But today the welcome is extremely warm at this luxury hotel in some of Northumberland’s most spectacular unspoilt countryside,
Langley Castle was built on the site of a manor house in the middle of the 14th century by Sir Thomas de Lucy and is a fine example of medieval feudal grandeur.
It was attacked and severely damaged in 1405 by the forces of Henry IV and remained a ruin until it was bought and restored by local historian, Cadwallader Bates, in 1882. Bates died in 1902 and his wife Josephine continued the restoration. After she died in 1932 the building remained empty until it was used as a barracks in the Second World War and then as a girls’ school.
In 1986 Dr Stuart Madnick, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, who was holidaying in the area, spotted the castle and bought it – as you do! He and his wife converted it into the luxury hotel it is today, set in a woodland estate of 10 acres and with many fine historic features.
These include a chapel on the roof built by Josephine in memory of her husband.
In fact Josephine has quite a presence there today, she is buried within the grounds, alongside her husband, and one of the hotel’s main feature rooms is named after her – the room we stayed in during our visit.
The feature rooms are all in the main building – there are rooms in converted buildings a short hop away from the castle – and have seven foot thick walls and small windows, used for protection.
But there is nothing dark in the Josephine Room which has lovely views over the grounds, a magnificent bed, fine furniture and a stunning bathroom complete with spa bath, huge fluffy towels and robes and the best of toiletries. The height of modernity with the best of tradition work perfectly.
If you can tear yourself away from your room there is a magnificent drawing room to relax in, complete with a window seat you have to climb up into!
Much of the building’s history is recorded in photographs and drawings hanging on the walls and each morning after breakfast there is a guided tour of the battlements and the peaceful chapel. Views from the roof are stunning and it is well worth the climb up to the roof to enjoy the vista.
While the history and comfort of the hotel were an utter delight, the food is of the highest quality with five-star service and left me (known as Mrs Picky by many in regards to culinary standards and service) most impressed.
The dining room, as expected, was traditionally laid out and with plenty of space between the tables – I don’t always want to hear other people’s conversations.
Each evening there is a three-course Table d’Hôte menu at £44.95, stunningly good value for the quality. My partner and I each chose something different for each course and out of the six dishes only one received a very slight criticism.
We dined on delights including king oyster mushroom risotto which came with shaved truffle and 36 month-old Parmesan and beef tartare with smoked mayonnaise, beef fat croutons, gherkins and red mustard cress. For main courses we feasted on fillet of cod served with heritage carrots and mussel and sea vegetable broth and roast loin of lamb with crisp lamb shoulder, basil gnocchi, smoked aubergine pureé and roast fennel.
Sweet delights included a dark chocolate and orange delice with sorbet and forced English rhubarb with short bread biscuit and rhubarb sorbet – and the latter was where I had the faintest of criticism as the rhubarb, for me, was a little undercooked.
The wine list has some real treats and also some very reasonably-priced bottles which we took advantage of along with a suggested wine selection by the glass for each of the starters – and again excellent value.
Talking about value-for-money is not something you necessarily think about when you are staying in a castle, but it has to be mentioned with the quality offered at Langley.
And I must mention the breakfast, of equally high standards with a wide range of options from continental to kippers, Eggs Benedict, Eggs Florentine and the good old traditional full English.
There are so many places to visit and things to do in and around Northumberland, and Langley Castle is perfectly positioned to enjoy them all. Hadrian’s Wall can be visited on many local sites within 10 minutes drive, there is the Northumberland coast and its many castles and close by to Langley is Hexham with its abbey, museum and winding streets with charming cafes and shops. The hotel even has helpful links to visitor attractions, activities and places to see on its website.
We also paid a visit to re-live my partner’s youth – the Newcastle University campus! I am surprised he could remember where it was as it was so long ago . . .
An imposing building with a heavy wooden entrance door but inside Langley Castle is warm and welcoming with the very best of service and outstanding food.
l Room prices start from £83.50 – £145.00 pp – B&B
l Evening Dinner – Three-Course £44.95 pp
l Traditional Afternoon Tea – £20.50
l Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea – £22.50
l Relaxed dining available throughout the day/night – prices vary.
l Langley Castle Hotel, Langley-On-Tyne, Hexham,
Northumberland. NE47 5LU.
l Tel: 01434 688888