Gisborough Hall Hotel, situated near Middlesborough (in North Yorkshire/Cleveland) is offering a special package to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the first South Seas voyage of Captain James Cook – and we at Female First went along to find out more.
The package includes dinner, bed and breakfast at the hotel and features a stay in The Admiral’s Room. There are also free tickets to the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum in nearby Middlesborough with complimentary tea or coffee and cake thrown in for good measure. Make sure you go there with a good appetite!
We arrived at Gisborough Hall (the correct ancient spelling apparently, rather than “GUISborough”) on a sunny autumn day and were greeted by a romantic building covered in blazing red Virginia Creeper set in lovely gardens.
After check in we were shown to our room – The Admiral’s Room – which features many nautical themed objects – a porthole window, a turret, walls covered in wallpaper with ships and framed navigation charts. You can climb into the turret and relax on large scatter cushions as you watch people come and go. The very helpful gentleman named Steve who showed us up to the room told us about the history of the hall which was the Baronial Seat of the Lords Gisborough and the Chaloner family– and which has many historical naval associations: our room was named after Admiral Thomas Chaloner, (1815-1884). Steve showed us around and there were some lovely touches such as a little decanter of sherry on the mantelpiece, luxurious welcoming chocolates and Molton Brown toiletries in the large bathroom.
After a snack in the modern and rather chic bar downstairs we had a walk in the grounds where roses were still in bloom in late September, then relaxed in our room.
Later on we enjoyed drinks in one of the tastefully refurbished historic drawing rooms downstairs where we were well looked after by our friendly host, Adele, who took our orders for the three course dinner. We were then seated in Chaloner’s Restaurant to experience the culinary delights. For starters we both had the plate of Heritage tomato, pickled melon, Yorkshire air dried ham and Mozarella. It was light and tasty, with simple but effective flavours. For the main course my husband ordered the chargrilled Ridings Reserve Sirloin steak which came with chunky chips, onion rings, mushroom, tomatoes and Bearnaise sauce. It was declared a winner! I enjoyed the pan fried duck breast which was beautifully cooked, (tender and slightly pink) although I would have liked a sauce to go with it – undeniably tasty but perhaps lacking a bit in culinary imagination. Pudding was a chocolate fondue for him and a cheese selection for me – both of us were very happily replete. Over all, the atmosphere was relaxed but elegant and the food was finely presented, well cooked and made from high quality ingredients. Maybe if I had one criticism I would say that to my taste it was a little under-seasoned and they could be a little bolder and more confident with their flavours. This is a small criticism however.
The restaurant staff were attentive to just the right degree and extremely professional and well trained – even when they had to deal with a difficult customer. Indeed every member of staff at the hotel with whom we came into contact could not be faulted.
A lovely surprise greeted us when we returned to our room – our beds had been turned down, our towels refolded, and on our bedside table were laid out cups ready with hot chocolate sachets and glasses with bottles of mineral water. This was endearing and made us feel pampered and special.
On a practical point, despite the historic features of the hotel, all mod cons were in place - the WIFI was excellent and there were ample power points for recharging by the bed, TV with plenty of channels, comfortable bed linen and the mattress was correctly prepared for a hotel of this calibre (I always look under the sheets - one of my pet hates in hotels is either no/a poor mattress protector or else one that feels like an incontinence cover and gives you night sweats.)
After a comfortable night’s sleep we enjoyed a very tasty and filling breakfast. There was a buffet, but toast, hot drinks and other items were freshly made to order. My husband had the full Yorkshire breakfast which he enjoyed – he said the sausages and bacon were excellent. I chose the Eggs Benedict and it was tasty and well prepared
Following this we set out for the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum in nearby Middlesborough. This is set in the picturesque Stewart Park (well worth a visit alone) which looked especially autumnal on this grey late-September Sunday. The museum has a welcoming and enthusiastic staff who are proud of their displays. We spent some time looking through the various galleries which chart Cook’s history – from his boyhood to his famous voyages of scientific and geographical discovery, to his death and the somewhat gruesome treatment of his remains by his killers. He is apparently known as the greatest Yorkshireman ever - although my husband strenuously objects and stakes a personal claim to the title!
The presentations are made in a clear and entertaining format that would appeal to all ages, and it is inspiring and fascinating to be reminded of what it must have been like for Cook and his men sailing off into the unknown – they were like the astronauts of their day going into virtual outer space. It’s easy to forget that no one in the Northern Hemisphere had ever seen a kangaroo or many of the world species we now take for granted. There were other interesting topics addressed and illustrated in an imaginative way; life on board an 18th Century wooden ship (pretty grim), scurvy, the punishment of sailors who were deemed insubordinate, scientific discoveries made on the voyages and the discovery of hitherto unknown peoples, fauna and flora. As well as there being much written information there were also many artefacts, replicas of clothes and uniforms and even a recreation of what Cook’s childhood cottage may have been like. You can also learn how to do “The Middlesborough Haka” war dance in the section about Cook’s encounters with the Maori peoples!
After enjoying the museum we headed for Cook’s Café within the museum which is owned by Paul, an ex teacher who took a career change and is now rightly proud of his home baked cakes and use of locally sourced fresh food. I had a sublime slice of chocolate cake which I could sadly not finish after my large breakfast. My husband declared that he wished he had two stomachs.
The whole weekend was most enjoyable and I would recommend it to couples who want a romantic mini break with a difference in a picturesque quiet location that is steeped in history. Those with children would enjoy firing their imagination and helping to bring exciting history alive in the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum. It was a weekend to remember and we were sad to only be able to stay one night.
By Annie Mac
Gisborough Hall offers the Captain Cook Package, comprising an overnight stay in the “Admiral’s Room” (subject to availability) , dinner in “Chaloners”, their fine dining restaurant, full Yorkshire breakfast, entrance to the Captain Cook Birthplace museum and museum guide for £125 per person per night. Contact Gisborough Hall through their website: https://www.gisborough-hall.com