“Pampering retreat near the North York Moors, with a slick spa, excellent restaurant and heated outdoor pool”
The decorative mix sounds odd: saggy sofas and battered leather armchairs, walls crammed with art (from botanical prints to abstract landscapes), candles in bell jars, colourful ceramic vases, modern slate bathrooms, and bedrooms with English garden wallpaper. Yet somehow it works. The laid-back ambiance charms both retired folk and city hotshots in need of a weekend escape, and there are plenty of cosy nooks to bag as your own. It’s the ideal retreat to return to after a day blasting away the cobwebs on the North York Moors, admiring ruined abbeys, browsing local antiques shops, and succumbing to yet another afternoon tea.
- The specialist Verbena Spa, with its 7 treatment rooms, steam room, sauna, outdoor hot tub and tempting menu of wraps, massages and hot stone treatments
- Delicious and refined modern British fare (wild sea trout, loin of red deer, 30+ varieties of cheese)
- Plenty of treats in the 33 rooms - Bang & Olufsen TV/DVD players, underfloor heating, duckdown duvets, robes, slippers and L’Occitane products; some suites have balconies or wood-burning stoves, too
- Historic Helmsley, with its pubs, shops and crumbling castle, plus the glorious North York Moors on your doorstep
- A wonderfully relaxed vibe; you could fall asleep on one of the sofas and no one would mind
- Rooms, though plush, aren’t to everyone’s taste - the décor is cosy rather than cutting-edge and some will find the teddy bears twee
- The spa is on the small side, and the sauna, steam room and hot tub can feel cramped if several guests are using them. You'll need to book in advance for treatments, too
- Dogs are allowed in most rooms, which might not suit future allergic guests
- The bells of the church next door sound the hours (and the quarters) from 6am until 11pm
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Bring flip-flops for padding around the pool, as the hotel slippers are not ideal outside. But don’t bother bringing any books or magazines; there’s an excellent choice in the lounges and library
- Book any spa treatments well ahead; it’s popular with day visitors as well as overnight guests, and slots fill up weeks in advance. The Thursday evening ‘Spa by Candlelight’ session is particularly popular
- Boutique Hotel
- Restaurant and bar (open daily)
- All ages welcome
- Open all year
- Heated Pool
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Board games
Spread higgledy-piggledy across the original building and a cluster of newer additions (built sympathetically from local stone), the 33 rooms offer - almost - 33 different choices. The style is country-contemporary: earthy colours or smudgy Farrow & Ball with chunky carpets, wool throws and cushions, tongue-and-groove panelling and, rather unusually, a teddy bear nestling on each bed. Often there’s an unexpected twist, perhaps a brightly striped headboard, a cherry-red wall, a sexy slate bathroom or a wood-burning stove.
Most rooms have tubs and showers (a couple of the smallest Petite Doubles are shower only) and all have the same little extras: Bang & Olufsen TVs with integrated DVD and CD players, decent fresh flowers (fragrant lilies, in our case), Elemis toiletries, bathrobes and slippers, and scented candles. In general, the more you pay the more ‘wow’ you get. The top-end Spa Suites are generous to a fault, with big bathrooms, elegant sitting rooms, bedrooms done out in soft colours and vintage-style floral wallpapers, and glass-fronted balconies overlooking the pool.
Our favourites were the Deluxe Suites, which also overlook the pool but have a cosier feel; Room 28 has low windows and a glass-panelled ceiling in the sitting area. Or opt for one of the Poolside Suites with their semi-private patios; the best is Room 22, which has a cottagey feel with a wood-burning stove and a dark-walled bedroom. Another favourite is Room 19 (one of the middle-ranking Classic Junior Suites), tucked away on the top floor, whose exposed beams, sloping ceilings and bold reds and greens make it feel wonderfully intimate.
Although not as flash, the Standard Doubles and Executive Doubles are still roomy. They are set in the old building, so they benefit from original features - Room 17 (a Petite Double), for example, has a lovely window seat.
- Cd player
- Central heating
- Coffee tea making
- Cots Available
- Dvd player
- Extra beds
- Fresh flowers
- Safe box
- Satellite tv
With 2 AA rosettes to its name, the Feversham Arms could be eyeing a Michelin star. The cooking is stylish, the presentation artful but not irksome, and the choice of dishes short but carefully thought-out
Plenty of local sourcing - North Sea fish, Yorkshire game - means the cuisine has clean but interesting flavours. We started dinner with a salad of rare-variety potatoes with sage mayonnaise; simple but tasty. Our main course of thyme-roasted cod was light and moist, while our pudding of Yorkshire rhubarb and ginger cream had me scraping the varnish off the plate. Sadly we had no room left for cheese - the cheese trolley with its 30-odd varieties is a star turn, apparently.
The conservatory-style dining room is both buzzy and intimate, with exposed ironwork and a glass roof. Its cherry-red walls, multi-coloured chair covers and crisp white-clothed tables set with tea lights create a warm, glowing atmosphere. It works equally well at breakfast, when the bright colours kick-start the day. Again, the choice is thoughtful without going overboard: smoothies, fruit compote and make-your-own muesli as a buffet, plus cooked offerings such as Helmsley pork sausages and locally smoked kippers. There’s also a gastropub-style lunch menu available in the lounge or round the pool, and a rather fabulous (though not cheap) afternoon tea.
This is foodie country, so if you want to eat out you’re spoiled for choice. A couple of miles away at Harome is The Star Inn (Michelin-starred until recently) and sister venture The Pheasant. The White Swan at Pickering (12 miles away) is a cut-above-the-rest pub restaurant, while the Feversham’s neighbour, The Black Swan, offers more classic country cooking. For something more modest, try Gepettos, Helmsley’s long-established Italian, or tuck into steaks and pies at The Feathers in the market place.
- Afternoon tea
- Children meals
- Coffee tea making
- Restaurants nearby
- Room service
- Vegetarian menu
- The hotel’s spa offers a range of age-defying facials and massages, along with exotic treats such as mud wraps, hot stone therapy and salt glows. Guests get free access to the sauna, steam room and outdoor hot tub
- A potter around Helmsley can take several hours: there are antique shops, delis, country outfitters and interesting bookshops to explore, plus any number of tea rooms and ice cream parlours
- The ruins of 12th-century Helmsley Castle, with its massive earthworks, soaring keep and Elizabethan mansion, tower over the town. There’s an audio tour, and the hands-on exhibition will keep younger ones amused
- Helmsley’s Walled Garden has been restored to its Victorian splendour by a team of volunteers. There are rare plants, a vegetable garden and orchard, and peaceful areas for sitting and breathing the fresh air
- The North York Moors cry out to be walked, whether you want to stride along the ridges or wander amongst the valleys. Printed routes are available from reception
- Ride on the North York Moors Steam Railway, which puffs its way through moorland valleys for 24 miles from Pickering to Whitby. It might look familiar as the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter films
- Romantically ruined abbeys worth visiting include early Gothic Byland, and Rievaulx, with its dramatic setting beneath wooded slopes
- Ryedale Folk Museum in pretty Hutton-le-Hole provides a walk-through glimpse into rural history. Its salvaged buildings are authentically furnished and include a shoemaker, a village shop, a manor house, a Victorian school and a potting shed
- Can’t be bothered to move? Take a dip in the hotel’s outdoor pool (heated to 30C year-round), sink into a sofa and snooze with the papers, or enjoy an old-fashioned board game in the lounge
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Historical sites
- Museums / galleries
- Plantlife / flora
- Shopping / markets
This isn’t an obvious family hotel - the majority of guests are couples - but children are welcome and the pool is a big draw. Cots, extra beds (for children under 12 only) and children’s menus are available, and the teddy bear in every room will please little ones.
Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years)
Family friendly accommodation:
Cots and/or extra beds can be added to most rooms free of charge. Some of the suites have 2 bedrooms, others can accommodate up to 3 children on a combination of sofabeds and rollaway beds. Extra beds are not suitable for children aged 17 and over.
The hotel can provide a list of recommended babysitters.
- Baby cots
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
Children’s menus are available, with a special high tea served in the restaurant between 5.30pm and 6pm. Note that under 12s aren’t allowed in the restaurant from 8pm onwards.
Kids Activities on site:
- Heated outdoor pool
- Board games
- Books and DVDs
Kids Activities nearby:
- Helmsley Castle
- North York Moors Steam Railway (12 miles away, and used as the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter films)
- Ryedale Folk Museum (9 miles away, with recreated historical buildings including shops and a Victorian school)
- Flamingo Land Theme Park (17 miles away, with rides and a zoo)
Families Should Know:
The pool area has no protection, so keep a close eye on young children. No under 16s are allowed in the spa or the hot tub.
- Airport: 1 hour (Durham Tees Valley or Leeds-Bradford)
- Shop: 2 minutes (Helmsley Market Place)