Eshott Hall is not only one of the finest 17th Century houses in Northumberland, but it is also gaining a reputation for its food, style and service. Ruth Addicott goes along to find out more.

"PEOPLE choose Eshott because it’s a unique experience,” says manager Dan Ball. Tucked away in rural Northumberland, just a short drive from Druridge Bay, Eshott Hall is one of the most beautiful 17th Century houses in the region.

Since being bought by new owners Robert and Gina Parker in December 2009, it has undergone a complete refurbishment and is quietly building a name for itself as an ideal alternative for a wedding venue, film location or private party.

Surrounded by tall conifers, woodland and immaculate lawns with red squirrels scurrying past in summer, it is also popular with visitors looking for a relaxing break combined with country sports and coastal walks.

Complete with 11 individually designed bedrooms, including the Versailles with Louis XIVstyle furniture and the Collingwood room with a replica four-poster bed of one Lord Nelson slept in, the house attracts visitors with its character as well as the history.

Eshott has been completely redecorated, repainted and recarpeted in the past 12 months, overseen by husband and wife team, Dan and Louise Ball, who manage the hall on a daily basis. Dan says the main priority was to ensure the improvements were in keeping with the Georgian architecture.

“Both Lou and I love Georgian properties and Eshott is a very special place,” says Dan.

“It had to have a great pull to take us away from our previous home in Bath and it has certainly warranted the move, we love living and working here.”

Each room has been given a chic, contemporary feel with traditional pieces reflecting its history. Among the most impressive features is a stained-glass window in the entrance hall created by the Gateshead Stained Glass Company. The drawing room and library offer a comfortable place to relax while the dining room and ballroom make a fantastic setting for dinner.

All 11 bedrooms are now en-suite, with natural stone flooring and high-quality fittings, many featuring free-standing roll top or slipper baths.

All rooms have been decorated individually, including the Collingwood room, inspired by Lord Nelson’s right hand man, who was from the North-East. The four-poster bed is a replica of Nelson’s own, and a ship’s chest, naval prints and an original tiled fireplace add extra character. The Mandarin room has Oriental inspired decor and the Versailles is decorated in cream, blue and grey, with Louis XIV-style furniture and relaxing window seats looking out over the garden.

One thing that sets Eshott apart from other venues is the quality of the food. There is a strong emphasis on fresh, local produce with fresh herbs, vegetables and other ingredients coming directly from the kitchen garden.

Head chef Chris Wood has a flair not just for presentation, but dishes that capture the imagination.

Starters include North Sea crab tortellini, sweet potato and shellfish froth, while a main could be breast of Northumberland Estates grouse, Anna potatoes, thyme roasted baby vegetables, butternut squash and redcurrant jus. Desserts are just as delicious featuring an assiette of Eshott Hall wild fruits, warm chocolate fondant or chef’s pistachio ice cream.

Overnight guests have the added bonus of the full Northumbrian breakfast, complete with Sunny Hill free-range eggs, kippers from Seahouses and smoked salmon from Craster.

The dining room is open to both guests and non-residents, although non-residents require a minimum party of four.

Eshott has also become a prime venue for a sporting weekend or shooting lunch, with the option of salmon fishing on the Coquet, clay pigeon shooting or deer stalking. The grounds feature an orangery, tennis court, lake and kitchen garden. Bespoke game menus are available on request.

The Eshott team is now hoping to build a reputation as a leading wedding venue and has a policy of only holding one wedding function or private party at a time so guests have exclusive use of the venue.

Historically, early records suggest the estate was built as far back as 1328, although the most interesting period in terms of architecture was between 1588 and 1600 when Robert Trollope designed and built the hall for William Carr – much of his original design can still be seen today.

In 1877 the hall and estate were bought by Emerson Bainbridge (founder of the Newcastle store Bainbridges, which became the world’s first department store and is now part of the John Lewis Partnership). Bainbridge extended the house and village, building further cottages and a Methodist chapel.

As well as weddings, Eshott Hall plays host to a number of themed events throughout the year, including Burns’ Night, Valentine’s Day and a forthcoming open air production of Wind in the Willows in summer.

“Eshott is not a corporate establishment,” says Dan. “We work hard to create a personal but informal atmosphere and people comment on the fact staff make them feel very welcome.”

* Eshott Hall, Morpeth, Northumberland, NE65 9EN, tel: 01670-787454, One night stay and full English breakfast is £120 per couple sharing a room. One night stay, three-course evening meal and full English breakfast is £180 per couple sharing a room. These prices are subject to availability throughout January and February (excluding Valentine’s Weekend, February, 12, 13 and 14)