Lofty turrets, secret doors, a labyrinth of corridors and a resident ghost; Lumley Castle is the real McCoy as far as Medieval grandeur goes. On top of looks that could be plucked from the pages of a children’s fairy-tale, the castle boasts a newly renovated bar and restaurant and atmosphere aplenty. What’s not to love?
Perched atop a hill overlooking Chester-le-Street Golf Club along the banks of the River Wear, you can’t help but be impressed as you pull into the grounds of this grand 14th-century property. Dating back to 1388, Lumley Castle is unsurprisingly steeped in history.
Ralph Lumley, the rebellious medieval knight responsible for building the castle, was executed for attempting to overthrow King Henry IV. Prior to his untimely demise, he was said to have secretly wed a certain Lily Lumley, who herself met a grisly end when two priests threw her down the castle well due to her lack of faith in Christianity.
To this day, she is said to haunt the grounds of the castle. Talk about drama. Thankfully, the hospitality has come along in leaps and bounds in 2020. After a fast, friendly, and socially distanced check-in, we were escorted to our Courtyard State room, located in the former stable block.
The sloping eves, exposed beams, four-poster bed and historically styled décor and furniture are perfectly juxtaposed with a stylishly modern bathroom that creates a decadent yet cosy vibe. Fluffy robes and slippers, Nespresso coffee machine, luxurious Bvlgari toiletries and complimentary water, fruit and a bottle of wine were all nice touches that made us feel at home.
Heading towards Knight’s Brasserie, it soon became clear how easy it would be to get lost in the castle, which is all part of the charm. Having recently undergone a six-week makeover, both the restaurant and adjoining Library Bar look on point.
From the bars roaring fire to the brasserie’s dark and moody interiors, the re-design has created the perfect setting for intimacy. Head Chef and former Great British Menu contestant, Craig Sherrington, has also recently refreshed the menu, moving away from fine-dining to a more relaxed and homely offering that makes the most of local produce.
The Confit of Barbary Duck Leg starter was a classic example of this. Served with butter beans, pancetta, and thyme, this triumphant dish is a hearty affair that could easily be a main course.
Across the table, the lighter Torched Mackerel with Heritage Tomato, basil, and caviar dish went down equally well. We were also treated to a serving of the Spring Onion Bhaji with smoked cheese sauce, which is Sherrington’s speciality and for good reason, thanks to its hint of spice and rich sauce. Simply delicious.
Resisting the temptation to go for the Dry Aged Rib Eye, I instead opted for the Lemon and Thyme Organic Chicken Breast. Tender, juicy and bursting with fragrant flavour, the chicken was well complemented with skinny fries and seasonal veg.
The Pan-Fried Fillet of Cod with crushed new potatoes and roasted tomato provencal was yet another simple dish elevated by pitch-perfect execution. Both mains married up well with our bottle of the extremely quaffable La Colombe Sauvignon Blanc.
Dessert lovers will not be left disappointed either. The Sticky Toffee Pudding with scotch sauce and Valrhona Chocolate Tart were both suitably indulgent. We ended the meal with a round of expertly mixed cocktails, namely the refreshing Cloudy Lemon Crush with gin and bitter lemon and my personal favourite, a classic Old Fashioned.
A worthy dinner date destination whether you’re staying over or happen to be a local resident.
Those that fancy leaving the hotel to explore the local area might want to check out The Distillery in nearby Chester-le-Street. The bar is just minutes away in a taxi and stocks an impressive selection of gins and mixers, all served up in oversized goblets.
After a well-deserved bit of shut-eye in the ultra-comfy bed, it was back to Knights Brasserie for breakfast. As well as a diverse mix of continental staples, a variety of freshly cooked to order dishes are available. After enjoying my first Full English in what seemed like an eternity, it was time to check out and head home.
With a variety of rooms and suites available for all budgets and occasions, Lumley Castle is surprisingly affordable. Those looking for romance might want to go splash out on the King James Suite, complete with jacuzzi bath and a welcome glass of Champers on arrival.
With plans underway to build a luxury spa on-site, this historic property is showing no signs of slowing down. Well placed for visiting nearby Beamish open-air museum, Durham, and Newcastle, it makes a great base for those looking to explore the North East. Just a shame we didn’t catch a glimpse of the elusive Lady Lumley.
Lumley Castle, Ropery Lane, Chester-le-Street, DH3 4HX