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Review: Grantley Hall, Ripon, probably the UK’s most luxurious regional hotel

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This is our review of the Grantley Hall hotel near Ripon, Yorkshire.

Over the late May Bank Holiday we spent a few days in Yorkshire. It was, to put it mildly, a mixed bag – a night at the Moxy in York, two nights at a 3-star hotel in the coastal town where my Mum lives and then two nights at Grantley Hall, probably the plushest hotel to open outside London in the last decade.

I’d been meaning to try it since it opened in July 2019 but the pandemic – plus the difficulty in getting a room as there are only 47 – meant that it took us until now to get there.

This is NOT a proper review, because there is a lot going on here and I only saw a fraction of it. All you need to know is that if you like staying in luxury UK countryside hotels, and you’ve got £2,000+ to blow on a weekend break, I recommend it.

It’s actually marginally cheaper than Four Seasons Hampshire and the like, so whilst I’d hesitate to say £600 per night (£750 at weekends) for the cheapest room is a bargain, it is less than you can pay nearer the M25. And it is exceptionally good – my best hotel stay of 2023 so far, pipping Gleneagles Townhouse in Edinburgh.

Here are some random thoughts punctuated by photos:

  • the hotel used to be the ancestral home of the Grantley family before falling into the hands of the local authority and being used for educational purposes
Grantley Hall review
Indoor pool
  • it was restored by Valeria Sykes at a cost of £70+ million using, I think, the proceeds of her divorce from Paul Sykes. Paul made almost £1 billion from his part in creating one of Britain’s first out of town megamalls, Meadowhall.
  • the Sykes family is heavily involved in Ripon and the community and sees the development of the hotel – which is run by family members – as a way of driving jobs and money into the region
  • the hotel is exceptionally well run, astonishingly so given that it is not operated by a management company. The staff are, genuinely, operating at Four Seasons levels of service.
Grantley Hall review
Outdoor (very heated) pool
  • the clientele are more blingy than you would get at a similar hotel near London. This is, I think, a function of the personality types and occupations that are likely to make you wealthy in Yorkshire vs London. As an example, a third of the people around the indoor and outdoor pools were ordering champagne. I have never ordered champagne whilst sat around the edge of a 5-star hotel pool, in the UK or elsewhere, and I’d never seen anyone do it in the UK before Grantley Hall, where it seems to be standard behaviour
  • as another example, when we arrived there were three Rolls Royce cars and three Porsche cars parked outside the entrance (some may have been hotel cars). When we handed over the keys to our rented Kia it was spirited away to a hidden corner. Unlimited in/out valet parking is, of course, free.
Grantley Hall review
My child, not my car …. we rented a Kia
  • the spa and indoor / outdoor pools are exceptionally impressive – there is even a little outdoor sauna in a hut by the outdoor pool, if that’s your thing. Obviously there’s a snow room too.
  • there is a room near the gym where you can pop in to discuss chartering one of the Sykes family’s super yachts for a week
  • your room key is a little square piece of plastic (after all, why should room keys be as big as credit cards?) and, impressively, can also be used to unlock the lockers in the changing rooms. It sounds like a little thing, but this is the level Grantley Hall operates at.
  • it was also the first time that I’d ever had a room where the TV was covered with a painting, which slides out of view when you turn it on – see below
Grantley Hall review
  • you also get a decanter of fruit gin in your room because, well, why not?!
  • toiletries are by Bulgari and come in small bottles, not dispensers
Grantley Hall review
  • you don’t get anything in the way of views in the standard rooms (one of our two rooms overlooked the delivery entrance!) but this is one of those hotels where you have no excuse for being in your room given the scale of the facilities
  • I was impressed by this glass domed roof (below) – the cheaper rooms are in what is actually an extension tucked away behind one wing. It would have been easy to build a normal block of rooms, but instead you get this glassed roof which creates a green courtyard – four floors up.
Grantley Hall review
  • there are multiple nooks and crannies around the hotel if you need to crash out or simply do some work – small libraries, a sunken wine cave, little hidden lounges
  • you can walk (1 hour) from the hotel to Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and well worth a visit. Ripon itself is a very small city despite having a large cathedral – the cathedral is really the only thing worth seeing (don’t miss the crypt).
Fountains Abbey
Fountains Abbey
  • you know I said that the hotel only has 47 rooms? This doesn’t stop it having eight restaurants and barsShaun Rankin (Michelin-starred fine dining), EightyEight (an underground Asian fusion restaurant which is essentially Hakkasan moved to Yorkshire, Michelin-listed), Fletchers (the nearest it has to a traditional hotel restaurant and where breakfast is also served), Valerias (a Mayfair-style champagne and cocktail bar), Norton Bar (a more traditional wood pannelled bar), Spa Lounge (because why not set up a separate casual dining restaurant in your spa waiting area?), an afternoon tea lounge and The Orchard, a temporary tented Summer-only drinking and eating venue overlooking the lawns. Every meal we had was faultless.
Grantley Hall review
EightyEight (PR image)

I could go on but I won’t. The website looks great and tells you all you need to know.

How to book

You may need to book well in advance here, especially at weekends, given that there are only 47 rooms available. It’s worth noting that whilst it does a lot of society weddings the receptions are held in a stand alone building.

We booked via American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts. This was because I had 2 x £200 credits from my Business Platinum card to spend, and because we would get £80 of food and beverage credit per room thrown in and a guaranteed 4pm check-out.

Interestingly, for the first time ever, at check-in I was told that the ‘guaranteed’ Amex FHR 4pm check-out wasn’t available due to a large wedding party coming in. We were offered a three course lunch on the house (which ended up being £200-worth between the four of us) and a 2pm check-out which we accepted. We were actually planning to leave at 2pm anyway so we came out ahead. It’s not clear what would have happened otherwise.

If you don’t have Amex Platinum, our luxury hotel booker Emyr Thomas can book Grantley Hall for you. Extra benefits for his clients include:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Complimentary lunch for up to two guests, once during your stay (minimum value of $100)
  • Early check-in / Late check-out, subject to availability

All guests get free breakfast irrespective of how they book. You can contact Emyr via the form here – you pay the hotel at check-out as usual.

As Grantley Hall is part of Pride of Britain Hotels, you can make a small saving by taking advantage of the current American Express £50 cashback offer if you buy a Pride of Britain Hotels gift card.

The Grantley Hall website is here.

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Comments (122)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • His Holyness says:

    It’s impressive they’ve got not only competent staff but enough of them, both key to provide a “flawless” level of service. I wouldn’t have thought Yorks would be easy for recruitment. What’s the staffing profile-where do most hail from? Is there staff accom on site?

  • No longer Entitled says:

    There is life and wealth beyond the M25. Who knew?

    Hotel looks exceptional.

  • BJ says:

    Would you trade 10 nights at CP Harrogate (£65-75/night) for 1 night here?

    • John says:

      I wouldn’t, but my business partner (age 25) thinks I am an idiot for paying £75 for a hotel when I could get 6 nights in a hostel

      • Peter K says:

        The different perspectives we all have on the world are fascinating, aren’t they!

        • BJ says:


          I think I’m ready to invest @John provided your partner is controlling the purse strings 🙂

          Back on topic, despite generally failing to be seduced by luxury hotels, I find myself drawn by the photos of this one! 20th anniversary next Easter day, having postponed our Germany trip to celebrate for fear of Easter travel chaos, splashing out on a night or two here might fit the bill.

  • Greenpen says:

    Trying to work out why champagne by a swimming pool is a Northern Thing! Did they give some to their whippets perhaps? Or accompany the bubbles with a pickled egg?

    • No longer Entitled says:

      Just the usual inbuilt snobbery.

      Aside from the snobbery, the thing I detest the most is when the Southerns let their kids put their hands all over our cars. I think it says something about their personality and how they earned their money. 😉

      • Rob says:

        Just telling you that having done probably 100 nights at country hotels inside the M25 I have never seen anyone drinking champagne by the pool!

        • yorkieflyer says:

          Not been mixing with the gentry then have you Rob

          • Rob says:

            Try to avoid it 🙂

            Except, bizarrely, the only Lord I knew well was Lord Grantley, of Grantley Hall fame. We worked together for 3 years in the late 1990s and then we lived two doors down from him from 2007 to 2012ish. He was the younger son so hadn’t got whatever the family home was then and was ekeing out a living in banking and living in a terraced house in Chelsea. He had been booted out of the Lords with the Blair reforms.

          • Bagoly says:

            “younger son so hadn’t inherited” & “booted out of the Lords”.
            Challenging to reconcile.
            He was in the Lords from 1995.

        • Bagoly says:

          Just thought: “inside the M25” or “50 miles from Trafalgar Square”?
          The Four Seasons Hampshire certainly isn’t inside the M25!

      • GeoffreyB says:

        You do realise that Rob isn’t a southerner?

        • Lady London says:

          ‘ekeing out a living in banking’

          How very Knightsbridge

  • Nick G says:

    I was looking forward to seeing a breakfast picture…..always give me a sense of a decent hotel if they turn out well. Certainly knocks Rudding Park into a different league down the road, albeit not the same prices!

    • TimM says:

      Indeed, one of my criteria for judging a hotel or cruise ship is how well they cook a fried egg.

    • BJ says:

      All comes down to scrambled eggs no matter whether it’s budget or luxury end. If they don’t get them right they fail.

      • Rob says:

        Gleneagles Townhouse did better scrambled eggs.

      • AJA says:

        Another criteria I have is whether the orange juice is freshly squeezed. No decent hotel should serve any that’s been pasteurised, as that doesn’t count as fresh.

        • RussellH says:

          Why on earth should they not offer pasteurised juice? Give guests a choice, surely.
          I personally dislike the taste of fresh squeezed juices and much prefer pasteurised.
          You can have what you like, I can have what I like.

          • AJA says:

            Pasteurisation just allows juice to be kept for longer but it alters the taste, as you have noted, since you don’t like truly freshly squeezed. I on the hand don’t like the altered taste that results from pasteurisation. Each to their own.
            I suppose I agree that offering both options would be the best. But I still stand by my observation that offering truly freshly squeezed orange juice is a mark of quality.

          • yorkieflyer says:

            Ah freshly unscrewed orange juice as I recall the riposte to Basil

        • Harry T says:

          At the Waldorf Astoria in Amsterdam, they freshly squeeze the orange juice every morning for breakfast – it’s one hell of a hotel.

          • Chrisasaurus says:

            When I was a student the place I worked freshly reconstituted the orange juice every morning… Does that count?

  • OPB says:

    Why is your child touching that car?!

    • Londonsteve says:

      The thought crossed my mind too. With cars in that sort of league the grease left behind by a palm print in the centre of the bonnet can burn into otherwise flawless paint in the sun, aided by copious heat from the engine when in use, necessitating a light machine polish and restoration of the wax layer in to get rid of the mark. It wouldn’t be seen or noticed on a rented Kia, but Rolls Royce coupes tend to be kept immaculate by specialist detailers that have to deal with any mark that’s arisen between visits while doing a ‘maintenance’ clean. That work will, of course, be chargeable as an extra!

      • Mike Hunt says:

        Plus if there is any sun tan lotion on that hand it will mark the paintwork irretrievably

  • JDB says:

    This is very reassuring to see. The hotel looks great; the finish, fittings and features one can see in the photos and the description of the service all show just how deficient the top range big brands are. Independent hotels with proper service/genuine hospitality and an owner that is involved and cares will almost always win over half baked brand ‘standards’ and the brand manual service guide. Fortunately, despite the current rapid growth phase of the brands, many better independent options are available…

    • His Holyness says:

      It will help that these owners are not over leveraged. Many of those chain hotels have owners who are up their eyeballs, and takeout every penny possible from the business including the refurb fund. I’m especially thinking of one Greek family and another Cypriot, their arch rivals. Hotels done well are like restaurants, making money is a bonus but you shouldn’t open one with a goal to getting rich.

    • Bagoly says:

      Yes, I’m surprised that Rob is surprised about good service without a management company.
      Small hotels do have a challenge of being able to interest/afford a good General Manager.
      But 47 is not short of Tyler Brule’s recommendation of 60 as the optimum size.
      And theoretical room takings of 47 * (£600 to 1200) is not peanuts.

      • Rob says:

        Actually it is peanuts.

        Assume 47 x £500 exc VAT (assumes its is 100% full 365 days, which is nonsense, but doesn’t account for higher priced suites) – you have revenue of £8.5m. Assume 100 staff at £25k average = £2.5m.

        You’re left with just £6m to cover all of the running costs and maintenance plus, of course, get a return on the original £70m. Obviously I’m excluding restaurant and function income here but at the same time it is clearly not running at 100% occupancy either, and 100 staff is probably an understatement.

        (For those who don’t understand why interest rate rises slow the economy, this is a perfect example. With rates at 1%, putting £70m into a hotel doesn’t seen so crazy – if you get £3m per year back you’re receiving 4%. You wouldn’t make this investment today given that you can get 5% by staying in cash.)

        Re staffing – one thing a big group like Four Seasons has is the ability to flood a new hotel with staff from other hotels. Over time the hotel trains its own people – mainly by learning from those parachuted in – and the secondees go back. Not only does an independent like Grantley Hall not have this option, but it can’t even poach people from similar luxury establishments in the area because they don’t exist.

        • Froggee says:

          Rather than speculate. Most recent year to 31 March 2022 for the overall entity:

          Revenues. £16.8m. (£8.1m hotel, £7.7m F&B, £1m gym/spa)
          Cost of goods sold. £2.5m
          Admin expenses. £13.7m. (Payroll is £7.8m, 359 staff!)
          Other income. £1.0m. (Government grants and insurance claim, prob Covid)
          Operating profit. £1.6m

          And the balance sheet is basically the building carried at £85m. Only £3m owed to banks and a further £5m to directors.

          It would be a great hobby to have but it’s probably not the world’s greatest investment.

          Sorry, formatting will be a mess.

          • No Longer Entitled says:

            But if your aim is to give back then you are providing employment to 359 people, a career path for some, and you are bringing money into the area which will filter down. Against which it isn’t costing you anything other than opportunity cost because it washes it’s own face and at that level of wealth it should really be about wealth preservation anyway and this serves that purpose.

          • Froggee says:

            Indeed. Great hobby.

      • Tyler Brule says:

        Ahh a Monocle reader…..not sure they actually know anything at all about running hotels however.

  • Mike Hunt says:

    Great insight – thanks for proving there is life in the North

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