"Serenity now!" is the phrase that first came to mind when we were invited to visit the Serenity Spa and stay within the imposing surroundings of Seaham Hall just outside Durham. In the American sitcom "Seinfeld", the put-upon George Costanza finds himself yelling the phrase in order to keep his cool. Thankfully at Seaham Hall there is no need for any extra help to remain cool, calm and collected.
The history of Seaham Hall is fascinating. It was first built in 1791 by Ralph Milbanke, then in 1815 Milbanke's daughter Anne Isabella married the poet Lord Byron at Seaham Hall. Although the marriage lasted only a year, the couple did produce a child, Ada Lovelace, the mathematician and pioneer of computing. Byron's portrait hangs impressively in the dining room – a reminder perhaps of one of his more famous quotes: "Eat, drink, and love; the rest's not worth a fillip." Other famous guests to stay at the hall include the Duke of Wellington and former Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.
Rooms and suites
Today, the rooms are fit for such exalted company and while the spa is the highlight of any stay at Seaham Hall, our garden suite for the weekend had enough to keep any spa-phobic entertained. Comfort is the order of the day here, the beds are huge and welcoming, while the bath/shower arrangement provides more fun than you'd expect from a simple dip in the tub.
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Speaking of tubs, the inviting hot tub, hidden away out in the eponymous garden, provided the perfect start and finish to the day, in among the bubbles. While the huge TV, replete with Sky Sports, meant not a single ball of a crucial afternoon session in The Ashes was missed. In fact it's little touches like that, including the addition of an iPad for ordering snacks and drinks to the room, that ensures Seaham Hall remains one of the most relaxing hotels and therefore a place you want to return to, again and again.
And so to the main event, the award-winning Serenity Spa. Offering treatments from Temple Spa and ishga, the staff can walk you through the different options available and recommend the perfect agenda for the day should you need a guide. I had a brilliant "top to toe" hour-long session that began with an aptly named "drift away" back massage to soothe stresses and tensions. This was followed by a nourishing 30-minute "power breakfast" facial using ingredients that you would more commonly associate with a morning meal, such as oats, honey and fruit juices, to leave my skin feeling reinvigorated and awakened.
Even if you don't decide to have a treatment, the spa itself is a wonderful place to while away a few hours. Among the other amenities available to guests include a 20-metre indoor pool, an Asian herbal sanarium and hydrotherapy pool, and beautiful outdoor Zen Garden with relaxation beds.
Eating and drinking
Food wise there are two options for guests. One is a more formal experience in The Dining Room – with an offering that you'd more readily associate with a food-focused hotel such as The Pig. The seasonal menu draws inspiration from the region, with executive chef Damian Broom curating exceptional dishes that taste as fresh as the ingredients used. And the five-course tasting menu was a culinary treat. Incidentally five courses is a refreshingly more manageable number than the seven or sometimes even eight you can expect in some of the more high-end establishments. While the vegetables were impeccably seasoned, the star of the show was the turbot which came with a lobster crust that was every bit as luxuriously indulgent as it sounds.
The other option for hungry guests is the Ozone restaurant. Situated in the adjoining Serenity Spa, the food takes its cues from the spa's theme with an array of pan-Asian options. Hearty portions are the order of the day and among the highlights was a fiery nasi goreng that resulted in almost as much sweating as the nearby sauna. Guests are encouraged to wear their spa robes in Ozone, which adds to the theatrical feel, and the delectable desserts on offer did much to cool us down after the heat of the mains.
Set on the coast, there are a number of nearby interesting places to visit if you manage a slightly longer stay at Seaham Hall. If you're there in the summer months, Durham's Heritage Coast offers incredible beaches and some stunning scenic walks or drives. But be warned, we had grand plans of visiting Durham or even venturing up to Newcastle upon Tyne over our long weekend, but the garden suite and the Serenity Spa had other ideas.
The property's enviable location could become a permanent fixture in guest's lives with Seaham Hall now offering two residences available to purchase. These residences – named The Smugglers Cove and The Byron Bay – both enjoy two spacious bedrooms, making these ideal for families of up to four, as well as sleek bathrooms with copper bathtubs, open-plan kitchen dining areas, and state-of-the-art entertainment systems, including luxury built-in bars.
A quick note as well on the staff at Seaham Hall. It's a cliche that this part of the country is the most friendly, but everyone we encountered went above and beyond to ensure we had a brilliant stay. In fact, when we got home we were already looking at when we could go back next year, or sooner… "serenity now!" indeed.
Jamie Timson was a guest of Seaham Hall. Nightly rates start from £295 ($358) in a junior suite on a b&b basis. Lord Byron’s Walk, County Durham, England, SR7 7AG; seaham-hall.co.uk
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