The Black Swan, Helmsley, Review

The Black Swan at Helmsley offers a warm Yorkshire welcome, with a history dating back five centuries. We spent the night at this stunning four-star boutique hotel and experienced true hospitality.

Nestled in the charming North Yorkshire market town of Helmsley, The Black Swan’s facade is a stunning collection of three properties from various eras, which offer charm and character, providing a cosy and inviting atmosphere.

The hotel is situated right in the heart of the town’s bustling marketplace, providing a unique opportunity to see true picturesque North Yorkshire in all its glory. Surrounded by quaint little boutiques and bookshops; butchers, bakeries and delis; charming tearooms and inviting, cosy pubs, there’s something for everyone to indulge in right on the hotel’s doorstep.

Helmsley is a gorgeous little English market town, surrounded by a spectacular display of historical beauty just waiting to be explored. The dramatic ruins of Helmsley Castle overlook the town, conveying a captivating presence with its wealth of character and ancient landscapes that feed the imagination with a charming insight into what it once was. Not quite brave enough to take on the full 110 mile long Cleveland Way, we did take advantage of the bright, sunny winter day and our position at the start of this magnificent route and walked the first 2 miles from Helmsley Castle to Rievaulx Abbey. Simply a must assuming you have time.

Also nearby is one of Yorkshire’s foremost historic houses and estates – Duncombe Park. Home to the Duncombe family, the estate inhabits Helmsley Walled Gardens within its grounds, bestowing five acres of exquisite charm that will enchant the eye of any keen gardener.

For those looking for cultural indulgence and intellectual stimulation, a therapeutic wonder around Helmsley Galleries will inspire a keen artistic interest with the impressive collection of artwork on display. Gracing the walls of The Black Swan Hotel, Helmsley Galleries currently exhibits a wide range of paintings by respected and award-winning artists, including Nicholas St John Rosse, David Howell, PRSMA, John Trinket, Yvonne Zomerdijk and Jay Kirkman.

The exterior of the hotel itself comprises of three distinct sections, Elizabethan, Georgian and Tudor, each of which was a former public house or coaching inn. According to our hosts The Black Swan was in fact always destined to become Helmsley’s principal coaching inn, when in 1838 it was decided that it should be run as a stage coach route linking Leeds and York with Helmsley. Known as The Helmsley Highflyer, the coach called three times a week at the Black Swan Hotel.

Now combined into one establishment, the hotel is warm and welcoming, with the interior decoration expertly combining comfort and style to create an inviting atmosphere, with a number of open fires and dark oak beams spanning the ceilings. We are told that many of the furnishings are made from local materials, which highlight’s the establishment’s pride in both its location and heritage. There are many gorgeous antiques on display in the hotel, alongside some extraordinary examples of contemporary art. The addition of the houses has led to the preservation of the historically important areas of the building and has also done much to enhance the overall character of the Black Swan Hotel, and this rich history combined with the sumptuous and stately furnishings provides the hotel with an atmosphere of grandeur.

Bedrooms in the hotel are cosy and sumptuously furnished with divine double beds which offer supreme comfort, perfect for relaxing in after a day exploring the Yorkshire moors. We were fortunate enough to spend two nights in the hotel’s only Junior-Suite, normally reserved for honeymooners and newly-weds! Located in the oldest part of the hotel, the bedroom in the looks onto the market place at the front of the hotel, and the lounge looks onto a peaceful churchyard at the side.

All 45 rooms are en-suite and come with thick snug duvets, warm homely furnishings, soft fluffy towels, luxury Molton Brown toiletries, Freeview flat screen televisions and Sky sports channels, as well as tea and coffee facilities. The vast array of amenities highlights the hotel’s dedication to obliging guests and adds to the feeling of luxury which pervades throughout the establishment.

To the rear of the hotel is a beautiful walled garden, expertly kept to reveal the areas true natural glory. During our stay it was too cold to sit outside, but in the summer months sitting in the hotel’s locally-crafted oak gazebo, overlooking the tiered walled garden would be the perfect way to spend a relaxing evening.

Relaxation is a key feature of the hotel’s facilities, and one of the highlights of our trip was a visit to the Tea Rooms, which are both charming and traditional, and offer a fabulous quintessentially English Afternoon Tea experience. There are also a range of light meals available, as well as a comprehensive selection of speciality teas and coffees, offering something for everyone. We were also surprised to see that the tea room is open all day, from 10am to 5.30pm, meaning that we were able to visit it despite having a full itinerary as we explored the Yorkshire countryside.

For those looking for somewhere enlivening to spend their evenings the hotel also runs The Cygnet Bar, which is open to both residents and non-residents and is the perfect place to relax and enjoy a drink with friends. Sitting in front of a roaring log fire, we enjoyed some pre-dinner cocktails and poured over the gloriously well thought out Tasting and A La Carte Menus. On the Saturday night of our stay, local singer & guitarist, Val Boyers played a roaring set and much to our surprise (and enjoyment!) she soon had the whole place dancing and singing along. One of our new local friends and long-time Yorkshire resident made us promise not to tell the world about “not-so-sleepy-old-Helmsley”, the town he proclaimed to be North Yorkshire’s best kept secret.

Alongside the stunning tearoom and bar the Black Swan also boasts The Gallery restaurant, which offers a wide range of dishes to suit a variety of tastes, combining fresh and exciting local ingredients with modern simplicity and bold flavours. During our two night stay we sampled both the six course Tasting Menu with the additional beverage pairing and the A la Carte Menu. The Tasting Menu changes according to season and availability but we found was an ideal way to sample (nearly) all of the best bits.

From the A La Carte Menu we sampled a stunning Beef Carpaccio with horseradish, mascarpone and nasturtium sauce to start, with a perfectly cooked Gressingham Duck Breast accompanied by sweet potato, beetroot and quince to follow. The dessert menu includes a luscious Chocolate Tart with banana, lime and vanilla sorbet, which makes for the perfect decedent end to any day.

Breakfast at the hotel is an exciting affair, with the establishment offering a full continental buffet is available with a choice of fruits, pastries, yoghurts, and cheeses. That’s just the beginning though! The full English is made to order and served straight from the kitchens, ensuring that all tastes are catered for. Ingredients are local and portions are hearty, just the preparation for a good walk across the moors. Staff are also willing to arrange room service for breakfast, enabling guests to relax in the splendour of their temporary accommodation should they wish.

Although the hotel is the ideal location for a short, relaxing break, the staff at the Black Swan are versatile, and therefore the hotel is able to cater for a wide variety of occasions, offering unforgettable wedding experiences thanks to its breath taking location and elegant style, as well as shooting parties, birthday celebrations, christenings, and corporate events.

Even ordinary visits can be enhanced, and the hotel is always happy to help every guest ensure that their stay is unforgettable. The hotel offer ‘Black Swan Moment’s, a package which involves the hotel arranging whatever is required to make a guest’s stay extra special,  from flowers and champagne in their room on arrival, to birthday cakes served after dinner. The hotel also caters for those travelling with children and is able to provide a range of DVDs to entertain them. Even pets are welcome, and during our stay there were numerous guests walking their furry friends, who would doubtless make the perfect companions for an exploration of the stunning Yorkshire countryside which surrounds the establishment.

Ultimately the Black Swan is the perfect location for a relaxing break, as well as providing guests with the ideal setting for just about any occasion. With its stunning Yorkshire setting, breath taking natural beauty and full complement of amenities, the hotel offers every luxury and will leave guests refreshed and relaxed.