have slept at 9,000 ft above-sea-level before, but never – until now – in Yorkshire. Welcome to Grantley Hall, a remarkable new country house hotel near Ripon, where ‘altitude-adjustable’ bedrooms are merely the hors d’oeuvre in an eye-poppingly impressive buffet of sports and wellness facilities that make your average LA Fitness look like a nursery playground. Throw in a tranquil spa, 60ft pool and cryotherapy chamber and it’s little wonder the hotel has triumphed as Best Newcomer in the Conde Nast Johansens Awards for Excellence. In October, it also scooped Best Wellness Retreat title in The Sunday Times 100 Best Hotels. It is an astonishing story, made all the more astonishing because four years ago the Palladian mansion was almost in ruins. Built by Thomas Norton in the 17th century, Grantley Hall had been a family residence, WWII convalescent home and adult education centre in its time, finally languishing as a largely vacant holiday home in desperate need of repair. All that changed when Barnsley-born Valeria Sykes, stumbled across it on a drive around the eastern Dales in 2015. “Many years ago I’d enjoyed a decoupage course at Grantley Hall, and fell in love with the building. I thought it would be the perfect place to have afternoon tea,” Valeria reminisces. “Continuing on my Dales drive, my mind and heart began to race. I had a vivid vision of an incredible first-class hotel and at that very point, before even returning home, I decided to buy it.” More than three years of meticulous refurbishment later, the grade II*-listed mansion reopened last year after a £70 million facelift that
doesn’t so much beggar belief, as make you rethink what a country house hotel can be. Now in her 70s, the notoriously high-energy new owner has been heavily involved in the redesign, and her pride in all things Yorkshire is writ large: the beds are made in Leeds, Raisthorpe Manor damson gin fills decanters in every room, and portraits by Ruth Fitton, an artist from Harrogate, hang in the drawing room. A self-confessed perfectionist, the proud new proprietor has created a stunning luxury get away showcasing decadent decor which strikes a just right balance between cosy and contemporary. Crushed velvet russet sofas beckon from the oak-panelled bar and electric-blue banquettes add a fun urban-chic touch to the art deco pan-Asian EightyEight restaurant, one of three dinner options at the hotel. The others are the low-lit, dark-wood-panelled Fletchers and Shaun Rankin’s 38-cover, 10-course finedining restaurant. Lunch in the spa cafe is a health nut’s fantasy of mindfully delicious dishes such as kale pesto linguine and poached salmon; afternoon tea by the fire in the lounge is perfect after a two-mile stroll along the river to the 12th-century Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, a magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are 21 elegant rooms in the main house at Grantley Hall, each with a bath. The decor is resolutely classical, with beige carpets, earthy throws, velvet armchairs and (slightly) more modern versions of those little lampshades spotted in cosy alcoves on trips to relatives as a child. Room 21 is a favourite, with window seats overlooking the river and gardens.