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Gemma Sherlock

Review: Oulton Hall Hotel, Spa & Golf resort, Leeds - where old meets new

When you book a spa weekend away you're often filled with excited jitters over the prospect of some indulgent pampering, a bit of me-time, and to put it quite simply, a good rest. I had my trip to Oulton Hall Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort in the diary for months, so of course I couldn't wait to make the near two-hour drive there when the date finally arrived.

I was a little apprehensive as we began our journey though as I realised the day of the trip fell on Mother's Day, and having recently lost my mum I was a mixture of nervousness over the possibility of the grief cloud that awaited me, but also excited to have some self-care activities ahead. As ever my partner was on hand to support me and I thought, what better way to take my mind off what would be a difficult day than to have some nice food, a massage and a dip in the pool?

The hotel

One of the lounge rooms at Oulton Hall, Leeds (Gemma Sherlock)

Oulton Hall is just five miles from Leeds city centre and two miles from the M62, but is surrounded by rolling countryside and a 27-hole golf course. It's in a great location, remote enough to enjoy some peace and quiet but close enough to the nightlife of Leeds and other key travel routes.

The historic mansion, which is nestled in landscaped gardens, dates back to the 1700's when the site was that of a simple farmhouse, built by Francis Blayds. Oulton Hall and the surrounding estate has a wealth of history, which I found fascinating. A history booklet in our hotel room said the Oulton site was transformed over time into a mansion residence before being used as a hospital during the Great War through to the 1970s, and the building itself was rescued from ruin in 1993.

As well having the booklet in the hotel room, other historical nuggets can be found dotted around the hotel too, introducing the previous owners, the Calverley family. Many portraits hang in the lounges, receptions rooms and hallways of the hotel, and the grand staircases, huge fireplaces and marble figureheads are more glimpses into the past. The touches to its previous life made me feel as though I was being invited into a home which once welcomed wealth, importance and nobility among its community.

It was also interesting to find out that the hotel still offers a butler service, which allows guests an insight into days gone by and what life would have been life for the Calverley family. I found this historic touch refreshing because you don't always get to experience the backgrounds of a place, especially when it's within a modern setting like a spa and golf resort. But it's obvious that the hotel is proud of its roots.

Huge chandeliers, grand pianos and soft classical music playing through the hallways made me feel at ease and relaxed as we entered our room. Our room was a standard double room and contained a stacked mini-bar, modern bathroom with toiletries, large, double bed, a TV with Sky channels and a seating area.

The Calverley Grill

Our dinner at The Calverley Grill was faultless. The restaurant takes its name from John Calverley, who was gifted the original manor house in 1807. We had a three course dinner and a bottle of wine and the food was exceptional. It was simple yet delicious, just what was needed after a day of travelling and relaxing in the spa.

For my starter I had the leek, potato and onion soup which came with scorched wholemeal loaf and blue cheese butter. My partner, Mark, opted for the more traditional plum tomato and basil soup. The leek soup was priced at £6.75 which I thought was a little pricey for a starter but once I tried I quickly forgot about that. The ingredients were fresh and the soup was lovely and creamy with the added sharpness of the onion taking it to the next level.

The soup (Gemma Sherlock)

For my main course I opted for the slow cooked shank of lamb with rosemary scented jus. This also came with double cream mash, port and spice braised red cabbage. I don't often get to have lamb at home as Mark doesn't like it so whenever it's on a menu I always seize the opportunity, and this didn't disappoint. It fell off the bone, was lovely and pink and the red cabbage complimented it perfectly. The lamb was priced at £19.95 and I would happily pay that again.

The lamb (Gemma Sherlock)

All this was followed by the best cheesecake I've probably ever had. It was a cherry cheesecake, priced at £7.75, which came with satsuma cream and chocolate crumb. Desserts can be tricky for me as I have a sweet tooth but I get full quickly. However, this dessert was just the right portion size without being too much. The sharpness f the raspberry compote along with the shards of dark chocolate and satsuma cream brought it all together for a really, tasty dish.

The cherry cheesecake (Gemma Sherlock)

I was told by staff that if you were staying at the hotel, had a spa treatment booked or a round of golf booked then guests were given a £28 per person allowance towards a meal at the Calverley Grill, which I thought was a decent deal. So, if you're ever near the hotel and fancy popping in for some quality food, you certainly won't regret it.

The spa

The spa is attached to the main house and is probably the most modern addition, other than the restaurant. Of course, the whole estate has been modernised but this is the newest addition to the building.

This is where I was left disappointed on my trip. The facilities were not up to a standard I would expect from a place that states it's a spa resort. It's the first spa I've been to where I've not received footwear to walk around in, usually you're given footwear either in the form of flip-flops or slippers when you're handed your robe and towel. These weren't provided so myself and Mark had to run back to the hotel room and grab the free slippers provided in our wardrobe and walk around in them by the pool. We really didn't think we would need to pack flip-flops but lesson learned on our behalf I suppose.

We were shown around the spa by a staff member that seemed disinterested to be there, which was a shame. In the changing rooms I noticed my locker wouldn't close and it was only then that I realised you needed a £1 to secure it. This wasn't something we were re told at reception and as I don't carry cash anymore, neither does my partner, we had to circle back, meet each other in the hallway and leave our belongings together in the family changing room locker in the hope that they wouldn't be stolen. It left me very uneasy and tense, something you try to steer clear from during a spa break.

Besides this, I was looking forward to my full body massage which I had booked in later that afternoon. In terms of the other spa facilities you had a main swimming pool and a jacuzzi to relax in, as well as a sauna and steam room. There were also showers and water fountain. The swimming pool was a bit on the colder side and the jacuzzi was quite violent with its bubbles so I spent most of my time in and out of the sauna.

Gemma Sherlock in the jacuzzi (Gemma Sherlock)

Seating around the pool was a mixture of garden style chairs, which left the room looking a little tired, and unimpressive and I could tell by other guests coming in that they seem to be a little disappointed. Some, who entered with children, couldn't wait to dive into the pool though, goggles armed and rearing to go.

Nevertheless it was time for my spa treatment, and the treatment rooms were a lot nicer. A lovely scent was present in the rooms and a heated massage bed was the main feature, along with relaxing music in the background. My therapist Medina also saved the day. I received a full body hot stone massage and Medina used a mixture of Elemis treatments which included Frangipani body oil, moisturiser and instant refreshing gel.

She was chatty but only if I was and she worked my back (which was full of nots and tension) very well. I felt a lot lighter after the treatment and was well and truly relaxed. It was the first time I had received a hot stone massage and I found the stones comforting and soothing on my skin.


The staircase features (Gemma Sherlock)

Overall Oulton Hall Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort is a good stay. The hotel is impressive and the food at the Calverley Grill is beautiful and worth the price. Treatments at the spa are also good but the spa facilities have a little way to go to match the rest of the stay.

Basic amenities like footwear and even a key for your locker need to be provided. More comfortable chairs and seating areas in the spa would also help bring the spa up to a better standard. I wouldn't pay to use the spa facilities, I would pay to stay, eat and perhaps play a round of golf, if I was so inclined.

Oulton Hall, I loved your history, your character and your food but that's about it, I'm afraid.

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