On a cold winters day our UK travel writer Rachel McAlley set off for a couple of days for #TeamCoco to the Durham Dales to experience some beautiful countryside, a wonderful 5 star hotel, a well-known arts and cultural museum, and a quaint market town.

I drove through the Yorkshire snow, and into the Durham frost to a very sunny and not at all snowy Rockliffe Hall near Darlington, for a day and night of pure luxury and pampering.

As a solo female traveller, I wanted to experience the hotel’s grounds and go for a walk, so I took it upon my self to leave my luggage at reception and head out into the acres of lovely countryside to take in some fresh air and simply enjoy the Rockliffe Hall grounds – an Instagrammers dream!

I was introduced to the brand new MischMasch area of the gardens; a wonderland of curiosities for kids, including six little secret hideaway pods filled with exciting things like a huge Smart TV for movies in one, pool table and darts board in another, chill out pod to hang with friends in another, and generally have fun in the rest! The child in me wanted to hang out in the pod with the pool table and darts board with my fully grown-up mates and maybe have a glass of wine and just chill for the day.

I ventured further afield and took myself through the grounds and across to the Clubhouse, where the hotel’s golfers relax and enjoy a drink and some food. A fab little walk was all I needed after the long drive, and a fab little walk was what I got – it gave me chance to wind down and enjoy a little me time.

Back into the gorgeous Rockliffe Hall and to The Brasserie for a light lunch (Chicken Caesar Salad, with a side order of fries, and a divine pear tart to finish), looking over the sunkissed golf course and Spa Garden with its steaming hot infinity edge experience pool and warm Jacuzzi, this really was going to be a relaxing stay.

After lunch I was booked for a 90-minute luxury Neom candle wax massage with an Indian head massage, which was quite possibly the most indulgent massage I have ever experienced. Not only was the treatment super relaxing, it was calming, stress relieving, and reflective. The only issue was that the 90-minutes flew-by too fast, I could have stayed for hours having this treatment. This wonderful candle wax massage transported me to a time and place where my mind, body and soul relaxed into that floating state between being awake and asleep – it was simply heavenly.

Post-treatment I was taken to the relaxation room, where I came round from my sleepy state and made the decision to go for a swim in the indoor pool. I could have ventured into the Garden Spa to fully immerse myself in the Rockliffe Hall experience on one of the sound wave therapy beds, but on this occasion my super-relaxed body couldn’t take me outside, so I simply collapsed on a sun-lounger and then went for a glorious swim.

It was time to leave the award-winning spa and officially check-in to my room. Okay, so there are many wonderful luxurious hotel rooms that #TeamCoco have had the pleasure of staying in, but this stunning superior first floor room in the Old Hall was old-world beauty at it’s finest, king-sized bed, Egyptian cotton bedding, private living area, huge Smart TV (and a dinky TV at the bottom of the bath), bathrobes and slippers, locally produced biscuits and teas and coffees, plus a Nespresso coffee machine, complimentary water and fresh milk, and extraordinary views of the gardens.

All-in-all the room was a private haven of tranquillity and space, perfect for a solo traveller like myself. I used the desk to do some writing for the magazine and catch up with emails, before taking a bath, and then spending the evening on the sofa watching TV and movies.

I ordered room service rather than heading to The Orangery, the hotel’s award-winning restaurant, as I wanted to enjoy the beautiful Old Hall bedroom that I was lucky to be staying in.

The room service menu was as good as the earlier Brasserie menu, filled with classic dishes, contemporary dishes and room service must-haves. I chose a couple of nibbles (pork scratchings and homemade bread) rather than a starter; I enjoyed the nibbles with a glass of wine before opting for a classic main course (fish and chips with tartar sauce and Yorkshire caviar), a hearty dessert (crumble and ice cream) and a small selection of cheeses. I ordered wayyyyyy too much food, but it was worth it, especially the crumble.

After my ensuing food-coma it was time to wrap up warm under the bed covers and dream about fairies in the garden pods at Rockliffe Hall!

Breakfast was taken in the hotel restaurant, it was a buzzing hive of businessmen and women getting ready for the day ahead, couples that had enjoyed a romantic night-away from home, and a few solo travellers like myself. Everyone was tucking into either a full English breakfast, eggs Florentine (my breakfast of choice), or simple pastries and coffee, a delicious way to start the day.

After checking out of the hotel it was a 40-minute drive across the county from Darlington to Teesdale and Barnard Castle, a quaint market town filled with independent shops and little cafes. I visited a couple of shops in the town including a chocolate shop and a lovely stationery shop. Then I ventured to the world-renowned The Bowes Museum for a morning of culture, history and antiques.

Housing internationally significant collections of fine and decorative arts, the Museum was purpose built in the 19th Century by wealthy businessman John Bowes and his French actress wife Josephine. Their romantic story was revealed as I wandered around the elegant Grade I Listed building and the gorgeous gardens.

The diverse collections begun by this amazing couple are constantly being added to and currently span three floors of this magnificent French-style chateau in the heart of the Durham Wolds.

Housed in the Museum’s main exhibition space, I spent time being walked through the SOLD! Exhibition (running until May), the display takes the visitor on a journey through 200 years of antique dealing through an innovative ‘shopping for antiques’ theme.

After a couple of hours of culture and history it was time to depart The Bowes Museum and make my way to the old ruins of Egglestone Abbey before driving from the sunshine of the Durham Wolds back into the Yorkshire snow!

I had a great couple of days filled with relaxation, excellent food, history, and rambling in and around the Durham Wolds aka the Durham Dales, and you can be sure that either myself or someone else from #TeamCoco will be returning to Durham, as there’s plenty more to see including the historical city of Durham itself and also the pretty Durham coast.

This trip for House of Coco Magazine was kindly organised by the following three tourism, hospitality, and arts businesses in the Durham Dales:
Visit County Durham – https://www.thisisdurham.com
Rockliffe Hall – https://www.rockliffehall.com
The Bowes Museum – https://www.thebowesmuseum.org.uk


A veteran in global travel, Rachel also loves to explore hidden gems on home turf. She’s a writing connoisseur of Britain’s best hotels, luxury beauty products, and UK food and drink launches.

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