As far as afternoon teas go, the one enjoyed at Middlethorpe Hall was up there with the best as my wife and I ventured up the A1 into Yorkshire for our first post-Covid hotel break.
Working our way through the delicate finger sandwiches and dainty pastries set the tone for our two-night stay as we looked forward to indulging in all the pleasures we had sorely missed since coronavirus brought the hospitality industry to a shuddering halt.
The hotel had only reopened a few days before, but apart from the sight of the important new safety measures put in place, there was no reason for us to think this visit would be any different to any of our other pre-pandemic hotel stays.
As soon as we walked through the hotel's grand 18th century doors, our hands were sanitised and temperatures taken and as we were led outside for our afternoon tea there was the comforting sight of socially-distanced tables and waiters wearing the obligatory masks and visors.
Just two miles outside York, Middlethorpe Hall Hotel & Spa is an award-winning National Trust country house hotel set within 20 acres of gardens and parkland and was the residence of celebrated 18th century aristocrat, writer and poet Lady Mary Wortley-Montagu, who moved there in August 1713.
Inside the hotel, the main staircase houses a large painting of Lady Mary which greets guests as they venture to their rooms, but after the excesses of afternoon tea we opted to delay our slumber and instead walk off the calories by exploring the hotel's majestic grounds.
A leisurely stroll took us through the beautiful walled kitchen garden where there are an array of impressive flower displays and herb beds used by the hotel's chefs to make their delicious seasonal dishes.
From the bottom of the huge lawn there are some fantastic views of the hotel, which has maintained its plush 18th Century decor with many antiques and large paintings, giving it the feel of a well-kept private country house rather than a 29-bed hotel.
There are ten rooms and suites in the main house and 19 in the courtyard, all oozing opulence and elegance. Our suite boasted a giant four-poster bed and en-suite bathroom, along with some stunning views from the giant windows, where we were able to partake in a spot of deer watching.
Dinner was enjoyed in the oak-panelled 1699 dining room, where sumptuous offerings from head chef Ashley Binder's table d'hote menu were served with equal charm.
Our pick of the exquisite dishes, all based on traditional British cuisine, were the delicious salmon and mackerel starters, superbly-presented mains of chicken with chorizo and Waterford Farm beef and a chocolate and cherry dessert, all finished off with a selection of mature cheeses.
If you're looking to venture out during your stay, just a few minutes' walk from the hotel is pleasant Bishopthorpe village, where you'll find a few pubs, cafes and shops. In the other direction a little further away is York itself, where you might want to visit if you're staying for more than one night.
After two delightful days getting away from it all, a slap-up Yorkshire breakfast and caffeine fix before check-out signalled the end of our stay, but after spending months at home our visit to Middlethorpe Hall will always be the staycation that reminded just how wonderful life can be.
Website – www.middlethorpe.com
Tel – 01904 641241
B&B priced from £219 per night based on two sharing.
Special offer – 125th anniversary of the National Trust special Anniversary Break 2020, from £125 per person dinner bed and breakfast, including free access to the spa facilities.