St. Mary's Inn

When I heard in that St. Mary’s Inn was closing I was a little sad. Fast forward to 2018 and the lovely place has reopened; with their rooms available from Monday June 4 I thought I’d re share my review.

It was going to be a long and busy week and the thought of a Friday night away just the two of us was what was keeping Richard and myself going.

The rural getaway was at St. Mary’s Inn the little sister to the renowned Jesmond Dene House. St. Mary’s Inn is in the village of Stannington north of Newcastle and just a hop, skip and a jump from the town of Morpeth.

Dinner, bed breakfast and fingers crossed a lie in; here we come.

The journey

Stannington is really well signposted off the A1 and there are signs for St. Mary’s Inn and even more poignantly St. Mary’s Hospital which are easy to follow. I knew my way to the Inn from memory but the winding road may benefit from a couple more signs.

Arrival

We arrived at 5:00pm and were welcomed by Zoe who showed us to our room we decided we quite fancied a nap before dinner.

Our bedroom – Greenlee Lough

When we opened the door we were greeted with an expanse of space and beds so high they were reminiscent of ‘Princes and The Pea’ – yay and I know a certain daughter of mine would have loved to bounce on them.

I’m a stickler for white bed linen and I was not to be disappointed. I love a chunky pillow or two and we got four, plenty to go around. The duvet was heavy but not too heavy. Simple quality. Of course “Mr. I sleep on the thinnest pillow in the world” didn’t like the pillows but he could cope for one night.

There was not one, but two sitting areas, one right next to the TV and the other with a lovely table to sit and read or work at.

bedroom

Having worked with Marlish Water in the past I was happy their water was on the tea tray alongside another local brand, Ringtons. I’m sure fresh milk would have been available if I had requested it too.

I crossed my fingers before I entered the bathroom. I so wanted a bath, we moved house in Feb 2015 and we have a double shower instead of a bath (this seriously needs to be rectified) and hotel stays are the only time I get to take a dip and luxuriate in some bubbles.

The bathroom was great. I loved the velux window in the ceiling, the sumptuous towels and I was looking forward to trying the products supplied as I hadn’t tried them before.

Relaxing time before dinner

I love the fact that Richard had packed us a cheeky bottle of prosecco, a perfect accompaniment to a bath filled with lovely bubbles (which H2B ran without prompting). I truly relaxed. We lay on the bed and drank and chatted before dinner (the TV wasn’t working). It was lovely. Even though we live together it seemed like an age since we’d had a chat that wasn’t interjected by, ‘mummy or daddy’ or the sound of our baby boy.

Thank you St. Mary’s Inn for the peace and quiet.

Dinner

Although tempting to stay in our lovely room, we were hungry so headed over the outdoor courtyard and downstairs to the bar admiring the frequently changing artwork on the way.

Before dinner, Richard opted for a pint of Peroni whilst I chose  St. Mary’s Ale made by the wonderful Wylam Brewery as my tipple. I knew from first sip that I’d be drinking it for the rest of the night unless of course I got the taste for gin!

At 7:30pm we decided to head along to the restaurant and I loved all of the areas and the relaxed feeling throughout. It was akin to a warren, people all chatting away with quite a few dogs (both real and wire sculptures) looking happily at home.

We were greeted by Phil the Duty Manager and chatted about the menu. He was genuinely enthusiastic about both the menu and St. Mary’s Inn. I appreciated the fact that many of the items on the menu were sourced locally, so locally in some cases that the chef could reach out of the window and place the veg onto the ‘Entremetier’ station.

The short and simple menu featured many starters and main courses that we wanted to try. To start, Richard opted for Lamb Koftas and I chose Smoked Haddock and Clam Chowder with Whisky and Bacon. Both were really tasty, but I wouldn’t have chosen to have mussels as part of the chowder.

starters and mains

For main H2B had the Aberdeen Angus Beef Burger which came with cheese, mayonnaise, tomato ketchup, pickles, coleslaw and home made fries, he’d sworn he was off bread but couldn’t resist.

I chose the steak and went for the bone marrow and parsley fries. The steak was cooked to my liking medium rare and the fries were good but I had chip envy and loved the look of the chunky ones on a nearby table.

Richard swore he didn’t want desert but there were two that I fancied so gluttony prevailed and I ordered both.

DESSERT

To satisfy my sweet tooth I opted for the custard tart with honeycomb and vanilla ice cream and for my savoury love was the selection of British cheeses with rye crackers and preserves. This was my absolute favourite course and Richard did help me (I promise). The custard tart was amongst the best I have ever tasted and instead of the typically dense consistency this was delicate and the bitterness of the honeycomb cut through the sweetness.  The selection of cheeses was just enough to end the meal.

Phil tried to lure us into coffees but we were embracing the no child night and the calling for bed was so loud.

We made our way to our room but we were waylaid by the bar as I did fancy a gin and I was happy that they stocked Fentimans tonic. Richard’s eyes were heavy so I selected a book from the shelves in one of the snug areas and we headed to bed.

Sleepytime

Our tummies were completely fit to burst so up the dancers we went. We crawled into bed at 10:30 and he was asleep within 10 minutes. I lay and read for a while which was an absolute luxury.

Alas I woke up a few times in the night as it was so warm (thermostat set to 71 degrees Fahrenheit, I have no idea what that is in metric) I’m also used to being awoken several times in the night and thirdly I thought I’d lost my other half, turns out that the bed is sooo big we could easily fit our family of four in the bed with room to spare.

Breakfast

This can be an absolute deal maker or breaker for me.

Zoe showed us to our table, she assured us she had been home as she was still serving at the bar when we went to bed.

This was the room we could see from our bedroom. It was light and bright and there was just us (well for a few minutes until many faces that we saw during dinner the night before).

continental and full English

Our toast and drinks order was taken and then we got to peruse the continental breakfast and gluttony raised its head again. Smoked salmon and meats donned our plates and the quality was fantastic.

We both ordered full English breakfast no beans for me, we both ate the lot, oink, oink. We drank copious amounts of coffee we have definitely missed our breakfast dates.

Full English

Before checkout I had little nosey in all of the nooks and crannies and decided that I really did like this place and would love a local like this.

Overall opinion

Although it’s known as Jesmond Dene House little sister I think St. Mart’s Inn has  everything it needs to have a stand alone reputation. It isn’t trying to be something that it is not. It is by definition a house providing accommodation, food, and drink, especially for travellers and this was done to perfection. I even forgot that it is unmanned overnight so the guests are left to their own devices, well sort of, we couldn’t have our very own lock in.

Having the right staff is so important and I think the brilliance of the staff shone through with their friendly and knowledgeable demeanour and nothing was too much trouble even bringing up an iron and ironing board before dinner.

We had a fabulous time and with a few tweaks it would be perfect. Before I left I was already recommending the Inn to a friend who was coincidentally staying at Jesmond Dene House as a surprise anniversary treat from her husband: major brownie points.

Incase you fancy a visit St. Mary’s Inn is open 8am to 11pm each day with dining until 9:30pm. Remember to book your table don’t just turn up and expect to be served.

Our stay would have been £140 for dinner, bed and breakfast and personally I think that it was most definitely worth that.

Now for the unexpected personal bit which I chose not to place at the beginning of the review.
There was a distinct reason that I wanted to stay and it wasn’t until we were offered a meal at the Inn that I looked into the history and I felt like an idiot when I put two and two together. I actually got a knot in my stomach and a tear in my eye.

As you may have already read St. Mary’s Inn is situated in what was the administration building of St. Mary’s Hospital, the old Gateshead Borough mental institution. We were originally supposed to just head there for dinner but when I read the history of the site I asked if we could stay. A member of my family had spent quite a lot of time at St. Mary’s hospital and visited him often and unfortunately he didn’t have a pleasant stay there. I hoped a visit would air some demons. I haven’t taken the turn off for Stannington since 1995 and I was on auto pilot driving and the hospital signs were still in situ and threw me. What the heck was I doing when potentially I was unearthing a bad memory of a location.

I am glad I came as even though the admin building is clearly recognisable there were very few other points of reference and thinking of my uncle made me smile.

You can keep up to date with St. Mary’s in via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Thank you Phil and Nicky for having us and we hope to visit again when we are in the area.

First published: 15 Feb 2016

Riding Mill is a small village close to the A69 in Northumberland and incorporates the ancient hamlet of BroomHaugh which is where the fabulous stone cottage, Yew Tree is situated.

Opposite the Methodist Church, you can’t fail to notice the large Yew Tree growing in the front garden, pruned to ensure it doesn’t take over the street! The lintel over the front door dates back to 1699; this cottage has a real back story.

When you walk straight into the main sitting area from the front door, the open floor living space comprises the lounge and kitchen. Super comfortable and very traditional, my favourite spot had to be right in front of the very large fire place on the seat in front of the fire! The kitchen leads out into a really sweet yard, which in the summer I expect will be a lovely suntrap.

Upstairs, the master bedroom is wonderful. A large king size bed (comprising of 2 beds together with a mattress topper so no divide in the middle!) made for a really comfortable sleep. I’m normally woken up at 6am by the staff going to start their shift in the food factory near by, so the peace and quiet was wonderful.

There is another really amazing fireplace in the room and the high ceiling and beams make it a unique and comfortable space.
The en-suite bathroom has a powerful shower and is actually a ‘Jack and Jill bathroom’ meaning there is also a door leading to the other single room.

This is a really comfortable cottage. Recently awarded a Gold Award from Visit England, we stayed in all evening playing backgammon with the fire on. Mike’s response when I asked him what he liked most; ‘historic, comfortable, quiet and cosy’ and Yew Tree Cottage is all of those things.

If you’re in Northumberland to explore there are loads of fabulous towns close by. Corbridge was 6 minutes on the bus, Hexham is 10 minutes away on the train, Newcastle about 25. The train also goes straight over to Carlisle which means really easy access to the Lake District.

But we really love the Northumberland Coast. A 40 -45 minutes drive and you’ll be plodging in the North Sea.

Even though the cottage is only 30 minutes drive away from our house we really enjoyed our stay and would love to return.

Check availability and prices on the YewTreeCottageRidingMill website and follow Sheila Bull, the owner of Yew Tree and Apple Pie Cottages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram too.

Menu
This weekends coffee and cake stop was the beautiful Bradley Gardens . This destination lays 4.7 miles from my mum and dads home where I lived for 30 years but it was so well hidden behind an 18th century walled garden that I have only fell upon it one other time but that was only in 2015.

The current owners, Mr Crichton-Jones and Mr Robinson have done a fabulous job of bringing the establishment back to life and in turn giving a je ne sais quoi that seems to be ever growing, just like the garden. 

As I mentioned this is my second visit to Bradley Gardens as I fell in love with it the first time round. My daughter and I were on the hunt for a new place for our mummy and daughter dates when I saw signs for Bradley Gardens and I followed them without any understanding of what we would find. Emily even rolled her eyes when I said we were visiting a garden.  ‘Boring’ was her reply.

You enter the gardens via the car park and are greeted with a nursery and a very cute shed like shop. The path then leads further towards three boutiques which unless you are nosey like me could be missed. The first is the small but perfectly formed Bradley Cook-shop, then there is the Garden Room a jewellery and gift store. When you come back out turn left and enter the next building a most gorgeously inspiring interior design boutique named the Bridgewater Home-store. This was flourished in Neptune bespoke furniture .

Next came the restaurant aptly called ‘Glass House’. We were very pleasantly surprised.

The restaurant was bustling with a great atmosphere but after selecting our goodies we actually sat outside and enjoyed the weather.

Whilst watching my little girl frolic in the grassed area next to our table, collecting dropped apples from the apple tree a smile then a little tear welled. The tear was because I could see that this would make an excellent wedding reception venue. Relaxed but not too relaxed, pretty but not too pretty. formal but not too formal. I asked there and then if it was possible but alas at this point no private hiring is on the cards. Maybe one day?

garden1

Fast forward to visit two, Mother’s day. Since becoming a mother myself and of course having a partner who is close to their mother, Mother’s Day has become a little stressful ensuring everyone is left happy including myself. My morning was spent with my daughter and the afternoon with my mum.

I asked Emily where I should take Momar for the afternoon she whispered in my ear so daddy didn’t hear, “You can take her to our special date place mummy, don’t mind”. This is quite a big deal for her as she likes to keep our secret places ‘secret’.

I collected mum and whisked her off. I hadn’t booked a table, this could have been an epic fail as the Glass House was heaving with many parties of mummies with their families. All of the vacant tables had reserved signs, oh no (especially when mum suggested going to the Metro Centre instead)! The lovely staff came to the rescue and found us a table that was available for the next 90 minutes which is the perfect amount of time for coffee and cake.

Bradley Gardens

As a creature of habit I chose the coffee and walnut cake which I shared with Emily on my first visit and it was moist and yummy and neither flavour outweighed the other. Mum aka Maureen chose a cheese scone which she had warmed with lashings of butter and home made chutney. Both of us had a huge glass of water and two lattes. There was a special Mother’s Day menu alongside the traditional menu and everything that was being brought to the tables was received in delight.

Tummy’s were sated and shopping bug satisfied this is a definite place to revisit but I can’t bring daddy, that’s an order.

You can find Bradley Gardens on Facebook , Twitter  and Instagram. 

I’m looking forward to visiting for a restaurant evening very soon and I’m sure I will tell you about that too.

Love from Suzanne x

The Carriage HouseEmbracing the peace and tranquillity of rural Northumberland in a property situated close to Morpeth in the village of Ulgham, The Carriage House is five star rated for self-catering accommodation and it proved to be a delightful home away from home, the perfect base to walk, cycle and explore.

On arrival, our host Dawn showed us into the large kitchen, dining and living space. With plenty of homemade fruit cake, tea, coffee, wine and fresh flowers on the bench, we knew we’d picked a great place to stay!

Dawn made sure we knew everything there was to know about the cottage and the appliances; we’ve reviewed many a place to stay over the last seven years, but can count the personal introductions on one hand. It makes a huge difference, no guessing how everything works and knowledge that there’s someone close by if you need anything at all.

Checking out the remainder of the cottage, we found two lovely bedrooms, both ample in size and both en-suite.

Carriage house bedroom

The master bedroom has a king size sleigh bed, ample hanging space and a spacious en-suite bathroom donning a lovely jacuzzi corner bath and a shower. Bedroom two can be either a twin or super king size bed which is handy depending who your travel companions are.

With leather sofas in the living room, TV, DVD player and digital satellite, there was plenty of space for two couples to settle down to entertain themselves in front of the lovely open log fire.

CArriage House lounge

Outside, there’s plenty of space to sit on a fine day and the fabulous hot tub is a unique addition – although during our stay it was a little too cold but maybe we aren’t as adventurous these days.

Everything you could possibly need is supplied in the accommodation, just pack your bags!

The Carriage House is the perfect base to explore the Northumberland beaches (read our walk along Druridge Bay to Amble), the Cheviot Hills, the market towns of Morpeth and Alnwick, and dozens of stately homes and castles.

We’d definitely recommend Barter Books in Alnwick, an old converted railway station and second hand bookshop. The village of Ulgham itself is small, but you’re on the coast within a five minute drive.

And if it’s lively you’re after, the cottage is around a 30 minute drive from Newcastle, the capital of the North East with extensive shopping, restaurants & nightlife.

Europe’s largest shopping centre, Intu Metrocentre is close by in Gateshead and drive a little further south to explore Durham with its’ simply magnificent cathedral.

Prices, availability and more information can be found here.

Nic x

 

Who wouldn't want to go walking here?It’s January. Everyone hates January. The darkness. The wet. The short days. I could go on. I think we have to search for things to enjoy in January, so I’m sharing a favourite beach of ours.

This picture, full of winter sunshine, was taken at Druridge Bay, Northumberland in late December 2015 and it couldn’t have been more glorious. Cold, bright and beautiful.

For all of us living in the North East, we’re definitely spoilt for choice when it comes to beaches, walks and getting out into the fresh air. And mostly, they’re not overcrowded.

Druridge Bay is simply stunning. And at seven miles, is long enough to really get out and stretch your legs. We parked the car at the Country Park and set off for lunch at Amble. On this particular walk, we passed cyclists, surfers, a couple of horse riders (and the horses) and a few people surfing the sands which looked like awesome fun.

You’ll come across sections of the beach that are black; in the 19th century coal was mined nearby and some of it is still there on the sand. You’ll see anti-tank blocks and pill boxes too, on the coast to help ward off a German invasion during World War II.

 

Coal on the beach, Druridge Bay, Northumberland

From the Druridge Bay Country Park to Amble it’s 3.5 miles and should take about 70 minutes, depending on how many times you stop to take pictures, collect shells and mess about!

The Old Store House, Amble

After about 3.5 miles, you reach the little town of Amble. You’ll see the caravan park on your left so be sure to come off the beach there. The sign is wonderful; Amble, The Friendliest Port!

A couple more minutes along the road, you hit The Old Store House. We’d never been in so we decided to give it a go.

Perfect for walkers, the floor is stone… no worry about the mess. The pub is light and friendly (as are the staff) and the food was perfect for us hungry pair.

Mike chose the Northumbrian cheese platter, which for £8.75 was about the best value, largest platter we reckon we’ve had. And for me, some sweet potato wedges, £3.75 and creamy garlic mushrooms on lovely toasted rustic bread £5.75, enough carbs to power us back along the beach.

We’d definitely recommend The Old Store House and you can see what you’d fancy on their menu.

If the sun does come out in the dreary old month of January, the blue sky on this beach gives a different meaning to January Blues.

Nic x

 

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