Close House Hotel by Laura Porter
Let’s get this out in the open: I am not a golfer. So how did I find myself at Close House Hotel, near Newcastle, which has two golf courses, plus a Golf Academy and Driving Range? And why am I so keen to encourage other non-golfers to stay there?
Close House Hotel can be many things to many people. I’m sure the golfers who sign up for membership to use the Filly and The Colt courses enjoy the hand-mown greens and the floodlit driving range for evening practice. Plus the ‘thinking ahead’ detail on the course to be able to call from a black telephone box and order your meal at No.19 for when you finish is a nice touch for those who appreciate the clubhouse time after a round of golf.
Those taking it seriously would enjoy the Custom Fit system that uses missile tracking technology to record accurate stats on your swing. Oh, and left-handed players have a reserved space on the driving range. And I haven’t mentioned the fact Lee Westward is the ‘Attached Tour Professional’ at Close House.
But I did say I don’t play golf so why did I like it here? No.19 is worth visiting alone for cocktails in the evening or the Sunday roast which has been nominated as the best in Northumberland. And there’s a ‘Close House Walk’ you can enjoy without taking any golf clubs.
Close House mansion has got an interesting history as there was a Monastic House on the site before the current Close House building arrived in 1779 as the Berwicke family home; a family with strong connections in the area as Robert Berwicke was the Sheriff of Newcastle in 1615.
The mansion and estate were sold in the 1950s and sold again in 1960 to Kings College Newcastle (later Newcastle University) for just £19,500. In 1994, Close House mansion’s refurbishment cost a cool £1,000,000.
In 2004, local businessman Graham Wylie bought the mansion and golf course and, I think, it’s his business ethos and knack for choosing the right people, such as Neal Crocker as General Manager, which makes this place so appealing.
Mr Wylie made his money by starting the Sage software accounting company and now has over 30 show-jumping horses. His loves of horses is reflected in the names of the golf courses, as well as in the mansion’s cocktail bar which has a black and gold theme as these are his colours. He also supports CHUF, a local children’s charity.
There are 19 rooms in the main hotel and 12 in the Courtyard and this is what I wanted to tell you about. The Courtyard rooms are more like suites and a real home from home. Each room is named after a famous golf course and the contemporary style contrasts with the heritage in the main house. The clever styling includes a colour-manipulated photo of your room’s namesake and that colour accent used throughout the room. My room had a gold-ish tone and others had deep burgundy or lime green. (Think of the iPhone Instagram app and you’ll be along the right lines.)
As well as style – even the wallpaper and blinds have matching, specially-commissioned patterns – these rooms have ‘intelligent design’ and a building management system reduces room temperatures when no guests are staying. I liked adjusted my skylight blinds by remote control and angling the enormous flat-screen TV which pulls out from the wall so I could see it from wherever I was sitting.
The bathrooms are seriously spacious with a choice of rainfall shower area or a fast-filling roll-top bath which I chose to enjoy the Molton Brown toiletries. And that’s only half of the room as the enormous bathroom mirror has two touch sensitive buttons to illuminate the main or magnifying mirrors.
As I mentioned before, the General Manager, Neal Crocker, is a real asset. He reads all guest feedback and strongly believes the mantra from the book “Every Complaint is a Gift” couldn’t be more true. Even little things such as a guest who asked for the LED display on the telephone to be dimmed and it’s that attention to detail that they act upon.
Close House is planning to add a spa soon and already offers an incredibly well-priced afternoon tea. As it is only 20 minutes drive from Newcastle (train and airport pick-ups available from the hotel car) I can’t think of a good reason not to return.
Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site which is an online travel guide for visitors to London. She also writes every month for the Visit Britain Super Blog. Laura has lived in the London area all her life and can’t imagine ever wanting to live elsewhere (although she now has a real fondness for Northumberland). You can follow her on Twitter, too.