Review: Feversham Arms Hotel & Verbena Spa, Helmsley
Top of many a wishlist right now is a change of scenery and an 'away-from-it-all' feeling.
As we continue to navigate through travel restrictions for the family and some nervousness about holidays abroad, this is the time to really appreciate what is right on our doorstep.
Not much more than an hour away from the North East is Helmsley and when I visited last month I felt like I was a million miles from home.
The North Yorkshire market town has a handful of really friendly pubs and you must carve out some time to pop into the unique shops including The Ginger Bear where I picked up a lovely pumpkin-coloured work bag and a couple of pieces for my new home.
There is plenty to see in Helmsley, including the castle and walled garden, and much more if you're using it as a base for day trips.
But for me, my visit was purely about some great food and pampering in a stunning location.
Home for the night was the magnificent Feversham Arms Hotel & Verbena Spa and it wasn't difficult to settle into the beautiful suite with its luxurious, spacious bathroom, bedroom and separate lounge.
It was one of 33 rooms, from doubles to poolside and luxury spa suites, in the hotel which is so elegant yet relaxed and inviting, you can't fail to have a perfect break.
Hard as it was to drag myself out of the room, the sun was shining and the hotel has the most amazing Mediterranean terrace and outdoor heated pool. I'm a huge fan of North Yorkshire but, seriously, I felt like I was in the coolest Italian resort.
While in total switched-off holiday mood, it would have been wrong not to enjoy a gin from the lovely list on offer so I chose a raspberry gin and slimline tonic.
My gin was served with blackberries rather than the raspberries highlighted on the menu, which was quickly changed for me when I explained I really don't like blackberries.
And the hotel has its very own Feversham Arms gin. Teaming up with local artisan producer Hooting Owl, the gin, described as 'fruity', features signature botanicals and flavours from the surrounding area, such as seaweed and North Yorkshire Moors heather. Other ingredients include juniper, coriander seed, cardamom, liquorice, dandelion and burdock roots, red grapefruit and lime leaves, bilberries and bay taken from the bay trees at the front entrance of the hotel. No more needs to be said other than I have now started my Christmas shopping.
Time was moving all too quickly and before long it was time to change for dinner and take our table in The Weathervane restaurant.
It was a beautiful, warm evening and I felt immediately comfortable at a roomy table topped with crisp, white cloths.
I'd read the hotel's AA Rosette award dishes use locally-sourced produce and food foraged from the North Yorkshire Moors - and I was salivating having had a glimpse of the menu online.
We were treated to an amuse bouche of leek and potato soup and the most delightful warmed bread with Marmite butter, which was a taste sensation.
Starters were easy choices, for me, North Yorkshire Crab with radish, apple, fennel cracker and apple blossom and for my dinner date, hand-dived scallops with homemade black pudding, cauliflower, curry oil and pickled brassica - a delicate cabbage.
We hardly ever choose the same main course but couldn't resist the sharing dish of salt-aged fillet beef. I made a shorthand note of the dish description from the menu so I could do it justice, which was.....Salt-aged beef fillet with a beef cheek ragu, barbecue celeriac, Hen of the Woods mushrooms, asparagus, bone marrow & pancetta jus. Not much more I can say other than the fillet was melt-in-the mouth and the accompaniments were genius. The most difficult choice was dessert. I eventually chose coconut set-cream, fruit salad and lemongrass sorbet with a good sized coconut macaroon. My dining companion chose white chocolate cheesecake with Yorkshire strawberries and elderflower jelly. Fortunately for me, he doesn't like jelly and it would have been rude to have left such a delightful piece of divine dessert. It was such a lovely evening we took a walk around the market town, admiring some of the super-cute cottages before bed beckoned.
Breakfast back in the Weathervane was the next part of our all-too-short stay. Spoilt for choice with options such as Eggs Benedict, Eggs Royale, Eggs Florentine and of course full English or vegetarian breakfasts, my tick went in the box of the smashed avocado and poached egg served on toasted sourdough. Poached to perfection, the egg yolk drizzled over the avo and was a breakfast that really hit the spot before hitting the Verbena spa.
If you fancy a change from dining in the Weathervane restaurant, there are also options of the lounge and the spa-tisserie - and if the weather allows, an al fresco meal is something very special.
We'd booked slots in the spa's outdoor hot tub and Heat Experience, which has seven temperature-controlled areas including a saunarium, aromatherapy room, steam room, monsoon shower and foot spas. A fabulous way to ease into what was for me going to be two hours of blissful pampering.with my favourite Temple Spa products
I was booked in for the Verbena Spa's own signature treatment, Sacred Space Experience - literally a head-to-foot, out of this world, full body massage.
Starting with a warm, soothing full body de-stress massage, the therapist was generous with the oil which soaked into my needy skin. Warm Thai poultices, freshly made with therapeutic seasonal herbs from the Helmsley Walled Garden, were also used and then the grand finale of hot oil applied to my hair and scalp.
The therapist asked the pressure I'd prefer - which for me, was firm....very firm. And she applied the perfect amount of pressure so I could definitely feel the tension leaving my work-from-home sore shoulders. I also really appreciated the massaging of my feet and hands.
A two-hour massage without a break is a tough gig for any therapist so I valued the attentiveness and felt the treatment was very much tailored to my specific areas of need. I really did feel so relaxed for the rest of the day.
The whole experience was a-mazing so no wonder the spa has been shortlisted in the 2021 Good Spa Guide, which celebrates the best experiences in the UK. It certainly gets my vote.
The Verbena Spa has been shortlisted in the Best Hotel Spa category which is to recognise top facilities, effective and indulgent treatments, excellent food and elegant bedrooms.
This would be a super addition to the hotel's clutch of awards which already includes World Luxury Spa Awards, UK Resorts Spa Awards and Best Hotel Spa UK Conde Nast Traveller Readers' Spa Awards.
The hotel has been trading in Helmsley for more than 100 years and in its current form since 2008. The staff are so obviously proud to work at Feversham and are determined to make your stay the best they can. Clearly why a number of guests I chatted to were return visitors - a loyalty club I intend to join.
The Feversham Arms Hotel & Verbena Spa, High Street, Helmsley, North Yorkshire, YO62 5AG. (0)1439 770766
Rates: From £140, bed and breakfast, in a standard double room.
Email: [email protected]
www.fevershamarmshotel.com & www.fevershamarmshotel.com/verbena-spa