Matfen Hall in Northumberland is The Ultimate Luxury Country Retreat

Matfen Hall in Northumberland is The Ultimate Luxury Country Retreat

Simon Wittenberg heads to the outskirts of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in North East England to enjoy a weekend stay at the luxurious country hotel, spa and golf estate.

Steeped in nearly two centuries of history, Matfen Hall, in the heart of the picturesque Northumbrian countryside, started off life in the 1830s. It was subsequently turned into a nursing home in the 1960s and then became a 31-bedroom hotel in 1999, after Sir Hugh Blackett, the great-great-great grandson of the man who built the property, inherited it in 1968.

Fast forward another 52 years, and it was time for the Blackett family to pass the baton to David Harrison’s Walwick Estate Group in 2020, following their purchase of the Grade II listed sandstone property. This significant sum spent also saw the acquisition of 300 acres of private land, which now counts a beautifully manicured 27-hole championship-standard golf course and a standalone driving range, complete with cutting-edge Toptracer ball tracking and touchscreen technology.

A photograph showing the interior of the Grand Hall

However, their investment didn’t stop there, as the historic country house underwent a further £15 million, five-month refurbishment programme, which reached completion last spring. This saw the preservation of many of the original features, an exceptional eye for detail, and the addition of a modern twist in some quarters so as to create an even more spectacular destination for Matfen Hall’s discerning guests.

A view towards the hotel from the golf course

Thanks to David Harrison’s long-term commitment to making this property a state-of-the-art venue for both leisure and corporate guests alike, work has now started on a two-tier clubhouse housing a restaurant for golfers and the refurbishment of bedrooms in the ‘newer’ part of the hotel is well underway. There are plans in the coming weeks to redevelop what is already a very pleasant spa area.

Sleeping and Dreaming
The hotel’s 65 individually-decorated rooms range from the 16 square-metre Classic category (starting from around £200 per night on an advanced purchase rate), to the larger 646 square-foot Luxury Suites. Matfen Hall also offers the benefit of having dog-friendly accommodation for those who wish to be accompanied by their pooches when staying at this property.

The upper floors of the country house can be accessed via the magnificent sweeping oak staircase in the Grand Hall. This is undoubtedly one of the architectural marvels of this hotel and is an exquisite centrepiece dominated by a pitched roof lined with stars, which towers over the magnificent stained-glass window, which would not look out of place in a cathedral, such is its splendour.

Following the recent revamp, bedrooms are now furnished with uber-comfortable and luxurious Hypnos emperor-sized beds featuring the brand’s top-of-the-range Lansdowne Cashmere mattresses. These are dressed in soft, crisp white linen made from high-quality and super soft 300 thread-count Egyptian cotton sateen and plump cushions bearing the symbolic Blackett coat of arms that is evident across this hotel.

Once home to staff offices, we had the privilege of staying in a 32 square-metre Luxury Room on the first floor (priced at £649 per night), accessed via traversing the old spiral sandstone staircase, which rises from the lower floors.

The décor in room 73 was beautifully accentuated with grey hues and large wooden beams suspended from the ceiling, offering a vista of the front courtyard and stone fountain.

The sizeable ensuite bathroom, furnished with Burlington fixtures and dressed with nicely-scented accessories from Penhaligon’s of London, is just as impressive, thanks to its large walk-in rain shower and bath for those who like to relax and recline in the tub.

Reflecting the higher price point of staying in a Luxury Room, this classification grants the privilege of a chilled bottle of Laurent Perrier champagne on arrival and being personally chauffeured in Matfen Hall’s very own luxury BMW X7 SUV, which we enjoyed from Newcastle station – around a 30-minute drive away.

The interior of the Cloisters Restaurant and bar

Eating and Savouring
The exquisite gastronomy served at Matfen Hall is overseen by the exceptionally talented head chef Ernst van Zyl, who boasts an impressive CV, having previously held positions at the likes of Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxford, and Noma in Copenhagen (Denmark).

Front-of-house is the domain of the highly charismatic and likeable six-foot-eight Restaurant Manager, Ollie. He is tasked with ensuring that guests are well looked after and brings a repertoire which spans making cocktails and sharing his exceptional knowledge with gusto on the range of wines housed in Matfen Hall’s private cellar to presenting dishes at the table.

There’s plenty to keep Ernst and his team busy, because there’s an impressive six different venues to choose from to eat and drink whilst staying at this hotel. Sitting next to the 1832 bar, the perfect venue to grab a pre-dinner cocktail or a nightcap, the more intimate 40-cover Emerald Restaurant (below) is Matfen Hall’s flagship eatery and fine dining experience and is a much more traditional setting fitting of this country house.

The dining tables in the Emerald Restaurant

It is dominated by ornate touches, such as the large open fireplace, peacock feathers, and bookcases lined with old tomes, whilst the high ceiling creates a real sense of spaciousness.

Priced at £155 per head, we enjoyed an eight-course tasting menu paired with wines spanning Petit Chablis to Port.

An example of the food in the restaurant

The cuisine is geared around freshly sourced ingredients from the surrounding area in Northumberland, and the portion sizes are adequately filling, taking in the likes of beetroot cured smoked salmon with pine nut and banana curd, and pickled Jerusalem artichoke for garnish, salmon and halibut with a delicious Roscoff sauce, and a doughnut-style bao bun with sweet pistachio sorbet on a bed of Isle of Mull cheddar, a dish where sweet merged seamlessly with savoury.

There’s also the added bonus of freshly baked bread and homemade whipped butter, and it must be said that any specific dietary requirements are very well catered for.

A mushroom dish from the Emerald Restaurant

In contrast to the Emerald Restaurant, Cloisters, which was once an outdoor courtyard before an extensive excavation, is orientated around a spectacular open atrium lined with sandstone arches and is Matfen Hall’s 70-cover à la carte restaurant serving British-style food from breakfast through to dinner. This was an eatery created as part of the refurbishment last year, and is nothing short of stunning.

A gorgeous mezzanine level suspended above the central bar, where we were sat, lies underneath the impressive pitched glass roof, which delivers a mirrored effect as night falls.

We enjoyed dinner at Cloisters, where we sampled a superb tuna tartare for our starter (£16), a delightfully presented fillet of salmon with braised chicory and pomme purée (£28), plus a side of roasted honey and sesame Piccolo parsnips (£6). We closed the meal with a confit apple and crème Normande dessert (£13), which can be described as a recipe similar to a deconstructed tarte tatin.

The afternoon tea awaiting guests on a table

Afternoon tea, which we also had the opportunity to try, is a must during a visit to Matfen Hall and is served in The Orangery, a conservatory-type space dressed with light green hues, replicating the colours of the surrounding parkland, visible from its large windows.

Classic afternoon tea, namely sandwiches, cakes and scones, and a wide variety of hot beverages, starts at a reasonable £35 per head and rises up to £60 each when opting for a flight of three glasses of Laurent-Perrier champagne (Harmony, Brut and Rosé), which is what we had.

The cake stand starts with a selection of sandwiches, such as smoked salmon and egg, plus a small quiche. The next level boasts a selection of golden raisin and cheese scones, whilst the exquisite hand-crafted pastries on the very top are the domain of Matfen Hall’s head pastry chef, Laurèns Le Gal.

A photograph showing the indoor swimming pool

Relaxing and Reclining
For those guests who like to take it easy and sit back during their stay, there’s ‘The Retreat’, which houses a spa with a 15-metre swimming pool, which sits under a pitched glass roof, bathing you in plenty of natural daylight when putting in a few laps.

Similarly, there’s access to a hot Jacuzzi, steam room, sauna, several experience showers, and the Aromatherapy Room, offering mood lighting and gentle heat. Then, of course, there’s also a comprehensive menu of treatments and rituals on offer, courtesy of the hotel’s luxury partners, Germaine de Capuccini and Natura Bisse. For something a little more strenuous, Matfen Hall boasts an extensive and very well-equipped exercise room, which has state-of-the-art machines that will impress even the most seasoned of gym-goers.

Mandy with an African Eagle Owl on her handExperiencing and Sightseeing
Matfen Hall delivers plenty of unique experiences as paid extras for guests, and one of these comes courtesy of Falconry Days, which gives the opportunity to enjoy the splendour of birds of prey.

With a sanctuary run by husband-and-wife team Mark and Mandy around 20 miles away from the hotel, they are able to bring a selection of birds (an African spotted eagle owl, a kestrel, a pure falcon, and a buzzard in our case), to the grounds of Matfen Hall for an impressive flight demonstration, where there is an incredible science to balance a single feeding hour at a precise time during the day, with the optimum flying weight for the birds.

These species tend to take to the skies for the purpose of gathering food, so they have to essentially be of the right number of pounds (they are surprisingly light), and hungry to ‘perform’.

What is also memorable is the chance to wear a thick leather glove (on your left arm only) to have first-hand experience of birds landing, which is astonishingly a relatively dainty and refined movement for what are essentially fast and aggressive hunters in the wild.

The ancient ruins at Vindolanda

Being nestled in the heart of the Northumbrian countryside, staying at Matfen Hall means you are just as well placed to explore the remnants of Hadrian’s Wall, which has been in the news recently with the sad felling of the iconic sycamore tree. In fact, travelling only half an hour through the undulating and scenic countryside, you arrive at Vindolanda, a collection of Roman ruins that are more than 2,000 years old.

These are still being excavated to this day at select periods during the year and form part of the extensive collection of artefacts on show at the on-site museum.

An elevated photograph of the rear of the property showing its expansive terrace

In summary…
Matfen Hall is the perfect luxurious retreat and all-year-round escape from the daily grind. There are so many interesting nooks and crannies to explore, with luxurious amenities at every turn, and where there are plenty of reasons to be impressed by this magnificent country house hotel.

However, what ultimately makes it such a brilliant getaway is Matfen Hall’s 122-strong team of staff, who create a highly personal approach, and who go the extra mile to create the warm and welcoming hospitality that will only leave you wanting to return again and again.

The interior of the Orangery

Matfen Hall – Where and How?

Matfen Hall is located at Matfen, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE20 0RH, United Kingdom. For more information or to make a reservation, visit

See reels showing highlights of our stay at Matfen Hall on the Luxurious Magazine Instagram page.

Thanks to Matfen Hall, Falconry Days, Parkers Chauffeurs, and Vindolanda for their excellent hospitality during our stay.

Photos courtesy of Matfen Hall.

The exterior of the hall at nightMatfen Hall in Northumberland is The Ultimate Luxury Country Retreat 2

Simon Wittenberg

Senior Editorial Contributor

Born in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and now based in London, Simon Wittenberg is the senior editorial contributor to Luxurious Magazine® reporting directly to Paul Godbold. A specialist in the automotive sector, he has now expanded his repertoire to encompass all aspects relating to luxury and lifestyle. Simon has worked with some of the world’s most iconic marques such as Lotus Cars, Ferrari and Tesla Motors. His passions include luxury goods, motorsport, fine dining and travel.

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