Hubbie and I don’t do Valentines Day as we’re quite capable of expressing our affection for one another on our own terms, without having to set aside a specific day each year for the occasion. Instead we like to surprise each other with some damn good birthday experiences, and whilst nothing will ever top my 29th on safari in South Africa, or my 30th when we were snowed in at a Northumberland Castle, we always try to do something new.
So last year I took hubbie to the Seychelles for a weekend. Ok, so it wasn’t the actual Indian Ocean islands, but quite possibly the next best thing. After treating him to his first flying lesson over the Lake District (he’s a lucky boy isn’t he!), we drove across the country to North Yorkshire to spend a decadent and rejuvenating couple of days at the quirky and grandly-named Crab Manor, and the famous Crab and Lobster restaurant.
The 18th Century Georgian manor is the perfect destination for travel-lovers, taking them to exotic destinations all over the world without actually having to leave the UK. From Dubai and Marrakech to Tahiti and Mumbai, each room or suite at the Crab and Lobster has a different theme and is filled with antiques and artefacts from around the globe.
We drove up the gravelled driveway alongside the meticulously manicured gardens and parked our dusty old car next to the gleaming line up of Mercedes, Jaguars and 4x4s that have clearly never been used off-road.
It used to bother me that although we have luxury tastes we’re still country bumpkins at heart and never quite feel like we can convincingly fit in with the jet set. Yet hubbie reasons that our fellow guests are probably just like us beneath the bling and he is more than happy to park next to a flashy vehicle as his car will be the last in line to be stolen!
After checking in at the main house, admiring the eclectic collection of copper kettles, flat caps and unusual crocodile heads in the entrance hall, our luggage was taken down to our thatched suite which was tucked away in the immaculate gardens.
I’d chosen Bird Island, which was themed on the Seychelles, and had not only a hot tub on the private terrace, but also a sauna inside just for the two of us. Hubbie was impressed with his birthday surprise, although it was probably just as much the scrummy Yorkshire Tea tray as anything that floated his boat!
We spent the first afternoon alternating between the sauna, hot tub and shower (complete with my favourite Molton Brown lotions and potions), until we decided we were in danger of getting too wrinkly. Luckily there were fluffy bath robes and slippers provided for shuffling in and out of the room with a little dignity.
I’m not actually that great with saunas (I don’t do heat), but as we were able to control the temperature I gave it a whirl and found that afterwards my skin felt like a baby’s bottom. Which apparently is a good thing. The first sauna I ever had was a baptism of fire, quite literally. I lay gasping for breath inside a traditional Andean thatched pod in Peru, lasting less than 5 minutes before running out and dive bombing into the serene little cloud forest pool to cool down. Don’t think the locals were impressed. The sauna in our Bird Island suite smelled divine and I found myself continually walking past the door just to get a whiff of the pine and subtle eucalyptus overtones. Definitely my new favourite aroma!
I’m getting quite used to sampling different hot tubs around the world, but aside from the one we had in Cappadocia with a volcano view, this one at Crab Manor is one of the best. It was totally private being screened from the garden with foliage, and we spent ages soaking in the bubbles with a glass of wine, watching a tiny wren hopping about the hedgerow. Not often do you get to see a wren so close!
By this time we were so relaxed we were almost falling asleep, so went for a stroll around the gardens before dinner. There were lots of leafy hollows and statues hidden in rose beds, it would make an amazing place for a summer wedding! We met another chap taking a turn around the lawns, apparently he only lives down the road but comes here for the peace and tranquility.
Back at the main house complimentary evening canapés are served in the lounge between 7-8pm, but we managed to miss them what with all the steam and bubbles going on in Bird Island. Turns out it was probably just as well given what was on the dinner menu.
Despite polishing off the contents of the tea tray earlier, we were ravenous by the evening (such hard work sitting in hot tubs and saunas!) and soon made our way through the grounds to the Crab and Lobster Restaurant, which is part of the hotel but in a separate building to give overnight guests some privacy. Never have I come across an eating establishment quite as quirky as the Crab and Lobster. Every inch of ceiling and wall space was crammed full of assorted sea-related (and non-sea related!) bits and pieces. There was everything from diving bell helmets, fishing nets and lobster pots (naturally), to ancient tennis rackets, drums and even train gauges.
In keeping with the oceanic theme, I opted for the seafood pie which was bursting with scallops, prawns and mussels, topped with cheesy kipper mash (now that was a new one for me!) and came with nutmeg and buttered greens. The portions were huge (a bit too big really as there was no room for pudding), but hubbie’s choice really was enormous. It should have been whale and chips rather than ale-battered haddock with all the trimmings. They say give a man a fish and he will feed himself for a day…this monster could’ve fed a family of 4 for a week I reckon! Still, never being one to back down from a challenge, hubbie managed to clean his plate, to the admiration of fellow diners who had been rather unsubtly keeping an eye on his progress.
After staggering back to the Seychelles we found that turn-down service included more Molton Brown goodies, a girl can never have enough of those! We opted for one last soak in the hot tub before climbing wearily into the comfy bed and it wasn’t long before we were fast asleep.
Breakfast next morning in the restaurant pavilion was a relaxed affair, though it was a bit surreal sitting with overhead divers and buoys at that time in the morning.
Naturally we sampled the full English which met hubbie’s seal of approval, whilst discussing what we’d dreamt about last night. I’d drifted off with visions of rocking in hammocks beneath palm trees and swimming languidly in tropical azure oceans. Hubbie on the other hand dreamt about being eaten alive by the most colossal beer-battered fish in the world.
And the moral of this story is…always have the fish pie!
- Arrive at check-in time so you can make the most of the facilities
- Rooms in the Manor House don’t have private hot tubs but there is a communal one which guests are welcome to enjoy
- The entrance to the hotel and parking area are further up the road from the restaurant
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