George Pyman (1822-1900) was a remarkable man with a fascinating life story.
Born in the tiny hamlet of Sandsend, just three miles up the Yorkshire coast from Whitby, by the age of ten, he found himself working at sea on his family’s fishing coble.
Such was his seafaring prowess, he was made captain of a merchant ship at just 21 years of age, plying his trade across the world.
He later gave up his travels, forming a shipbuilding company with a friend in West Hartlepool.
The business flourished and he became the largest steamship owner in the North East. His boats were one of the first to use faster, iron propellers rather than wooden ones.
His endeavours and charitable work led to him being elected Mayor of the town.
He had a large family, most of whom went on to have careers in or connected to the sea and the family business.
His seventh son, Frederick, wanted a holiday home on lands owned by the family and in 1900 he had Dunsley Hall built overlooking Sandsend, sadly in the same year that his father George died.
This stone built, late Victorian Manor House stayed in the family for more than half a century but was sold on several times after that.
In 1995, yet more new owners came along and built a sympathetically constructed accommodation wing, turning the entirety into a Country House Hotel.
Developers took it over in 2015 with big plans. Refurbishment of the whole property got underway in early 2016 and is just about complete.
It now stands proudly in four acres of lawns and gardens, a short drive from Sandsend beach (sea-water quality and beach rated excellent in 2016).
Peace and quiet is the ambience around the hotel, still quaintly old fashioned despite the upgrades and with woodland views to savour from the various lawned areas, a very relaxing place to visit.
There are 26 bedrooms here, all of them en-suite. There are doubles, twins and some suites with adjoining rooms for families. Some rooms have four-poster beds.
The bedding has Egyptian cotton sheets for comfort.
Our room was in the wing of the hotel and was quite spacious. All rooms are different.
Ours was decorated in an art-deco style with furniture to match. French windows led out onto a raised lawn with a couple of small tables and chairs, just perfect for warmer months.
The en-suite bathroom had white tiles with black highlights. Very smart it was too, with a reproduction, claw-footed, roll-top bath. There was no free-standing shower, just a ‘French telephone’ style fixed tap attachment. Some rooms have ‘over-bath’ showers whilst only a couple have walk-in showers. You would need to specify your requirements on booking.
The public rooms include the Club Bar, a luxury haven of oak panelled walls, dark leather chairs and armchairs and a cosy wood-burning stove. Once ensconced, it was hard to leave this room!
The beer on draught is Black Sheep from Masham, and a very good pint it was too.
The keg beer is John Smith’s, with Guinness and two lagers as alternatives.
The Library Lounge is like a Gentleman’s Club. Many of the original Victorian features have been retained including seafaring styled stained glass windows and original tiled fireplaces. Large, comfortable leather chairs and sofas feature here.
A complimentary glass of sherry may be enjoyed in this room.
Places like this can stand or fall by the quality of the food.
Talented young chef Matt Baxter is a local lad made good and runs the restaurant here.
Classic food dishes with attention to detail is his theme, using fresh, locally sourced ingredients including much from the on-site kitchen garden when in season.
Private Dining may be indulged in the Oak Room, where much of the panelling was crafted and carved by ship’s carpenters.
Meals are taken in the restaurant/function room which overlooks one of the lawns.
There are cereals, juices, yoghurts, pastries, fruit etc., to whet the appetite at breakfast. I, as is my wont, went for the Full English, a delight which included locally produced black pudding, Yorkshire cured back bacon and very tasty thick sausage.
The Evening choices have a mix and match element taken from the standard seasonal menu of five starters, seven main courses and five desserts supplemented by a changing daily ‘Special Menu’ of two or three starters, three mains and two desserts.
Not short on choice, the food is of an excellent standard.
On our two night stay we sampled confit of belly pork; caramelised pear and goat’s cheese; mussels with white wine, garlic and cream and smoked mackerel pate salad for starters.
Mains included oven baked swordfish in samphire, lemon and herb butter; chicken cassoulet; rosemary pork tenderloin and a chicken breast with bacon and wild mushroom sauce.
Desserts devoured were lemon tart with red berry compote; trio of chocolate; sticky toffee pudding and a chocolate torte. Do try to read out without your mouth watering.
We did not find fault with any of the dishes, which were gorgeously presented, lovingly cooked and of high quality.
Locally roasted Baytown Coffee from Robin Hoods Bay rounded off the meals.
All of the staff we encountered were polite, cheerful, friendly and efficient.
Several experiences can be booked at the hotel. These include stained glass workshops and photography courses. Great for presents for someone I would have thought.
Nearby are all the attractions of the Yorkshire Coast, the fascinating port of Whitby, pretty fishing villages like Runswick Bay, Staithes and Robin Hood’s Bay as well as the magnificent walking country of the North York Moors.
Of course, you could just chill out on the lawns, or nip down to Sandsend, get out your telescope or binoculars and watch the ships navigate their way along the coastline just as George Pyman did all those years ago.
Get your charts out and set your ships compass for YO21 3TL.
For further details see www.dunsleyhall.com .
There are incredibly good deals to be had over the winter months which are well worth a look.