For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I recently had the pleasure of staying at the beautiful Langley Castle Hotel, Hexham. The castle itself was built in 1350 as a manor house, before being converted into a fully fortified castle, with walls 7ft thick in some parts. Through the years there have been many changes, and most notable it of course it being transformed into a hotel in 1986.
Since then it has undergone many renovations to take it from an 8-bedroom hotel, to 27 rooms including those in the converted stables (Castle View) and the manor house. We stayed in the manor house at the edge of the grounds.
It might be simply because it autumn, but the grounds of the hotel were absolutely beautiful. There were hidden paths around the back and side of the castle with hidden archways and a wedding ceremony area. I tried dropping hints to Shaun, but he didn’t bite!
We even found two peacocks, who flew out of our way onto a wall we had to pass under. Firstly, I never knew peacocks could fly, and secondly, I never know I was scared of peacocks! They were definitely thinking about attacking us.
The view of the castle from our room was amazing. There was a private parking space for the car, so I didn’t need to leave it at the castle. And there was plenty of tea/coffee/biscuits in the room ready for us.
We did however have a couple issues with the room, but it is to be expected in an old hotel. I do believe it needs some renovating to modernise it as our shower was temperamental, and there was an ominous tapping coming from the mini fridge which kept us up during the night.
Of course, back in 1986 when the castle was converted into a hotel, social distancing wasn’t at all a thing. However I do believe that the staff and management at Langley have put thought of a fairly successful social distancing and covid procedure. I’ll start with the positives.
In theory the procedures aim is to minimise the amount of time guests spend in the shared areas of the castle, such as the restaurant and front desk areas. A few days prior to our arrival we received an email with all the info we would need about check in/check out, dining situations and payment.
To check in, there is no contact with the key, and it is waiting for you in the door of the room already sanitised. Or at least it should be. When we arrived at our room, the door was open but no key. It wasn’t too much of an issue, as someone then brought it down for us, from the front desk, where we had just been…
With check out, you get sent your invoice 24 hours before checking out, or at least you should. We had to get our printed at reception. Again, no big deal, but it was just another thing that hadn’t worked out. They also said they were going to take payment for our stay before we had arrived, but we ended up paying for everything at checkout.
Neither of these things are really an issue. But I just don’t see why they’re bothing with the extra hassle when they can’t seem to implement it.
As for dining, it all works on a pre-order system, which again is a good idea, if done right…
The Breakfast Disasters
We stayed for two nights which means two breakfasts. The first night, after our evening meal we pre-ordered breakfast meals, as well as tea/coffee/juice, they asked if we wanted any extras such as fruit, pasty or cereal and booked a timeslot. So we ordered a full English for Shaun (without tomato and black pudding of course), and a full vegetarian breakfast for myself. So at 8:30 the following morning, we arrived at the dining room ready for breakfast. The toast, tea/coffee were all on the table ready, and after 15 minutes or so, our hot food came out. Shaun’s full English without tomato or black pudding was first, and then a regular full English was placed in front of me. So of course, I explained that I’d ordered a vegetarian breakfast (from this same waitress the evening before I might add) and she apologised and took it away. No problem, it happens.
She then came back and asked me ‘how i felt about black pudding’. As a vegetarian, I was very confused. Please tell me if any other vegetarians still eat black pudding, and if that’s at all normal. So I, as politely could without showing how confused I was, explain that I don’t eat black pudding because I’m vegetarian…
When she eventually came back with a plate of food, there were vegetarian sausages, an egg, mushroom, beans and BACON. Now then, at this point, I’m having a full-blown panic attack thinking that I am the blunt end of some sick joke. It took what felt like an hour for another waiter to be in the dining room to get the dead pig away from me. Honestly, I just wanted to leave and did not want to eat breakfast. Eventually, a more senior-looking server came over and ‘sorted’ it, by taking the bacon off and putting everything on a new plate. But as you can imagine the whole thing left a sour taste in my mouth. And that was only the first day.
The second breakfast incident…
In the evening we pre-ordered again for the following morning, in the same order (but stressed the words VEGETARIAN). This was the day we checked out so we were busy sorting our bags and getting packed. At around 8:25 there was a knock at the door and we presumed it was housekeeping so we just said we weren’t ready. About 5 minutes later as we were setting off to go up to the castle to get breakfast, we opened the door and here it was, breakfast, on a tray, outside our room.
Now then, this turned out to be better because we could have our breakfast on the balcony listening to the birds and enjoying the view. But it was a very bizarre situation! And in the hotel where I used to work we weren’t allowed to leave breakfast on a tray outside a guest’s room because someone could tamper with it etc. And even now during covid, I thought this would be even more so the case. Nonetheless, it meant we would have to walk up to the castle so we ate it happily.
With dining, again you pre-order the meal by getting a phone call during the day and order taken over the phone (not sure how this would work if you were out all day?) At Langley Castle, there are two menus, the relaxed dining and the 3-course set menu. There is 1 vegetarian option on the 3-course set menu, and that’s it, none of the relaxed dining. Luckily I eat fish (when I say I eat fish I mean cod and Tuna, none of that fancy seafood stuff!) so I ended up with fish and chips for tea and Shaun went for the burger. Because the restaurant is in-house, and you can’t go anywhere else you can often pay for that in food. However, the mains I thought were reasonably priced. Mine was roughly £16 and Shaun’s was £14. The desserts, however, were overpriced, they looked pretty but were £7 each which I just think is too much for the portion sizes.
We did, however, get a free bottle of wine with our meal as they had an offer on while we were there. It did end up on our bill, but it was easy enough to get it taken off.
The main problem with the dining was that we had exhausted the menu after 1 night. So we didn’t dine there the second, we drove into Corbridge which turned out to be an amazing decision as we discovered an amazing pub (blog post coming soon!).
We did however frequently enjoy drinks in the drawing room, which is absolutely the Gryffindor common room!
Overall, the beauty and picturesque castle was an amazing place to experience. However I don’t think I’d stay again, and I definitely wouldn’t dine there again based on this experience. But when we read the reviews, everyone was raving about how great the service was. I’ve worked in a hotel and the service industry and know how stressful it can be for staff, and can only imagine how stressful it is now with all these extra procedures on top. I just think we were unlucky enough to not experience the good service.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about everything in the comments. Have you been before, or experienced similar situations in other hotels recently?
Stay Safe, and Happy Adventuring!
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