The secret’s out! Sited in a county blessed with a kaleidoscope of landscapes, on the doorstep of vibrant Durham City with its grandiose cathedral and imposing castle, a Unesco world heritage site no less, Ramside Hall Hotel, Golf and Spa offers golfers the opportunity to conquer two of the finest championship courses in North East England.
The heather-clad moors, peaceful dales, waterfalls and woodland, together with the spectacular Durham Heritage Coast, are testament to the fact that Mother Nature was on flawless form when creating County Durham. As for city architecture, the Normans clearly pulled out all the stops when constructing dramatic Durham Cathedral on its craggy promontory, which towers over the medieval city below.
A stone’s throw from Durham City, Ramside Hall Hotel’s 36 championship holes scenically shape the rolling County Durham countryside. Fresh-faced contender, the Cathedral course opened in September 2014, whilst the well-established Prince Bishops course has been tantalising golfers since 1996.
With expansive undulating fairways, large greens, and mounding, which gives the feel of an inland links course, the Cathedral course plays very differently to its older sibling. The Cathedral’s open fairways, constructed on the hilltop plateau, are exposed to the elements so correct clubbing on windy days will be an unknown entity. But sheltered holes running through the picturesque valley will make up for this – especially the par 3 12th hole (an Augusta ‘Golden Bell’ tribute), with its green nestling in a sheltered corner, menacingly fronted by the ‘Sherburn Beck’ and accessed by a handsome, hand-built stone bridge. On a sunny day, a deck chair and a good read wouldn’t go amiss. With nine lakes and the ‘Sherburn Beck’ tripping its way through the course, long rough during summer months, well-guarded greens and sweeping dog-legs, the young Cathedral course can be quite a handful.
Contrastingly, the Prince Bishops course fairways are lined with mature trees (50,000 of them); the greens are softer and tiered, rather than with swales as on the Cathedral course; and target golf comes into play more. From the 1st, ‘Awa ye gan,’ to the 18th ‘Gannin’ hyem,’ every hole is named after a well-known Geordie expression – a Northern-Northumbrian dictionary will come in handy. This is a great walking course and the fairways are forgiving, although there are 10 holes where water comes into play and 9 dog-legs to contend with: risk will be your reward on a number of them. Prince Bishops is a pretty course with panoramic views from the 9th tee that stretch across to Durham City. Challenging but fair, there are some great holes over water – aptly named ‘Aad sneaky’ springs to mind; it’s the canny par 3 15th hole, all carry to the green and out of bounds behind it.
Guests, on the unveiling of the new luxury spa and health club in July, can enjoy a heady array of leisure facilities and ESPA spa treatments. The signature treatment menu guarantees to unwind, calm down, and deliver sleep solutions. Revivify with a rhassoul mud bath, coddle yourself with a top-to-toe pure radiance ritual and, for the ultimate sheer indulgence, surrender your body to a four-handed massage with warm oil and hot volcanic stones. Total bliss! Burn through the calories of last night’s award-winning meal in the state-of-the-art gym; go for a swim in the 25 metre pool, or a dip in the outdoor infinity pool; then kick back with an exotic cocktail and tantalise your taste buds with authentic creations in relaxed Fusion, the spa’s Asian restaurant.
Ramside Hall Hotel successfully melds timeless luxury with cutting-edge design. There’s a distinct country manor ambiance in the original building, which includes romantic four-poster rooms and, in the brand new premier wing, designer chic contemporary rooms. Check out the new premier doubles, with Juliet balconies or French doors, an opulent bathroom with a walk-in shower and free-standing double bath, a royalty-favoured Hypnos bed, free Wi-Fi, air-conditioning and lots more – they’re lush. Style-seekers, if the budget will stretch, should opt for the jaw-dropping, drop-dead gorgeous turreted premier suite and submerge yourself in its huge, round free-standing copper bath, soak up panoramic views of the golf course, get lost in the 7 foot Hypnos bed, and wide-eyed at the 90 inch TV.
Sup a pre-dinner tipple and hang out with celebs every night at Ramside Hall Hotel in the ‘Bar of the Stars’ bolt-hole. You’ll be following in the footsteps of the likes of Prince Andrew. Caricatures of the rich and famous who have stayed in, or visited, the hotel adorn the walls in this cosy bar with its intimate alcoves. Foodie fanatics and voracious carnivores will meet their match in the award-winning Rib Room Steakhouse and Grill. The succulent locally sourced Durham steaks are to die for; you can view them maturing through the restaurant’s meat locker window. And every day is a Sunday in the informal Pemberton’s Carvery; the roast is a sacred Ramside tradition.
Stroll to nearby Durham City park-and-ride to visit the strikingly beautiful Durham Cathedral – one of Europe’s greatest medieval buildings and the resting place of St Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede, often referred to as ‘the father of English history’ – but book in advance to tour Durham Castle, a working university building. Green-fingered guests should make the 4-mile foray to Crook Hall and Gardens. Durham City’s 13th Century Grade I listed medieval hall provides a spectacular backdrop to the gardens. History buffs should venture 14 miles across country to explore one of the UK’s most significant historic buildings, Auckland Castle, palace of the Prince Bishops of Durham for almost 900 years; and journey 11 miles to take a tram ride back in time to the 1820s, 1900s and 1940s at Beamish, The Living Museum of the North.
Set in a sprawling parkland estate, family-run Ramside Hall Hotel, Golf and Spa is a 4-star hotel that offers 5-star service. Boasting two of the best golf courses in the region, award-winning cuisine, and a stunning multi-million-pound spa (opens July), it is one of the top resorts in North East England.
Golf tips from the golf pro at Ramside Hall Hotel, Golf and Spa:
- Trust your first instinct on the course as its normally right
- Trust your first read on the green, we sometimes over-read putts
- Trust your game while playing and only change away from the course and not mid-round
Check out our latest Ramside Hall Hotel, Golf Club & Spa deals. Call 0845 0 70 70 90 or email us today.
Linda Jackson is a golf and travel writer. Former associate editor of Great Golf Magazine, her work has been published in over 40 different titles, including The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal.