If you enjoy strolling leisurely in an English Garden in the evenings and lingering over English breakfasts before you head out for another day of castling in North Yorkshire then I have discovered a castle lover’s paradise in Crathorne Hall, especially with you in mind. As a stately home turned hotel since 1977, it has found a great advocate (and has become particularly distinguished) in becoming an award-winning Handpicked Hotel. Only the finest of English stately homes make the cut and this one has a lot to offer. Located in the northernmost part of North Yorkshire, this wonderful hideaway retreat is perfect while traveling around the vastness of the Yorkshires. It is located so far north, the bluff it occupies is only two miles south of Yarm, overlooking the River Leven on fifteen acres of woodlands above the Cleveland Hills. The castle neighbors are among the finest- Richmond, Middleham, Bolton, Whorlton and Helmsley- so if you choose this as home base for your first castle exploration you’ll be getting a great start !
Crathorne is among the last grand houses built late in the Edwardian style. Lionel Dugdale, a cotton tycoon, hired architect Sir Ernest George (who was primarily a Queen Anne revivalist) for the work which commenced as late as 1903 and was three years in the making. Like many of this era it boasts an incredible amount of rooms- 115 in all and 37 of those are bedrooms with incredible views. The Dugdales kept an interior staff of twenty and even more for grounds keeping, most likely. It became a hotel upon Lionel’s death when the younger members of the family decided to sell and they threw a gala ball in honor of the handoff.
The entrance facade mirrors Vanbrugh’s finest featuring pretty neo-Jacobean towers with a wrought-iron adorned veranda and the garden frontage which overlooks the estate is in keeping with the entrance in rusticated stone and Palladian classicism- a pediment supported by ionic colonnades. Inside you will be greeted with a barrel-vaulted vestibule with sedate but tasteful plasterwork. This is the drawing room which hosts the main reception rooms. You’ll see Dugdale heraldry over the fireplace along with entrances framed with pilasters. Many family portraits which remain are the work of Nancy Dugdale, Lionel’s wife.
As a luxury hotel the interiors are elegantly antique with Victorian wood paneling, and Victorian and Edwardian style furnishings. Crathorne offers breakfasts en suite, if desired and the restaurant, the prestigious Leven, handles dinners of the highest quality with 2 AA Rosettes for its culinary excellence. They are currently offering classic accommodation to include a three course dinner accompanied with a bottle of their finest Champagne and a full traditional English breakfast. Catering for weddings and conferences is also offered and there are a plethora of leisure activities available on the extensive grounds.
To find out more call 08454580905
To the south of Crathorne, as a part of the North York Moors National Park in the Yorkshire Dales, you’ll find WhorltonCastle remains not far away. As a more recent discovery in North Yorkshire (for me) I was intrigued by its location with the nearest town being Swainby where the A19 and A172 intersect.
Another neighbor to both is Mount Grace Priory which is very well known and well worth a visit.
As you drive up the hill west from Swainby you’ll see the remains of the former rectangular three-storey gatehouse of Whorlton. Much of the earthworks from the time of the Conquest can still be seen and visited and includes what appears to be a motte and two baileys with wide, deep ditches and counterscarp. This was the castle of the de Meynells from its inception. It was visited by Edward II but it was described as ruinous by 1343. Sir Darcy is responsible for the stone portions you’ll find remaining and much that has been lost. The tower house is completely demolished with only the vaulted cellars intact. A greatly reduced gatehouse he built still retains an inner and outer portcullis at the arched entryway. At the northwest angle you’ll find a spiral stair inside; that and the roofline were part of a 16th century two-storey house. Whorlton was attacked during the Civil War but a large portion of the stones were simply carried away to build a nearby church.
Mount Grace Priory is located a mere half mile south, closest to the town of Osmotherly at Staddle Bridge where it was laid out by the Duke of Surrey, Thomas de Holland in beautiful parkland. Even though it faced demolition during the Dissolution, like most of them, you’ll find that enough is intact to get an authentic look into the life of the Carthusians which was the most harsh existence of monks (then or now) with complete isolation and vows of silence at its core. There are only two such monasteries remaining in England (the other is London Charterhouse) so it’s especially rewarding to view such features as cell eight: a monk cell beautifully reconstructed by English Heritage at the beginning of the 20th century. You’ll also see replanted and refreshed herb plots and gardens which somehow co-exist with an ancient colony of ermines who are considered as much a part of Mount Grace as the stones themselves.
The early 15th century stone ruins are still magnificent but Mount Grace was built late during the medieval period so the style of architecture is equally unique with an exceptionally tall, specially-designed square bell tower and cloisters. Its period of human habitation rather short, one gets a feeling that this priory was not meant to be more than a magnificent piece of architecture for people to visit rather than occupy. It was continually expanded from the period of 1400, periodically, up until 1520- the final phase. Henry VIII’s decree was carried out by 1539 when there were only 16 monks left and a few novices.
The manor house on the site was built separately, as a guesthouse, with the original buildings. It was rebuilt by Thomas Lascelles in 1653 in a style reminiscent of a two-storey Mission Revival porch. The house was rebuilt upon in 1901 in the Arts and Crafts style for Sir Issac Lowthian Bell the resident ironmaster. At the time of the Dissolution, Mount Grace estate was valued at £382 5s and later, passed into private ownership. Today a portion of the extended manor house is used as a visitor center and museum with one room reconstructed for tours and an exhibition illuminates the history of the entire site. Be sure to pack a lunch prior to your visit as there are no provisions on site. Osmotherly has three good pubs.
An upcoming event is scheduled for November 30th and Dec 1st with half hour performances, four times a day, to hear tales from Butler Meakins for a Victorian Christmas. Gifts will be available for purchase along with EH’s liqueurs and seasonal treats. Call ahead for times and early because spaces available are limited.
+44 (0)1609 883494
Owned by the National Trust
Managed by English Heritage
Sitting in an English Garden waiting for the sun…
The Castle Lady