham Arms Hotel & Verbena Spa. (But if she didn’t like it, she wouldn’t pretend she did. Unlike so many publications that take press trips.) She paid for her sister’s massage treatment.