Jesmond Dene House hotel is impressive from the word go. A Grade ll-listed arts and crafts building, it sits in all its splendour in a cosy dip just off Jesmond Dene Road in Newcastle and has played host to celebrities such as Rudyard Kipling and Arthur Conan Doyle.
Bought in 1871 by Captain (later, Sir) Andrew Noble, a partner in Lord William Armstrong’s shipping and armaments company, over the years the size of the house has doubled to include a west wing, billiard room, gothic porch, Great Hall and now houses a range of bedrooms with detailed panelling, beautiful plasterwork and stone carvings, impressive chimneys and stained glass.
The original Georgian house has been used as a college, as a Second World War Civil Defence establishment (there are still tunnels under the house), seminary and residential school before being converted into Newcastle’s first, independently-owned, boutique hotel in 2005.
The hotel now has an AA 4-star rating, 3 AA rosettes, and the 40 individual rooms and suites can be hired for private dining, meetings and weddings and there is ample parking.
Although only a very short drive from Newcastle city centre, Jesmond Dene House hotel has a perceptible country feel as it overlooks the wooded valley of Jesmond Dene, complete with waterfall, old mill, river stepping stones, a grotto and a ruined chapel. You can hear the soothing sound of the waterfall from the gardens at the hotel.
On arrival, we were greeted by a massive bronze art structure in the reception called ‘Pillar Man’ – as well as a team of very professional staff, from the way they dressed to the way they handled our booking.
‘Pillar Man’ is one of a number of art pieces displayed throughout the hotel.
A grand staircase led up to our first-floor bedroom; a twin-bedded affair with a bay window with window seat and an enviable view of the garden. It was beautifully decorated, immaculate and with a lovely en suite with complementary toiletries, fluffy towels, and bathrobes and slippers.
Other additions include a mini bar, safe, hairdryer, digital TV, digital radio, complementary Wi-Fi, bottled water and fruit. There’s an iron and ironing board, luxurious duvets and beautifully-soft sheets, as well as tea and coffee-making facilities.
There’s an interesting variety of art on display in Jesmond Dene House, partly a collection from the University Gallery of Northumbria University, which ‘specialises in modern, international art with an emphasis on Norwegian and north-eastern artists’. The artwork includes sculptures, painting, drawings and photographs and virtually all pieces are for sale. The wire dogs (my favourites!) dotted around the hotel are made by a local artist called Gary Tiplady.
The Billiard room (no billiards!) is a sumptuous room where you can sit and relax with afternoon tea or a drink and read the papers (newspapers and magazines are provided). It has a very relaxing atmosphere and it was a tad tempting to curl up in here instead of exploring!
The Cocktail Bar is a grand room where you can enjoy a bar meal; it has a wonderful inglenook fireplace(sadly not lit in August) and cosy areas where you can unwind with a glass of wine. The staff were friendly, polite, courteous and charming and on-hand to cater for your every need.
The Great Hall is double height with a minstrel’s gallery and while we were there, it was playing host to a wedding. As this is in a separate wing of the hotel, it didn’t encroach on our stay at all and, in fact, a sneak peek at the proceedings showed this to be a wonderful place for a wedding reception.
The beautiful gardens are well-established and well-maintained and add to the air of opulence. There is a large patio where you can take in the view and listen to the running water from Jesmond Dene and the gardens also provide the hotel kitchen with fresh produce and herbs.
Stepping out to explore (there are maps and info leaflets aplenty in the reception area)… the Metro station is only 5 minutes’ walk from the hotel and it costs us £2.70 for a Day Rider ticket, although it's only 4 stops down the line into the city centre.
Newcastle is now a very hip and happening city and as well as being home to some chic shops and eateries, it also has a wealth of culture to enjoy. Across the river we visited the Baltic Centre, a former Fifties' flour mill, now a contemporary art venue. The Baltic houses various temporary exhibitions and also has a viewing platform at the top where you can admire the panoramic views across Newcastle and Gateshead.
The Tyneside Cinema on Pilgrim Street hosts art-house films as well as art displays and has a lovely little café bar. The Sage in Gateshead is an architecturally-striking entertainment and arts venue, and well worth a look. We enjoyed afternoon tea there while looking out across the river. And, as if it knew we were visiting, the Gateshead Millennium Bridge decided to tilt back to allow safe passage for river traffic – a fine show to enjoy with your cake!
We also visited the ruins of the castle, got some retail therapy in Eldon Square shopping centre, admired the sweep of Grey Street and the iconic Tyne Bridge. There’s certainly no shortage of things to see and do here!
Back to the hotel after a grand day out, we looked forward to dinner – and were not disappointed.
The food was utterly superb, from the full English breakfast in the morning, cooked to perfection, along with a tempting selection of continental delights to choose from (yogurts, pastries, cold meats and cheeses) to the fine dining dinner, served in the garden room, or in the dining room (a former music room).
We started with warm, sun-dried focaccia before embarking on starters of Confit Wild Salmon with gentleman’s relish and pickled Lemon, and hand-dived scallops. Main course was Spring Lamb Navarin with Carroll's Heritage Potatoes and spring vegetables, and Fillet of Beef with Dorset snails. Dessert was Dark Chocolate Sphere with Salted Caramel and Gingerbread Ice-cream, and Aerated Chocolate with Caramelised Walnuts Burnt Marshmallows and Chocolate Sorbet. To finish us off (literally!) there was a fine selection of petit fours.
For a foodie like myself, this was indeed food heaven. And not only did the waiters serve the food, they explained exactly what was on the plate, which made the whole experience so much nicer and was evidence of how much this hotel takes its food seriously.
On Sunday morning before we left, we decided to stroll through Jesmond Dene itself (departure time of noon at the hotel made this entirely feasible). We took in rustic bridges, the waterfall, crossed the stream using the stepping stones (large and not at all slippy!) visited the ruins of the old mill and banqueting hall and picked wild rapsberries. It makes a wonderful walk and we saw plenty of people dog-walking and jogging too. Originally part of Lord Armstrong’s ‘garden’, he added a bridge in the 1870s and eventually gifted the Dene back to the people of Newcastle. There’s even a Pets’ Corner (with pot-bellied pigs and peacocks!) for children to enjoy.
- Useful info:
Jesmond Dene Road
Call 0191 212 3000
- Prices: From £140 per room per night