“We're almost 100 feet above sea level,” said the taxi driver who was chauffeuring me from Thirsk train station across the Yorkshire Dales. “We'll be driving past James Herriot's house in a minute. You know, the man who wrote All Creatures Great and Small?”
It's the details which you should pay attention to in a place like this. Diamante tipped needle and thread sitting on an elegant pin cushion at the dressing table; locally sourced bubble bath; a Beatrice Potter style bunny rabbit on the bed to be used as an alternative to the traditional 'do not disturb' sign – Feversham has thought of it all.
But I was too heavily distracted by the view to take in his fascinating facts. In the space of a couple of hours I'd gone from city skyline to luscious green countryside, and the place I was heading towards was about to plummet me even further from everyday life.
The Feversham Arms sits on the cusp of the quaint little village square of Helmsley. The exterior of the hotel is very much in-keeping with the surroundings; earthy with the essence of a country manor house, but not in that stuffy sense. It has character yet not in an obvious way. Feversham has a discreet beauty that's contained within its walls for guests to discover. Once inside, this astonishingly neatly packed hotel actually hosts 33 bedrooms and suites, all of a decent size and an exceptional standard.
Escorted to my room, I was delighted to find out it wasn't actually a room but a suite, and better yet – a spa suite fit for a queen. It was a bit like opening a wardrobe door only to discover it's actually a custom-built, walk-in wardrobe. And it's full of shoes and clothes. Designer ones.
The spa suite is made up of a huge living area with a study, dining table and lounge all leading the way towards the balcony which overlooks the outdoor pool garden. On the other side of the suite is a king sized bed, a dressing table, and another door which opens up to the piece de resistance for anyone on a city break-away; a luxurious bathroom with two sinks, an open monsoon shower and a seriously deep bath.
But it's the details which you should pay attention to in a place like this. Diamante tipped needle and thread sitting on an elegant pin cushion at the dressing table; locally sourced bubble bath; a Beatrice Potter style bunny rabbit on the bed to be used as an alternative to the traditional 'do not disturb sign' – Feversham has thought of it all.
A visit to the on-site Verbena Spa at first seemed unnecessary given that I had my own private oasis right here. But then I spotted the outdoor hot tubs and heated pool from my balcony. Feversham Arms introduced the Verbena Spa to the complex as part of the five year development by current owner Simon Rhatigan who purchased the hotel in late 2003. His aim was to create a true hideaway hotel and the addition of the spa has meant the Feversham Arms is now the ultimate country break destination. The spa was a £1.2m investment for the team but it's paid off. A visit to this very natural and English feeling spa will leave you feeling 1.75million dollars – that's the currency conversion anyway.
Working my way outside in, I took a reluctant dip in the hot tubs on a bright but chilly day. I needn't have worried though; once in, it could have been the middle of winter yet you'd still feel safe and warm, wrapped in those hot bubbles and cedar wood. It's also very private with only a few of the spa suite balconies overlooking the area. Once my fingertips began to resemble mini prunes, I jumped out into the cold and headed indoors for the heat experience.
Verbena Spa is laid out in order of different experiences to put your body through in a specific order. There's absolute method to this order as well. It starts with the saunarium – the place to unwind and relax, as the Romans often did at the start of their bathing session.
You can really reap the benefits of a good sauna session, particularly as we spend most of our days jumping in and out of showers in a hurry. Verbena gives us the facility to really make a big deal out of getting deep pore clean. Once the pores were open, it was time to cleanse them, and onto the Salt Vapour room I went. Now we all know that salt cleans, kills and cures all manner of lurgies. In this room the air is filled with a salty mist which is like a health kick for skin cells. The result of 10 or so minutes in there is a bit like that of a five mile walk on Lytham beach front. Smooth, clean, refreshed and revitalised skin. Now if only I could can that sea air and take it home with me.
From the sea to the rainforest. The Monsoon feature shower provides the perfect cool down between each of the heat treatments and the Ice Cave enclosure quite literally awakens the senses. I've heard all sorts of theories about rubbing crushed ice on the skin to improve circulation and get rid of cellulite but regardless of whether there is any truth to them, there's something especially fulfilling about shocking your body with the cold stuff if you're brave enough. It's refreshing for you, yet calming for your pores which will subsequently close and bolt their doors shut after this blast of unexpected frost.
After drying off I sat back in the relaxation area swigging afternoon ice tea, which I might add is available all day long on tap. Verbena Spa has put as much effort into their waiting areas as it has the actual spa. Big fluffy cushions on snuggable suites, shelf-fulls of magazines in a room designed to make you sit back and think of nothing but Yorkshire. It was certainly my ideal date with the dales.
I was invited to try an express version of one of their treatments. There's nothing quite like a mini facial of an afternoon and these surroundings made it all the more indulgent. Elemis products are a favourite brand in many of the best spas and Verbena is no exception.
Preened and polished, I went for a wander in the local area. I was delighted to find a mixture of boutique clothing shops, stores selling local delicacies, antiques shops and pretty little tearooms all within a five minute radius of the hotel. I suggest leaving the car at home and embracing the village and countryside around you by foot. You can even pick up a Yorkshire Pass which allows you to see a number of the most popular local attractions for a one-off fee.
That said, if you really want to act like a celebrity for the weekend and lock yourself away in a plush hotel with the works, there really is no better place to do it. From the afternoon tea to the exquisite a la carte menu, if it wasn't for the enticing views and the tempting country air breezing through your balcony, you wouldn't leave this place at all.
“James Herriot,” as the taxi driver continued on the way back to the station, “was a Scot who fell in love with North Yorkshire and worked here all his life.” It's easy to understand why with all this great outdoors on offer. But what completes a getaway such as this is a place to stay with great indoors too.
For more information on the Feversham Arms please visit www.fevershamarmshotel.com.