In a land soaked in history, it’s no surprise that England boasts is an abundance of remarkable castles, grand country houses, and majestic stately homes.
Today, many of these historic homes have been converted into five-star boutique hotels, which is excellent news for the luxury seekers among us.
In this article, we explore the past and – importantly – the present of some of these wonderful residences in Northern England, particularly those in the breathtaking areas of the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District.
A brief history of the bucolic Yorkshire Dales and verdant Lake District
Image: Getty Images
To the west of the Dales is the Lake District; another epic national park that is often seen as the most beautiful area of England. As the name suggests, the Lake District is defined by its lakes – of which there are 16 – while it is also home to many mountains, including the highest peak in England, Scafell Pike.
Today, the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales are both frequented by British staycationers and visitors from around the world. We love these areas for their driving roads, which undulate, twist and turn around the hills and valleys, providing many gorgeous vistas along the way.
What are the best stately homes and castles to visit in Northern England?
The glorious landscape of Northern England is peppered with an array of imposing castles and impressive stately homes. Castles are slightly different to stately homes in that they were fortified to protect their inhabitants from invasion. To confuse matters, many stately homes are also called castles (for example, Highclere Castle and Castle Howard), but these are castles in name only.
Stately homes were built as homes for the aristocracy, and many of these are still privately inhabited. However, some stately homes are open to the public as living museums while many, as we highlight below, have been converted into lavish hotels.
Nestled in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, among 30 acres of pristine parkland, Grantley Hall is a 17th-century country house that now operates as a beautiful luxury hotel. Everything about this hotel is top of the range, from the English Heritage-listed Japanese garden to the exceptional spa and multiple swimming pools. Meanwhile, the fitness centre is also considered the most advanced hotel fitness facility in the United Kingdom. When it comes to dining, the Michelin-starred Shaun Rankin restaurant provides culinary experiences that are second-to-none.
Set on the banks of the River Tees in the North Pennines, Rockliffe Hall is a magnificent 18th-century estate that is widely seen as one of the finest resorts in Northern England. The five-star hotel offers a large spa complex, tennis courts and croquet, while golfers may find it difficult to pass up the opportunity to play 18 holes on the championship course – one of the longest in the UK. The rooms at Rockliffe are spacious and elegant, the service is top notch, and fine-dining in The Orangery is a treat for the senses.
The Belsfield is a charming Victorian property on the banks of the beautiful Lake Windermere in the Lake District. In fact, it’s the perfect location should you wish to hop on a steamboat for an exploratory cruise around this famous British lake. Back at the hotel, you can relax and enjoy a cocktail in the intimate lounge bar, before dining in the softly lit restaurant that serves modern British cuisine with an elegant twist.
The imposing Lancaster Castle dates back almost 1,000 years and is one of the country’s best-preserved mediaeval castles. This celebrated castle boasts a long dark history, from the Lancashire witch trials in the 17th century to regular public executions. The the castle was even used as a modern prison until 2011. Today, you can explore the grounds with guided tours and get a sense of what life has been like at the castle over the centuries.
In the heart of industrial Lancashire, you will find an Elizabethan jewel in Gawthorpe Hall. Fans of British period dramas will appreciate exploring this stately home, as the designer, Sir Charles Barry, also designed Highclere Castle, which rose to international fame as the title house in Downton Abbey. Like Lancaster Castle, Gawthorpe is not a hotel, but it is run by the British National Trust and open to visitors. You can enjoy exploring the architecture and original furniture inside, then wander the formal landscaped gardens.
Experience the best of Northern England on UDT’s British Legends Tour
The best way to explore this magnificent area of the country is by joining us on our luxury tour of England this summer.
Image: Ultimate Driving Tours
In this popular tour of the North, you can get behind the wheel of some of the world’s finest supercars from marques such as Aston Martin, Bentley, Ferrari and Lamborghini, and cruise through the winding country roads of the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North Pennines.
Your evenings will be spent relaxing with five-star dining and a night’s stay at the three hotels we discuss above – Grantley Hall, Rockliffe Hall and The Belsfield. Get in touch with our expert team today to find out more about this luxurious getaway.