As early hotel check-ins go, I wonder if I can claim the crown? My husband Pete and I were having an overnight stay at Rudding Park Hotel, and he had a morning meeting in nearby Harrogate.

“Is it ok if I drop you off at the hotel and join you later?” he asked. Check-in was from 3pm, but I thought I could work for a few of hours in more sumptuous surroundings than the home office, so I readily agreed.

When I registered at 8.15am, Wendie on reception didn’t bat an eyelid. She merely apologised that my room wouldn’t be ready yet as the hotel had been completely full the night before.

I asked if I might find a quiet corner to work, and was given a few options – reception - a bit busy, although dominated by a tempting real fire; the bar - a bit early, but definitely worth checking out later; or the library – sounded perfect.

I strolled down the wide corridor lined with photographs of a selection of ‘names’ that had graced the rooms over the years. President Bush, Rev Jesse Jackson, Sir David Frost, Colin Powell, and Rev Desmond Tutu, told me that we were in good company.

With many hours ahead of me, I settled myself onto a cosy sofa in the wood-panelled room with some eye-catching and colourful furniture. As it was breakfast time, I was regularly passed by staff pushing silver room service trolleys back and forth – all of them greeting me with an unfailingly polite and cheery ‘Good morning’. No doubt they would later be wishing me a surprised ‘Good afternoon’ as the day wore on.

Rudding Park is a privately-owned luxury hotel set in 300 acres of landscaped gardens and woodland, on the southern outskirts of Harrogate. Originally a Grade I listed Regency-style country house, I didn’t question its boast of being one of the most beautiful Harrogate hotels. With only 90 bedrooms, but an expansive footprint, it never seemed crowded, busy or hurried, even when every room was occupied.

It also houses a spa, two restaurants with a kitchen garden, private 14-seater cinema, two golf courses, and conference and events space.

Within the grounds is an attractive, gothic revival chapel, added in 1879, which, although not used for formal services, is open for guests to poke around.

Rudding Park was originally part of the forest of Knaresborough and still retains some of the ancient oak trees. Following a succession of owners, in 1805 the estate was purchased by the Hon. William Gordon who demolished the original house and commissioned the building of the present house in a new location. Current owners are the Mackaness Family have owned Rudding Park since 1972.

In 2010, the Follifoot wing was built with an additional 40 bedrooms, small treatment spa and private cinema, followed by the latest development - a new destination spa with rooftop spa and gardens, in 2017.

When Pete arrived, we were shown to our room in the Follifoot wing. Lovely spacious accommodation at ground level, with king-size bed, and French doors opening out onto a terrace. The tiled and under-floor-heated bathroom housed a hydro-pool bath, shower, and his-and-hers wash basins.

Tempted though I was to try the bath, I had a treatment in the spa to attend. Amy was ready and waiting to deliver my Flow Wellbeing massage – 50 minutes of absolute bliss. After being hunched over the laptop all day, it was wonderful to abandon myself to the soothing music, heated couch, and Amy’s professional hands.

It was a struggle to leave, but the spa was beckoning. Situated within the roof garden, the changing room provided a locker, bathrobe, towel and flip flops, with showers and hairdryers available. There just wasn’t enough time to try all the facilities – including swimming pool, spa bath and garden sauna cabin - but we did idle in the outdoor Hydrotherapy Infinity Pool, sweated in the panoramic sauna and herbal bath steam room, and dabbled our digits in the individual foot spas.

Suitably spa-d, we were ready for something to eat. Situated within the spa complex is the new Horto restaurant, which has just been awarded 3 Rosettes for Culinary Excellence 2017-18 at the recent AA Hospitality Awards in London.

Using fresh-daily produce from the kitchen garden, chef Murray Wilson offers sample tasting menus as well as the A la Carte. We were keen to experience the seven-course tasting menu, at £65 per person, with matched wine – and what an experience it was.

Our young waiter for the night, James, suggested not looking at the menu, but to enjoy the surprise of each course as it arrived and was explained to us. Not the usual way to approach a meal, but actually very interesting and good fun. There were certainly some dishes that I might not have been too keen to try if I had read them beforehand. Pete went for the carnivore’s selection, while I tested the pescatarian offering.

We both started with the most exquisite ‘snack’ of pumpkin, nasturtium, cep and smoked horseradish, with a sharp bite of lime pickle. Absolutely delicious, and partnered with a perfect sparkling white wine produced in West Sussex that gives Champagne a run for its money.

A not-on-the-menu-treat - and something we wouldn’t have been brave enough to choose ourselves, but proving to be extremely tasty - was smoked eel and creamed celeriac crispy cones. This was followed by stone bass with pickled leek and sake, matched with a refreshing cocktail of Himalayan hand-rolled tea, yuzu sake and homemade ginger syrup, and then on to pork cheek for Pete and turbot for me.

The portions are naturally small, but there is enough to really enjoy the myriad of flavours and textures, and the variety of the courses means that each plate is a wonderful surprise.

Pete’s final savoury dish was Yorkshire grouse with elderberry, cabbage and honey, while I finished with halibut, smoked mussel and broccoli.

Dessert was sharply-pickled, plump raspberries on a dollop of skyr, with Bolivian black mint. Sadly, we had to face the end, but rounded off a spectacular meal with a chocolate ganache with blueberries, rosemary and goats milk ice cream.

We retired to bed well-satisfied, and with every intention of returning at a later date.

Rudding Park Hotel, Rudding Lane, Follifoot, Harrogate HG3 1JH

T: 01423 871350


Supper and Spa (£99 for two)

This experience starts at 6pm with a two course dinner at Clocktower, followed by access to the Roof Top Spa from 7.30pm to close (9pm Sunday-Wednesday, 9.30pm Thursday).

Sleeping Beauty Spa Break (£177pp)

Dinner, bed and Yorkshire breakfast; access to The Spa; one 50 minute treatment from the Spa Day Treatment menu and access to the Mind and Sense Zones on the day of your treatment; WiFi; reduced golf green fees and complimentary entry to the Royal Pump Room Museum in Harrogate.