A CHATEAU in France? Or a beautiful period home in the heart of Hamsterley forest? It's a tough choice.

Kay Cole and Graham Turner, who finally opted for the latter when they were searching for a property, said they knew they had found their new home the instant they set eyes on it. Three years ago, it became theirs, and despite all the hard work they've had to put into renovating it, they don't regret their choice for a minute.

The couple – Kay, a charity worker, and Graham, a retired design engineer – had been looking for somewhere to open a business when they came upon Grove House, a 19th century, seven-bedroom property. Now, month upon month of hard graft later, it's a stunning hideaway with three bedrooms for paying guests. Essential upgrades to the plumbing and lighting have been completed, but all the lovely period features are still intact.

The Northern Echo:

The property is well hidden in the forest, set in two acres of grounds. Visitors who enter by the front are greeted with a secret garden-style gate and a path which leads through neatly-tended lawns and past vast flower beds to a serene patio area. The garden is Kay’s domain; her impressive lupins stand tall, all grown from seed and lovingly nurtured by her.

As she shows me around the garden, I can only hear wildlife, the sweet chirping of birds and the flutter of their wings as they fly around above us. Regular visitors include deer, woodpeckers, squirrels and owls, something which captivated both Kay and Graham when they visited for the first time.

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Grove House, built in 1827, is made from stone and has at least two dozen sash windows. It is pretty and picturesque, but impressive in stature and was once home to the Surtees family, who built Redworth Hall. Grove House was their hunting lodge.

“You can only imagine the parties they would have had in here,” says Kay, as she opens the double doors leading into a beautiful period dining room. There are magnificent high ceilings, a stunning chandelier, a stag’s head hanging on the wall and a feature fireplace. Guests staying at the B&B enjoy breakfast in the dining room cooked by Kay, and afternoon tea is available on request.

The Northern Echo:

The three double guest bedrooms are all en-suite with modern bathrooms and either a bath or walk-in shower. As we wander around, it strikes me that with its parquet flooring and exposed beams, Grove House resembles a mansion more than a bed and breakfast.

The spacious bedrooms are individually styled with bedding and curtains made by Kay and lovely views over the gardens and into the woodland. I can picture myself relaxing here with my feet up and a cup of tea after a long day walking through the forest. It is also worth mentioning that Hamsterley is a fantastic place to stargaze because of the lack of light pollution. But the B&B isn’t just for visitors to the forest. It’s a short drive from the centre of Bishop Auckland, ideal for Kynren visitors, and not far from Beamish, Durham and the North Pennines.

At the bottom of the garden, there's a dovecot which is also being converted; it’s a work in progress, but what a gem. A freestanding bath sits underneath a spiral staircase which leads to a room just big enough for a bed and a side table. It will be bliss for those who want to escape the real world completely and switch off.

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Both Graham and Kay are passionate about Grove House and the North-East. They say they know how lucky they are to live in such a picturesque landscape and want to share the experience with others.

“We are looking forward to opening our home and welcoming guests to stay with us," says Graham. "We want to share the tranquility we enjoy here – and to shout about the region and the beautiful countryside we have. We are in the middle of nowhere, but in the centre of everything.”

  • Hamsterley, Tow Law, Bishop, Auckland DL13 3NL. Grove House Bed and Breakfast is open for bookings now. grovehousebandb.net