The third Duke of Northumberland, Hugh Percy, tired of his family and guests arriving bedraggled and distressed from long journeys ‘up north’ to Alnwick Castle, decided upon affirmative action.
In the 1820’s, he had the Northumberland Arms coaching inn built in the quaint village of West Thirston near Felton, just a mile from The Great North Road (A1), and backing on to the picturesque River Coquet.
The inn served him and his visitors well for many years, but like all things, changes were inevitable and the passage of time had it’s influences over the property and it’s direction.
Nowadays it is privately owned and recently refurbished throughout to a very high standard with little expense spared to bring it bang up to date.
The stone façade has changed little, but upon entering there is the light and airy River Room Conservatory to the right. Turn left into the bar and onwards into the restaurant.
Imagine stone, brick, aged wooden furniture, leather seats, comfy sofas, log-burners and you will get the oh-so-cosy picture.
Having only six bedrooms, these are Deluxe en-suites with all modern convenience and comforts. The colour palette is ‘muted countryside’ in pastel greens mauves and purples. All of the rooms are named after local landmarks.
Visit England Quality in Tourism awarded 4 star Gold status for the bedrooms and I can certainly see why.
Four rooms have free standing baths whilst all have walk-in showers and sensor lighting.
Our room was the St. Michael’s Church room, a very large room which benefitted from a wall mounted flat screen tv, complimentary robes, five choices of loose-leaf teas and ground coffee. The Super King Size bed had lovely linen and was literally a dream.
The en-suite is down a couple of steps and unusually, has no door, so couples staying in this room need to be aware. It works and was not a problem for us.
This bathroom was simply enormous, with a Victoria and Albert free-standing oval bath and a large walk-in shower at the other end.
Bathroom products are from The White Company. The very large towels and robes were fluffy and soft, with a plentiful supply of hot water. This was one of the best bathrooms I have encountered on my travels. I want this one at home!
Another bedroom has a bath at the end of the bed. Very romantic.
Two of the rooms are dog friendly, though I can’t say that I am, and at the risk of offending some readers, I do not want yowling dogs getting under my feet at meal times. Grrrrrr.
The restaurant is staffed by a team of chefs under Head Chef Mal Farmer, all of whom have AA Rosette or Michelin experience. The food is locally sourced where possible and is prepared and cooked on the premises, as one would expect in a high quality restaurant.
The breakfasts were taken in the River Room and such is their quality, they have received the Visit England Breakfast Award. These are superb quality meals with plenty of choice. There are the usual suspects of cereals, yoghurts, fruits, pastries and juices but the ‘Northumberland Plate’ full English is a delight. Fat, herby sausages with beautiful rashers of sweet back bacon, field mushrooms, tremendous black pudding, fresh eggs, sweet tomato and beans make for a sublime plateful. The toast is accompanied by a range of home made preserves from Willow Cottage at Lowick near Holy Island and these were some of the best I have tasted. A truly heavenly breakfast.
For evening meals, these can be taken in the restaurant but we were so at ease, we took ours in the comfortable bar dining area.
There are three choices of sharing boards and we took the baked camembert with toasted focaccia and warm cranberry. An oozing disc of satisfying deep yellow cheese topped with fresh garlic was a great opener.
I went for a 10oz in-house oak smoked, flat-iron steak with fresh salad. The sweet woody smokiness of the tender slices evoked visions of urchins scrambling up the nearby chimney. So well done. Across the table the beef-burger tower had slices of back bacon and nettle cheese with sweet tomato, stacked between brioche buns, accompanied by a wire cage of skinny chips. Yum.
For dessert, a crunchily topped crème brulee was complemented by a local gingerbread ice cream. For me, I went retro with a brownie and peanut sundae in a tall glass.
Every course and choice was delicious.
The very attractive bar has five brews from local breweries on draught. These are Allendale from Hexham, Rigg and Furrow Farmhouse from Acklington, as well as a lone one from the Anarchy Brew Company at Morpeth. All were excellent, though even better as the evening wore on for some reason.
All the staff we encountered were friendly and efficient.
Afternoon teas are also served here though we were too full to sample them on this visit.
Events are regularly held, with wine tasting on the second Tuesday of the month, quiz nights on Thursdays and occasional small acoustic music sets. Wi-Fi comes free of charge.
Be of no doubt, this is a luxury stay with fantastic accommodation and food to match.
Not on the cheap side but there are deals to be had, especially in the winter months.
The surrounding countryside, coast and visitor attractions will give you plenty to do.
As Sir Hugh Percy’s guests did, we journeyed on to Alnwick Castle, suitably rested and refreshed and we will certainly make a return visit.
For further information ask your coachman to set your coach and horses sat-nav to NE65 9EE and take a look at www.northumberlandarms-felton.co.uk for further details.