To have and to hold

It’s not every hotel that can boast one of the Beatles spent his 24th birthday there.

But Holdsworth House in Halifax can do just that.

The fabulous Jacobean manor house was built in 1633 and despite being just three miles away from Halifax it has the feel of being in a secluded spot miles from anywhere.

After driving through rush hour traffic on a rain-sodden Friday we had a warm welcome in every sense. The scent of the real fires hits you the moment you walk in; there seems to be one dancing in every fireplace.

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The hotel has seen many a famous weary head hit the pillows over the years – the Small Faces, Cilla Black, Victoria Wood, Rudolph Nureyev, Bill Connolly... but arguable the most famous were the Beatles, who stayed at the height of their fame in 1964 – October 9, John Lennon’s birthday, to be precise.

Other claims to fame include Jamie Oliver, who stayed for five nights while filming Jamie’s Great Britain, and somewhat randomly the late Maharaja of Baroda, on old friend of the late owner Freddie Pearson.

We were lucky enough to have the suite where George and Paul stayed – although one suspects they wouldn’t have benefited from not one but two televisions and a wicked power shower.

The sofa bed was perfect for our four-year-old, who spent the majority of our stay running up the stairs then sliding down them on his bottom!

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He managed to contain himself long enough though to enjoy a wonderful meal in the restaurant.

After a relaxing drink by the fireside we headed through to the oak panelled restaurant and peered through the mullioned windows to get a glimpse of the beautifully lit gardens.

They were simply stunning – as indeed was the food.

We ordered from the market menu and were extremely impressed. My starter of curried parsnip soup was served with a flourish and was the perfect, comforting choice for a cold January evening.

Husband’s braised belly of pork with cauliflower and truffle puree was equally delicious and it even came with a mini toffee apple – genius.

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The little boss devoured his garlic bread starter with gusto and disposed of his home-made burger with ‘proper’ hand-cut chips, which he was most reluctant to share, bah...

The vegetarian option was a personal favourite – pea risotto.

Often attempted but infrequently mastered, the perfect risotto requires top quality stock and constant attention to achieve the desired creamy consistency. Happily the Holdsworth kitchen are obviously masters of the art and created the perfect specimen, bursting with colour and flavour.

My other half’s poached salmon was declared a triumph, and was accompanied by crushed potatoes topped with a egg.

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My dessert of dark chocolate fondant with ginger and orange anglaise was an exercise in pudding perfection – take note, Masterchef contestants who always get it wrong! And husband’s cheese board provided enough to round off the meal for all of us, ranging from creamy Yorkshire blue to a tangy smoked Wensleydale.

Breakfast the next morning was an equally splendid affair and featured arguably the best scrambled eggs I have ever tasted – and possibly the strongest coffee, it was absolutely spot on and cleared away any cobwebs the previous evening’s rioja had left.

After breakfast we were able to check out the fabulous gardens while the hotel commenced preparations for that day’s wedding.

We were especially interested as a friend is getting hitched there in the summer – and by all accounts it will be fabulous. In January it was the perfect venue for a romantic winter wedding; hopefully in August the sun will be cracking the flags in the private courtyard.

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The hotel even offers a proposal package for the perfect setting to pop the question – wonder how busy they’ll be on February 29!

After checking out (and having a quick word with the ponies in the field next to the hotel) it was off to Eureka! children’s museum.

Our little one has form there – he once threw the mother (and father) of all tantrums when we tried to prise him out of the play garage. But he’s a grown up four-year-old now and spent just the one hour in overalls, tinkering with engines and pretending to fill up with petrol.

Other attractions include a pint-sized M&S, a kitchen, a bank and a post office.

Kids can see their own skeleton, catch a wave, save a polar bear and build a house all in one day, no wonder he was exhausted when we finally got home!

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