Arriving at this hotel is like coming home. Sure, it’s somewhat bigger and better decorated than any of my homes have been but the warm atmosphere and genial comfortableness is what I’ve always aimed for. Opening the front door into a large hall, with a roaring fire in the log burner, family photos on the mantelpiece, inviting sofas and a very discreet reception desk at the far end, we breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed.
Washingborough Hall is a large, though not overwhelming, Georgian house owned and run by Lucy and Edward Herring, who do indeed treat you as a guest in their twelve bedroom home. We found Lucy raking leaves, in Barbour and boots, very much hands on and clearly a respected team leader by her staff. The house itself was acquired by the Herrings in 2008 and has been carefully restored to the welcoming hotel it is today. What is so pleasing is that the original Georgian rooms have been left in their perfect proportions, to speak for themselves. We almost felt as if we were in a National Trust property with the bonus of being allowed to bounce on chairs and beds, and certainly minus any stuffiness at all! The dining room, for dinner, is tastefully designed and the breakfast room, with a glorious bay window overlooking the front garden, is so appropriately furnished you can imagine Jane Austin would have been entirely at home here. We loved the bar, a smaller room with a tiny snug off it, being offered a pre-dinner here was easy and the ambiance gently embracing, which put us in just the right frame of mind for the evening.
Now food at Washingborough Hall is a serious event, although not in any way self-conscious. The Double AA Rosette for Culinary Excellence Award Winning ‘Dining Room Restaurant’ is undoubtedly in a class of its own. Lucy is a trained chef and it shows. She and Dan Wallis, the Head Chef, work closely to create delicious, interesting menus that we would have been happy to work our way through over a few evenings. The Dining Room was pleasantly full of a mixture of hotel guests and local folk, all highly appreciative of the food and very good wine cellar offering a jolly decent Pinot Noir for about £20, although you could spend much more if the inclination took you. It goes without saying that the service was excellent, subtle and charming. Our starters were delicious, twice baked Dam Buster cheese soufflé with sticky beetroot compote and a salmon and scotchegg with kiln roasted tarragon and apple salad dressing. Both imaginative and not too over engineered. Nothing puts me off as much as food that’s trying to be very obviously clever and this wasn’t! Mains followed: Gressingham duck, blackberry and ginger jus, coleslaw and dauphinoise celeriac for my dear driver and grilled mackerel fillets, panfried chorizo, sweet potato with avocado mayonnaise for me. All praise due here, we enjoyed every mouthful. And our puddings, essentially banoffee delice and chocolate orange torte rounded off the meal beautifully. Do eat here, we thoroughly recommend it!
Weddings have really taken off in the hotel and it’s easy to see why. The location, just two miles outside Lincoln, is just right, the sense of being ‘at home’ works, there really is nothing over-hotely about Washingborough Hall and Lucy’s keen attention to detail and food, would surely gladden the heart of any bride and her mother. What’s more, there is a private entrance to the village church, now that is so classy!
I have found over the years that cushions are a great, quick insight into the quality of accommodation. Washingborough Hall has great cushions on its beds. And my rather ridiculous but well-founded criteria proved right. Our bedroom (room 19) was spacious, with an original big window looking across the garden to the countryside and Lincoln beyond. The gentle olive green decor, fine linen, a well sprung bed and soft towels all contributed to a sense of well being and harmony. It really is that sort of place; somehow nothing nasty could happen here. Fresh milk in a jug and homemade shortbread were provided, the former a joy as I can never open those silly little pots without spilling most of the contents. The feeling of being a most welcome house party guest continued. The ensuite bathroom was bijou and provided what we needed, including quality toiletries in normal sized bottles. Clearly someone else feels as I do about little pots of any description. Hurray!
What came as an additional unexpected surprise was the city of Lincoln which we visited late on a Saturday afternoon. Having assumed the entire county was flat as a pancake, Steep Hill does exactly what it says and it is a climb worth making even though my dear driver’s knees were creaking a tad. I’ll make no mention of my upper thighs! The entire hill is lined with tea houses and slightly touristy shops, we forgave this as they are so pretty and actually, one or two were filled with interesting arty bits worth noting. The cathedral, dominating the city from on high, was wreathed in mist on our visit and this just added to the spectacular Gothic building, which was, in 1300, the tallest building in the world! It still has charisma and immense style; a great place to spend a couple of hours and again, another surprise, Alfred, Lord Tennyson was a Lincolnshire lad, his memorial stands on the cathedral’s East Green. There are also historic links to the Magna Carta, with one of only four originals in Lincoln Castle, which you can see at the visitor centre, which was built to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the document’s signing in 2015. Bailgate is a wonderful area for independent, interesting shops in a near medieval setting and the Castle Hill Farmers’ Market, set in cobbled streets between the castle and cathedral offers fabulous local produce. For those less keen on the hike up Steep Hill, the City Square or High Street Farmers’ Markets are good too. This is certainly a place I intend to return to, ideally around Easter, for two or three days. It has a huge amount on offer and the Spark Festival, a celebration of the area’s engineering heritage peaked my dear driver’s interest. This area is an absolute find and perhaps not one that would spring to mind instantly. I’m glad we found it.
As for Washingborough Hall, we were gently cossetted, beautifully fed and slept very well in gracious surroundings. These things are precisely what I like in a hotel. And even better, your dog is welcome too, which is a real plus for many. Well done those Herrings!
Washingborough Hall Country House Hotel and Restaurant