Luxury break: sensational soul and Motown magic at Nidd Hall in Harrogate

ON a particularly warm and sunny October day at Nidd Hall a couple are playing croquet while, just a few feet away, a squirrel sits on the lawn, looking at them quizzically while munching on a nut.

How idyllic does that sound? Sadly I wasn't able to get to my phone camera quickly enough to capture this incongruous trio before the latter scampered off - but there were certainly more idylls to be photographed during our stay at this luxurious adults-only Harrogate hotel.

We were there for the venue’s weekend Motown and Soul Festival break, which saw three nights of marvellous music from fantastic visiting acts in addition to all the other activities a typical Warner Leisure Hotels break brings. But more of that later.

Nidd Hall is a Grade II Historic Hotel on the edge of the Yorkshire moors set in 45 acres of landscaped gardens, manicured lawns, ornate hedges, a picturesque lake and a calm and serene woodland area. Being there in October meant the vast amount of flowers were not in bloom, but I imagine a riot of colour during spring and summer.

Nidd Hall

A walk around these beautiful grounds took me to the tranquil Water Garden, surrounded by a variety of different plants and lily ponds, and the lake itself, home to a wide array of waterfowl and fish. Also, keep an eye out for the tiny doors hidden around the estate, which supposedly lead into the houses of the Nidd Hall fairies!

Nidd Hall’s decor is amazing with sympathetic touches to complement the building's Georgian splendour, with rooms and suites for all tastes and budgets but with the same common themes - elegance and luxury.

So what's on offer for a visitor to Nidd Hall? Well, included in the price is full board with a choice of two dining venues. Brasserie 32 is a waiter service venue for both breakfast and evening dinner, with a fixed menu you can peruse to see what you might have on other days. My favourite meals of the week were here, those being the sirloin steak in Diane sauce, and the honey and whisky-glazed beef short rib.

The Rawson Restaurant is slightly different in that your starter and dessert are brought to your table, but you wander down to the Market Kitchen to help yourself to your main course, be it a delicious daily roast with seasonal fresh produce or a choice of international dishes on offer for that day. This menu changes daily.

An aerial view of Nidd Hall and its grounds

So it's up to you whether to stay with the same restaurant during your stay, or mix and match, at no extra cost.

If you've come to relax, there are plenty of beautiful rooms to while away the hours at Nidd Hall. The Mountgarret Lounge offers big games and TV shows on a large screen, while The Drawing Room offers live music for piano and acoustic sets.

Quieter venues include The Library to kick back with a good book and your favourite tipple, as is The Viscount Henry sitting room, where we enjoyed an afternoon tea experience to rival any we might find in nearby towns. Remember to ask for a 'doggy bag' for the cakes you can't eat! Outside there are a few dining pods where you can have your meal, protected from the elements while enjoying the spectacular vista. These are bookable with the hotel for that extra treat.

For those looking to keep busy there are plenty of activities to enjoy. Rifle shooting and archery, both of which are supervised by a trained instructor, are included in the price, as is the gym, swimming pool, sauna and steam room, games room with full-size snooker and ping-pong tables and outdoor putting and croquet lawns. Dotted around the grounds are pieces of fresh air fitness equipment to stretch those muscles (and burn off a few afternoon tea calories...)

A view of Nidd Hall's terrace and ornate gardens.

There are numerous activities inside throughout your stay, with a shuffleboard tournament, bean bag bowls, quizzes and a movie matinee among the attractions during our weekend.

For an extra price you can try a cocktail-making or gin-tasting experience (both £15pp each) or why not indulge yourself with a relaxing treatment at the spa. My wife and I both enjoyed a soothing 40-minute Energy Booster massage under the expert hands of Emma and Nichola who reinvigorated our tired back, shoulder and leg muscles. Other types of massages are on the menu, or why not plump for a bit of deserved pampering with a manicure or facial.

The highlight of our stay was the evening entertainment and visiting artistes Darrel Smith and the Soulphonics, O'Jay City and Soul In Motion each brought their own interpretation of soul and Motown music, with vocalist Kurtis Ray White providing excellent support on all three nights. Acts set to visit Nidd Hall in the coming months include Talon - The Best of The Eagles, Jean Genie - a tribute to David Bowie, and TV actress and singing star Sheridan Smith.

For those after a bit of retail therapy, the town of Harrogate with its plethora of shops and famous tearooms, and the cathedral city of Ripon are just 18 and 20 minutes' drive away respectively, with Knaresborough again just 20 minutes away in the car.

The lake is home to a wide array of waterfowl and fish

At the latter we enjoyed a wonderful riverside walk, a trip to the castle ruins and a visit to the UK's oldest visitor attraction, Mother Shipton's Cave.

Over the past 390 years millions of visitors have been enchanted by the park's natural beauty, mesmerised by the Petrifying Well and enthralled by the unusual story of Mother Shipton and her cave birthplace.Well worth a visit seeing the everyday objects dangling from the well, collecting minerals and turning to stone in a matter of months, and the museum's celebrity petrified objects including Agatha Christie's handbag and a hat belonging to John Wayne! For more details and to book, visit www.mothershipton.co.uk

Other attractions just a short drive away include York (about 33 minutes), Newby Hall and Gardens (27 mins) the Himalayan Gardens and Sculpture Park, which has been the winner of the Yorkshire in Bloom Tourist Attraction award for the past two years (30 mins) and the country’s largest monastic ruin, the Grade I-listed Fountains Abbey (21 minutes).

So to sum up, Nidd Hall afforded a really enjoyable stay, with our being really looked after by smiling, attentive and professional staff who obviously love working at this jewel in Yorkshire's crown.

A three-night break based on two people sharing a room at Nidd Hall starts at £269 per person and includes breakfast, dinner, activities and entertainment. A four-night break on the same basis also starts from £269pp.

A Historic bedroom at Nidd Hall
The Lounge
One of the pods in which to enjoy an outdoor dining experience
The sirloin steak in Diane sauce at Brasserie 32
The honey and whisky-glazed beef rib at Brasserie 32
The entrance to Mother Shipton's Cave in Knaresborough - the country's oldest tourist attraction