‘Sometimes you go to hotels and there are all these frames and pictures of people you don’t know, and you end up hiding everything in the drawer, and then housekeeping come and put it out again’ – Diane von Furstenberg
It had been on my mental bucketlist for as long as I can remember to visit Sherwood Forest but finally put pen to paper (well, fingers to keyboard) earlier this year and made it all official in the hope that I would actually get some of it done. And get it done we did this year in May (you can read more about that here)
Of course Sherwood Forest isn’t exactly a hop skip and a jump away from Newcastle so we needed somewhere to hang our hats at the end of the day. Fortunately enough Ringwood Hall hotel in Brimington near Chesterfield popped up on our weekly Travelzoo email with an offer that seemed pretty sweet; a two night B&B stay for two people for £119.00 (extra £10 per person if you stay a Saturday night) plus a complimentary bottle of wine if you book into their restaurant one of the nights. I’d noticed that the hotel had the exact same deal on their website so I called them and booked direct with them rather than Travelzoo, purely to make sure they had availability for a weekend we could make it but also to avoid having to faff about with vouchers.
We’re not a couple that goes away for weekends all that often. We had a terrible experience staying at a hotel near Darlington for a night lot long after we got together which I think put us off, plus just two nights away plus ‘doing stuff’ and lunches and dinners etc can easily get costly, we’d rather have a full week away in the sun for the same price. So needless to say I was anxious about staying here. Hotels that have ‘special deals’ on concern me sometimes; good quality places often don’t need to bother as they’re always full by reputation.
Of course It’s not been unknown in the past for me to be wrong and I really needn’t have worried staying at Ringwood Hall. It was actually really nice! When I’d called to book I was asked if we were guests at the wedding they were holding that weekend, when I said no I was told we’d be put in of of the little lodges on site but away from the main hall so as not to be disrupted by wedding guests. This was a good start as I hate noisy hotels. We were in the Gardeners Cottage right at the bottom of the property which was a cute little lodge of 4 rooms (were were in the Thyme room). If I were to be a little picky I would say there’s almost too much furniture in the rooms to be able to maneuver around (the bed was a super king at least) but it was furnished to a high standard and immaculately cleaned. Plus we weren’t exactly going to be spending all weekend in there so the lack of space didn’t matter too much. Plus being away from the main hall meant we weren’t disturbed at all at night.
Pictures borrowed from the Ringwood Hall website but are a good representation of what our room looked like!
We booked into the restaurant for dinner the first night as we weren’t due to be arriving until about 7pm and wasn’t sure what was around as any other option. As there was a wedding on the main restaurant was already being used so dinner was in a smaller dining room upstairs in the main hall. For starters we had breaded brie wedges (me) and pulled pork quesadillas (Dave). For main Fish & Chips (me) and pork medallions (Dave) and pudding we both had chocolate cake. The whole experience was slightly underwhelming sadly. The free bottle of house wine (white) wasn’t particularly chilled for a start. There was nothing wrong with the food, it was all nice, we just weren’t blown away by anything, plus the fish and chips came with fries, which I thought a really odd combination. The cake for desert, although slices were plentiful and very tasty (always a good combination) it seemed everything on the menu was cake, like the type of cake you’d have with a cup of tea rather in the afternoon rather than a pudding, which again I thought odd.
Breakfast, which was included on both mornings was a standard fayre of cooked and cold options and there was plenty of choice. They score extra points for having little portions or marmite to have with your toast, it’s surprising how few hotels stock it. The second mornings breakfast was marred slightly by the fact the toaster broke down and there seemed to be a right carry on getting a portable one plugged in. You don’t realise how important toast is to your breakfast until you can’t have any. Staff weren’t all that on the ball with refills of coffee and tea (a lot of them were young and seemed quite new) but were friendly enough when you asked for anything.
The hotel and hall are set among lovely grounds which are really picturesque and well kept. You can see why someone would pick it as a wedding venue as there are loads of little courtyards and garden areas for pictures. After having spend most of the morning/early afternoon at Sherwood Forest we came back and took advantage of the gym and small pool for an hour or so. Facilities at the leisure centre (which you have free access to if you’re a hotel guest) are limited, there’s a sauna and a steam room but no hot tub but it’s a nice little extra to kill sometime before it’s drinking time again.
We ventured out into nearby Brimington for the Saturday night which is a short 5 minute walk left out of the hotel grounds. It felt a bit like a local village for local people and the first pub we went into seemed to have a wedding reception in full swing so we didn’t stay there. We did however find the Red Lion, which, although not much to look at from the outside (or indeed the inside) it did real ale a pint and a glass of wine was only £4.80, that’s a pricing policy we can get on board with! We rounded off the night with a rather nice curry at Chutney Spice before merrily sauntering back to the hotel (the £4.80 round of drinks had a lot to answer for!)
All in all although Ringwood Hall had a few little niggly issues that prevented it from being 1st class, it has restored my faith in having a weekend away and not being so cautious on ‘special offers’ in the future. I loved that they have little lodges dotted around so you can still stay when there’s a wedding or an event on without feeling like you’re intruding and it’s driving distance from Sherwood Forest, Bakewell, and Chatsworth so there’s loads to do in the area.