After our first taste of grown-up glamour and spa serenity during a Moonlit Drive to The Garage Spa (read about our first visit here), I knew I’d be back sooner rather than later…
That day came last week, in the form of a gorgeous midweek getaway to The Morritt Country House Hotel near Barnard Castle. Having thoroughly enjoyed my special first trip to The Garage Spa, my only regret (for want of a better word) was not booking a stay at their adjoining hotel and really making the most out of our relaxing trip. Well I wouldn’t be making that mistake again, as my other half Richie and I fell over ourselves to book another stay after spotting a fantastic offer on their e-newsletter (well worth a sign up, I promise you).
Date booked. Spa slot booked. Bags packed. All that was left to do was wave a smug farewell to our families and friends stuck at work for the day (sorry, karma will definitely get me for that comment!) and hit the road. Driving from the North Tyneside coast to our destination took a little over an hour thanks to traffic, but it’s a straightforward motorway route to Scotch Corner and around 10-15 minutes after that. Taking with us little more than our swimming attire, wellies and my favourite polka dot raincoat (which permanently live in my car boot should they be required) the hotel and spa provide everything else. From toiletries and hairdryers, to towels, flipflops and fluffy waffle robes – every last detail is taken care of so you don’t have to worry.
Pulling up towards the ivy clad hotel complete with pillared entrance certainly set the scene for our trip. The old stonework sits beautifully in its surroundings, just a five minute’s drive to the ancient market town of Barnard Castle. We were shown to our room (No. 3, Josephine) in no time at all and found it to be both breathtaking and beautifully appointed. While my old soul loved the ornate carved four poster bed and antique furniture, Richie’s love for modern touches were equally satisfied with the wall mounted flat screen TV, contemporary bathroom features and (what we soon discovered) the mood-setting blue spotlights below the bath tub.
The little touches in our room were not lost on us; the writer within me loved the personalised Garage Spa toiletries like the unleaded shampoo and turbo boost conditioner, along with the handcrafted Morritt mugs and selection of Rington’s tea and biscuits laid out for us.
Unable to wait any longer, we walked the 30 seconds to the spa. Getting a proper view of the sunken secret garden (it was dark when we first visited), Richie and I took up residence in the frothy bubbles of the outdoor hot tub and ordered a glass of wine to sip and celebrate the occasion.
Without boring you half to death, I really must profess my love for the interior of The Garage Spa. Effortlessly cool and androgynous, the soothing, contemporary grey colour palette and mood lighting help make the spa something special for both men and women. The staff are all very welcoming and wonderfully unobtrusive – meaning you’re left to your own devices – but in a good way. Fellow spa visitors are also very respectful of each other, making The Garage a real haven. You’ll find no young teens or raucous parties running around or hogging the hot tub here, there isn’t a broken tile or piece of equipment out of place which is exactly how I like it. There is a real emphasis, as there should be. on peace, quiet and tranquility. Guests are free to use the various rooms (steam room, sauna, whispering lounge and salt room) at their leisure, along with the indoor and outdoor hot tubs. Despite its small size compared to some North East spas, The Garage is perfectly formed and knows how to cater to its guests.
As our allotted four hours of spa use drew to an end, we showered and returned to The Morritt for supper. Deciding to eat in the more informal olde worlde Dickens Bar & Bistro (as opposed to Gilroy’s the restaurant), we found a seat in one of the various nooks and crannies which overlooked the conservatory and gardens beyond. Supper was a simple affair, we both enjoyed the Morritt burger with homemade chips and a glass of wine for me, and a hand pulled ale for Richie. The Dickens Bar is named after author Charles Dickens who visited Greta Bridge in 1838 to gather background information on the Yorkshire schools for “Nicholas Nickleby”, partly set in Teesdale. The bar has the only hand painted wall mural in the world painted in the 1940s by John Gilroy, the famous Northumbrian artist best known for Guinness advertising posters (one of which we actually have at home in our kitchen). The murals cover all four walls of the bar and depict a Dickensian scene of life in the 17th century – another little touch that makes the Morritt so special.
Feeling pretty full after our food, I dragged Richie out of the cosy bar area for a walk along the lane to explore. Greta Bridge is tiny but very pretty with a winding country road just behind the hotel which is perfect for ambling along. I couldn’t resist snapping a few photos of the various flora and fauna along the way, and we had ourselves a lovely little walk holding hands along the lane making the most of the good weather and the light night. We decided to explore a little further after our walk and drove five minutes up the road to Barnard Castle, where we saw the incredible Bowes Museum and wandered along the cobbles popping our heads in a few shops. The whole evening was so relaxed, we were in no rush to go anywhere and just enjoyed our surroundings and each other’s company – just what you need sometimes, wouldn’t you agree?
Returning to the hotel and our stunning four poster bed, we felt a little like characters in Game of Thrones as we caught up on the latest episode and slept soundly the whole night through.
Breakfast is served from 7.30-9.30am, so we dragged ourselves out of bed and downstairs to the gorgeous wood panelled Gilroy’s Dining Room for tea and toast and a full English. Homecooked food, plenty of choice and unobtrusive staff meant we could have spent the whole morning there topping up our tea and reading the paper, a simple pleasure not all hotels can deliver. Reluctantly checking out for 11am, we said goodbye to our room and the spa before hitting the road home feeling well rested and looked after.
The Garage Spa is perfection. I’ve been twice now and both times have been wonderful. We can’t comment on other rooms, but our room at The Morritt was fantastic and exceeded our expectations. Best of all, a break here won’t cost you the earth – what more could you want?