In November 2014, St Mary’s Inn opened its doors to the public. This followed a £1.5m refurbishment which transformed it to an inviting inn, from a derelict former administration building of a large county asylum – St Mary’s Hospital, built during the early part of last century. (The hospital has since been demolished to make way for new housing).
St Mary’s Inn has the same owners as my favourite Newcastle Hotel – Jesmond Dene House, whose restaurant I love, so I was quite curious about the restaurant at their Inn. When my husband and I were recently invited to be lunch guests of St Mary’s Inn we were delighted to accept.
This rather striking inn with its red bricks, tall windows, impressive arched doorway and handsome clock tower stands proudly in a rural area of South Northumberland, 2 miles from the village of Stannington and close to the thriving market town of Morpeth. This makes it an excellent base for visitors wanting to explore Northumberland. It is easily accessible from the city of Newcastle upon Tyne – our car journey from Newcastle took just 25 minutes.
St Mary’s Inn focuses on providing traditional hospitality, generous food and a genuine welcome to all – couples, families, single people are well-catered for, it has flexible dining arrangements, it is accessible for the less mobile and it is dog friendly.
Arriving early afternoon, we parked our car in the spacious, private car park, (which includes disabled car parking bays) in front of the inn. A level access entrance led us into the bar area where we were greeted by staff and a warming log fire.
The interior is spacious and open with the benefit of privacy being maintained. The entire ground floor bar and eating areas are open plan, but sectioned off into snug areas to create privacy. A designated ground floor Private Dining Room (which accommodates up to twenty) is also available to hire. Log burners situated throughout the inn and interesting art work create a homely atmosphere. There is also a ground floor, outdoor eating area.
The neat and tidy bar was well stocked. Had we not been driving we may have tried one of their interesting range of real ales, including their own St. Mary’s Ale, brewed locally at Wylam Brewery.
Sitting beside a roaring log fire we perused the menu. I liked the fact that as well as a breakfast menu, Sunday lunches, afternoon teas they have an all-day dining menu, which offers the visitor the flexibility of eating when they want. I noticed a nice separate children’s menu (and when I looked around the inn I saw a good supply of high chairs for babies). I made a mental note I could bring my grandchildren here!
The all-day menu from which we ate, has been designed to provide maximum flexibility. Guests can have a simple snack or a full meal of however many courses they want. Full meals are sold in small portions or large portion sizes to cater for all appetites and pockets. Vegetarians are catered for and special diets too (best to inform in advance of special diets) and if all you want is a biscuit then I can recommend the home made biscuits sold by the biscuit from a cookie jar at the bar!
I like to know the origins of my food and I prefer it to be from local sources (no lengthy food air miles for me!). Freshness is important too, so the policies of St Mary’s Inn suit me. Northumberland’s extensive coast and farmland have helped establish its reputation for its excellent food larder. St Mary’s Inn ensures its meal ingredients come from the very best local producers they have got to know well.
My first course of Northumbrian broth packed with lentils, ham and root veg was tasty and filling. My main course of cottage pie was delicious and despite the fact I had ordered a small portion, it was generously sized. The meat was lean, the potato creamy and topped with parmesan cheese. It came with a side of absolutely mouth-watering vegetables, these vegetables may have been simple produce – carrot, cabbage and beetroot, but they were cooked to perfection and the freshness very evident in the wonderful flavour.
My desert of Banoffee sundae looked too good to eat, but I really couldn’t resist the temptation of this delicious final course! My husband who had enjoyed a main course of locally caught fish and thick cut chips ordered a desert of fruit crumble which came warm, straight from the oven with a separate jug of cream.
St Mary’s Inn showed me two of their bedrooms. There are 11 bedrooms ranging from standard to deluxe, including a room for disabled guests and a pet friendly room – which is useful if you want to bring you pet dog on holiday (dogs are also allowed in the bar area). The bedrooms are on the first floor accessed by stairs or a wheelchair accessible lift, use of the lift is by a residents’ key. Residents also have the benefit of a first floor courtyard complete with seating.
The bedrooms with their large windows are light, airy, uncluttered, simply but stylishly furnished, with a good use of bright textiles. The glistening white bathrooms were gorgeous, spacious with quality fittings and tiling and absolutely spotlessly clean.
Rheumatoid Arthritis reduces my mobility so I am always interested in the accessibility of a building. I was impressed by the care that had been taken during the refurbishment to make St. Mary’s Inn accessible for the less mobile. Facilities include a well-maintained private car park with disabled parking bays. Level access entrance, ground floor eating and drinking areas a ground floor disabled toilet, a wheelchair accessible lift and a disabled friendly bedroom.
St Mary’s Inn was hard to leave, the comfortable surroundings make it a place to relax and unwind. Its flexibility I found very appealing, the service was good, the food superb and the prices competitive.
What to see and do nearby
The visitor is spoilt for choice in Northumberland, a county known for its history, unspoilt countryside and coastline, dominated by spectacular castles. St Mary’s Inn is well situated for exploring this beautiful and interesting region.
Close by is the attractive market town of Morpeth with its perfect blend of ancient and modern buildings. Its large town centre park offers a peaceful place to walk surrounded by formal and informal gardens, and easy access to the riverside. There are small museums, galleries and excellent shopping facilities. Amongst its museums is the rather unique Bagpipe Museum housed in the beautiful medieval Chantry Building. 150 sets of bagpipes are displayed including the Northumbrian pipes which are so different to the better known Highland and Irish bagpipes.
A short drive north of Morpeth lies the historical, compact town of Alnwick with its beautifully preserved ancient buildings, winding streets, parkland and major attractions – The Alnwick Garden and the magnificent Alnwick Castle. Read my review of Alnwick. At nearby Rothbury there is the spectacular National Trust property – Cragside House, the world’s first house to be lit by hydroelectricity, which I review here.
St Mary’s Inn
St Mary’s Lane
St Mary’s Park