We don't have a lot of money to spare and so we try to make the most of our Tesco Clubcard points to buy deals (worth three.... sometimes four times the face value) to get away for a few days. We have always used them for Marriott hotels as we have found their hotels to be good quality with good service.
Rummaging through my saved vouchers, I found we had enough to pay for two nights in a hotel and also enough to exchange for meal vouchers in various chain restaurants making it a relatively cheap weekend.
~~Why did we choose this one?~~
Well ,when we were deciding where to go, I thought it would be nice to go somewhere we had never visited before and as my mother and also a friend had been to Durham and said how nice it was, I suggested we have a look and see if they had a Marriott there.
Yes they did and it looked to be situated on the River Wear in a picturesque setting according to the web site photos.
So I booked it for Thursday 11th and Friday 12th July. Actually.......when you use your Tesco clubcard vouchers, you have to ring a special number and they tell you what dates are available so you have to be aware of this. The dates given suited us fine though and we made a reservation.
The prices at the moment range from £94 to £129 per night per person and includes breakfast. In with the cost you are also able to make full use of the leisure club.
The Royal County Marriott Hotel is ideally situated! Just a short walk across one road and you are in the centre of Durham with all it has to offer. Just as well really as on the days we were there, the country was immersed in a heat wave and I don't think I could have done with walking miles to get anywhere.
The hotel dates back to 1630 and was originally several town houses linked together. Oliver Cromwell stayed on his way to the Battle of Dunbar in 1650 before it was even a hotel.
We parked in the car park about half twelve and went to reception to check we could book car in as we knew we wouldn't be able to have access to room till 2 o clock. What a pleasant surprise!! Our room was ready and we could take our things up there and then if we wanted to. This was a real bonus and the gentleman who dealt with us on arrival was most polite and helpful.
He also asked if we knew that the road outside the hotel would be be closed on our day of departure. This meant if we were wanting to leave during Saturday we wouldn't be able to get out of the car park. Whooooooooa!! We wasn't expecting that but he explained about the yearly Miners Gala that was happening and how the streets are closed for marching bands and parades etc. He advised us of another car park we could move our car to for the second night which wasn't too far away and we thanked him for the info. (Later on I googled about the Miners Gala and was amazed to see it had been happening yearly for over 100 years only stopping for the Second World War and during the miners strike in the eighties. Can't believe I'd never heard of it before!) The charge for the hotel car park is £15 per night and the shopping centre car park we found for the second night was £11.
We took the one and only lift up to the third floor to find our room 361.
We were very pleasantly surprised with our room and I have never seen a bed as big as the one that confronted us! Put it this way. My husband is 6ft 3 and I am 6 ft but we could have fit in the bed sideways with no feet hanging over the end! I think four people could have easily slept in the bed but we aren't into that kind of thing and managed quite well on our own! Looking on the back of the door at the floors plan, it looked like we had been given one of the four larger rooms. The room consisted of a wardrobe that had quite sufficient space and removable hangers for a couple of days. An iron and ironing board was lurking in the wardrobe and that's where after a bit of hunting I also found the hair dryer. Next was a cupboard that housed a fridge (empty) and the kettle with the usual tea and coffee selection. Several biscuits were also to be found.
Next comes the trouser press. Does anyone actually use these? Maybe business men do?? Who knows. A chest of drawers had the telly sat on top which was quite an adequate size but I don't go away to watch telly so mainly used for radio. The chest of drawers supplied plenty of storage space.
Also in the room there was a bureau/desk with a swivel chair in front of it and an oval mirror where you could do your make-up. There was also a comfy sofa and occasional table that had the folder with all the usual hotel blurb in it.
The décor was muted greens and creams which I found quite soothing and gave an element of opulence against the light wood of the furniture. I always love the bedding in Marriott hotels and can honestly say I have one of the best nights sleep in their beautiful and comfy linen! If I was rich, I would be buying some of their bedding and pillows!
Bedside tables and lamps finishes the room off.
The bathroom was basically decorated but was huge! Had the usual bath with shower over, sink, toilet and also a bidet! Plenty of complimentary shampoos/shower gels etc were provided.
The room had no air conditioning apart from a free standing unit the staff had put in room. The room was stiflingly hot and I found it a little uncomfortable whilst getting ready to go out for the evening.
An ice machine was situated along the corridor if you wanted to take some to your room for drinks or to chill some wine.
Wifi is chargable in the rooms but you can sit in the comfy bar area near reception to make use of the free wifi.
Usually when we go away for a couple of days, we are really lazy and order our breakfast for room service delivery but this time we decided to eat in the restaurant. We were greeted by friendly staff and shown to a table. A helpful member of staff explained all about the buffet breakfast and that someone would be over to offer us tea or coffee. The choice on the buffet breakfast was fantastic. Everything you could think of. Cereals, fruit juices, yogurts, fruit, croissants, Danish pastries, toast, and berries or nuts to sprinkle on your cereal.
The hot buffet had anything you needed though I am not a particular fan of hot food that has been pre-cooked and left standing. You could also order poached eggs or omelettes at a different staion, but while I was there I didn't see any member of staff there but I'm sure I would have only had to ask.
My huisband tucked into his full breakfast and said it was lovely. I had cereal and croissant with fruit juice. Husband had coffee and I had tea. The service was quick and not intrusive. Really enjoyed our breakfasts which set us up for the day.
~~The Leisure Club~~
There was a small gym available to use but we gave this a miss and went straight for the spa/pool area. I love swimming and planned to do a few lengths but the pool isn't really that kind of pool. It's not really very big and with two huge pillars seeming to split the pool up there wasn't a lot of room to swim. More suited to families maybe.
The spa pool or as I know it, Jacuzzi was lovely. Really hot and really bubbly!! Not far from the Jacuzzi was a small ice cold dip pool which I have never seen before. My husband has signed up to do a Tough Mudder assault course and one of the obstacles is an ice cold water swim so this was an ideal chance for him to get some practice in! We both had a go and wow!! It certainly wakes you up! We then went in the sauna to warm back up again. The steam room wasn't working whilst we were there, which is a shame as I prefer steam to sauna.
There are also some loungers around the pool so we chilled out a while before making our way to the changing rooms. Husband was full of how nice the mens were but I'm afraid the womens didn't quite live up to expectations. They were clean but the spinner for swimming costumes was not available for use as it had been ripped off the wall. The shampoo in shower room was rubbish. I had to try three attempts to get a decent lather to wash my hair. Also there was no plastic bags left to put wet costume in. The Gym/Pool Spa is available to locals at the rate of £48 per month!! I certainly wouldn't pay that for the facilities available!
~~How I found the hotel in general~~
Apart from my grumbles about the spa/pool area and the heat, I found this particular Marriott to be a lovely place to stay with quality rooms and service. I would ask for a room with air conditioning next time.
Staff were all very polite and obliging, breakfast was good and checking in and out was not a problem. Would recommend this hotel especially for its great location. Durham is a lovely city to visit! Just remember that the second Saturday in July is Miners Gala Day, and thousands descend on the city when a lot of the roads may be shut!!
Durham Marriot Hotel Royal County
Old Elvert, Durham DH1 3JN
A BIT OF SCENE SETTING:
This hotel is part of the Marriott chain but is an old hotel which was once the home of Elizabeth Bowes an ancestor of the Queen Mother. Apparently it was often visited when it was privately owned by Edward VII when he was up in Durham. It has had quite a large series of extensions and now boasts 150 bedrooms, some of which are suites and family rooms all and have en suite bathrooms ( As you might expect in a hotel I would have thought). This is a four star hotel right in the centre of Durham so perfect for a city break as you can park your car in the hotel (complimentary) car park and walk round the city which is very compact and just a hop over the road from the hotel.
We booked on the internet and got a special deal for two night's bed and breakfast and one evening meal for the £215 which I didn't think was too bad. I had looked at a number of other hotels, some were only slightly cheaper but were way out of town and others looked less attractive in the type of accommodation offered. I am not keen on B&B type accommodation as you are not quite as free to come and go - I enjoy the privacy of a hotel room. I also looked into accommodation in some of the University colleges but the thought of having to pad down the corridor to a shared bathroom in the middle of the night did not appeal so this is the hotel we chose.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE HOTEL:
As you approach the hotel you enter the car park through an arch way and then the reception area is obvious. There is no entrance that we found from the road - this rather odd car park entrance seems to be the only one. Once you are in the reception area it is very pleasantly decorated in muted colours and the reception desk is large allowing for more than one customer to be dealt with at a time. Check in was extremely easy and they made an effort to ensure my friend, who booked after us was put in a room on the same floor without us having to ask which I thought was a nice touch.
All the public areas around the reception area were open and furnished with quality sofas and chairs in small groups in toning colours. The bar in size was quite large but had several areas with tables so that you didn't feel you were too closely packed together. There was a grand piano but at the time we were there no-one was playing and in fact there was no memorable background music at all. The chairs were comfortable chairs not hard wooden things so we were able sit and enjoy a relaxing drink in pleasant comfortable surroundings prior to our meal.
The hotel has two dining rooms the County Restaurant which is more formal with a la carte and a daily table d'hôte menu while the Cruz Brasserie offers a more casual eating experience also serves the buffet breakfast.
THE COUNTY RESTAURANT:
The tables are well spaced so that you have plenty of privacy but this also meant that I felt the place lacked a bit of atmosphere as we were eating in the middle of an almost empty room. The tables were set with dark monogrammed plates which were removed once we ordered our food. There was quite a wide choice on the menu and with our included dinner most things were included but one or two had a surcharge.
My choice of starter would have been the scallops but that had a £.50 surcharge so I had a buffalo mozzarella salad instead, my husband choose air smoked ham with salad and my friend chose cauliflower soup. All the dishes were nicely presented and were fresh but they just lacked that extra pizzaz we felt. I had a small piece of buffalo mozzarella with a small pile of rocket, three cherry tomatoes then about four slices of tomato as well - fresh but very plain, as was my husband's.
Main courses - there were about seven choices but we were told that the lamb was not available that night so we were down to about six. There were two vegetarian choices one was a tart and u really didn't want anything too stodgy. The monkfish would have been my first choice but that had a £2.50 surcharge so both my husband I went for rump steak - we had to pay £1.50 extra for béarnaise or pepper sauce which I felt should have been included. We had steak, a pile of about eight chunky chips and small very tasty button mushrooms - plus the sauce in a bowl as an extra. The steak was quite hard work, the sauce was okay, and the chips were cold but the mushrooms delicious. Fortunately we were not that hungry and were only going for the three courses as they were part of our package. Mt friend opted for a second starter of fish and chips which looked quite nice. If we had wanted vegetables they were extra and had to be ordered as sides.
Desserts there were about seven choices but I have a favourite and if Crème Brulee is on the menu I look no further so I can't remember any other choices. The Crème Brulee was very good, in fact the best partof the meal.
We had to wait to be seated for breakfast and then a waitress came to ask whether we wanted tea or coffee after this it was a self serve buffet. Each table was nicely laid with cutlery, a napkins and a small selection of posh jams and marmalades, salt, pepper and sugar and milk in jug. In the buffet there was a choice of about half a dozen prepared fruits and also fresh whole fruit was available as well as fruit juices. Sealed individual pots of yogurt and a bowl of natural yogurt as well as a number of different cereals were also offered, and then there were also muffins, Danish pastries, rolls and toast. A selection of cold meats, smoked salmon and cheese was another selection and then the full cooked choices from various eggs, tomatoes, sausages, bacon also could be enjoyed by those with healthy appetites. My husband judges hotels by their breakfasts and he was quite impressed with this one though the meal the night before had been a disappointment.
To get to the rooms there was one small rather noisy lift so you would not want to arrive in a large party. There were also stairs which we used as we were only on the third floor and the lift was so slow. The corridors had fresh green carpets and were nice and clean looking.
Our room was large and open with an enormous king sized bed and a huge pile of pillows and cushions on the bed. It was decorated in sage and lime greens which I thought was quite attractive. There was a large sofa and another comfortable chair so we were able to sit and enjoy a read and a cup of tea without having to sit on the bed . A desk , a wardrobe and a couple of other units with drawers and a cupboard with tea making facilities also furnished the room and finally we had a satellite TV plus pay movies if we had wanted but at £7.50 per showing we didn't bother.
High speed internet access in all rooms but at a price which I believe was £15 for 24 hours which I consider a rip off as it would cost the hotel nothing to allow wifi to be included in the rooms with a pass code. This is a personal bugbear of mine as it is often free in much poorer countries and I only seem to be charged with hotels in places like UK or Australia, some places charged in the States whilst it was free in many hotels.
The bathroom was wonderful, large and decorated in white (floor tiles, bath etc), grey (wall tiles) and black marble (sink surrounds). We had two sinks, a separate shower and a bath with shower over. The toilet had a disabled access rail beside it and there were handles on either side of the bath. An interesting red string hung inside the bathroom which my husband decided might be the water heater ( as the water coming out of the taps was not really very hot); it wasn't we discovered as there was a knock on the door with a little man asking if we had pulled the red cord. I confessed that yes we had, he then explained that this sets an alarm off down in reception so could we please press the reset button. How embarrassing especially as I had to hastily wrap a towel round me to receive this information as my husband was ensconced in the bathroom. The hot water was warm enough for a shower but not for a bath and I had to boil three kettles to add to my bath to make it warm enough!
The toiletries offered were shampoo, shower gel and body lotion and soap all of which were based on aromatherapy ingredients and smelled of lemon grass which was pleasant and subtle like lemon geranium in the shampoo but the shower gel was a bit potent more like a lemon bath cleaner. The soaps were nice subtle lemon smelling too.
The hotel has complimentary (unlike the expensive internet) indoor heated pool, spa bath, sauna, steam room, plunge pool, sanarium ( steam and sauna combined according to google) and fitness room. I can't comment on these facilities as we were too busy walking around Durham to enjoy these.
Seven meeting rooms which hold up to 120 delegates are available and all are air conditioned and have natural daylight according to the blurb in their leaflet.
Good points- huge comfortable beds in nice airy rooms, convenient to the city on foot, free car parking, pleasant places to sit in public areas, good break fasts, staff friendly and helpful.Lovely historic building.
Bad points - food very average in County Restaurant, hot water not really hot enough in bath rooms, lift very small and very ancient
Would I recommend staying here? Yes I think it was very comfortable and certainly convenient for exploring Durham city. The food in the restaurant was disappointing and i would have been annoyed to have paid full price but as part of the package it was okay but it was nothing to get excited about but having said that we didn't see any other more interesting places to eat while we were walking around Durham anyway. It is the little things that let it down, like luke warm water in the bathrooms, very ancient tiny lift and average food in their signature restaurant. The rooms were lovely, the public areas very comfortable and the staff were also very pleasant.
This review may be posted on other sites under my same name.
I recently stayed at the Durham Marriott (regrettably, it was only for one night) and the experience was one that I will never forget - it was wonderful.
We stayed in a room called The Chandler Suite (I'm not entirely sure why it was called that) which comprised of a small sitting area with a television, sofa and chair, a beautiful bedroom with a queen-sized bed, dressing table, wardrobe, television and best of all Trouser press! hilarious as it also had an iron and ironing board, so not 100% sure of the neccessity of the trouser press, but we tried it out anyway. The bathroom had the usual facilities including a large jacuzzi bath and for once the complimentary cosmetics actually smelt nice - lemongrass rather than lavender, which can be a bit old-ladyish.
You could control the temperature in the rooms as well as turning on and off the air conditioning with a simple control by the door, which I thought was a thoughtful touch - the air conditioning kept the other rooms nice and cool after the bath had completely heated up the rest of the bathroom.
I ordered some icecream from room service, which was brought up promptly by a friendly member of staff, however, in the menu it said that the icecream would be £5.95, whereas it actually came to £8.45. Could the menu have been out of date? Or could that have been the charge for the icecream had I ordered it in the restaurant? Regardless, I have never paid so much for 4 scoops of icecream before, never do I ever intend to again!
We didn't eat at the restaurant of the hotel, nor drink at the bar, but we did have breakfast in the cruz brasserie, which was lovely. It was a self-serve breakfast, with different sections - cooked english, continental meats and cheeses, cereals, and baked goods. I had muffins and preserves along with some fresh fruit and a cup of tea, I can't remember what my partner had but it was of a similar amount - then the bill came. For one thing we hadn't been expecting that, because when we booked the room, we got the impression that there had been the words "breakfast included free". But now we discovered that not only wasn't the breakfast free, it cost £30 for the 2 of us! I found this slightly ridiculous, and my partner spoke to the concierge, but it seems that we had been mistaken and ended up paying through the nose for it.
The Durham Marriott also has a leisure club attachted to it including a swimming pool, fitness centre, sauna, sanarium, solarium, steam room, plunge pool, jacuzzi and tropical fun shower. Whatever the tropical fun shower might have done, I sadly didn't get to experience, as it wasn't turning on for some reason or another. The rest of the facilities were wonderful, I especially enjoyed the sauna and plunge pool, it was very refreshing!
All in all, I found staying at the Durham Marriott to be an extremely enjoyable experience, regardless of a few price hiccups, and I would be more than happy to stay here again.
I stayed at the Marriott Royal County recently whilst visiting relatives on a short break in Durham. The hotel is very easy to find as it is situated right in the heart of Durham city centre and set right next to the tranquil river Weir that runs through the city. Local shops are only a five minute walk away as are local pubs and restaurants. This hotel also makes a good choice if you're visiting anyone who is resident at the university as the colleges are well within walking distance. This is truly an ideal location from which to explore the cobbled streets of Durham.
The Marriott Hotel in Durham is quite a luxurious place. The building itself dates back to the 17th century, but despite this it possesses all the facilities that you might expect from a modern hotel. Inside you will find some luxurious historic features such as he magnificent Black Oak stair case, the wonderful Organ Clock and throughout the hotel on many of its walls there are fascinating original prints depicting various locations in Durham throughout the centuries.
The double bedroom that I stayed in was most elegantly furnished. There were fresh flowers in the room, the carpets were spotless. The adjoining bathroom, like the room, was also immaculate. The bed was very comfortable and the room smelt fresh. There was also a nice comfortable sofa in the room and two bedside tables with elegant reading lamps. The rooms also seemed well insulated as of an evening there was no problem with noise levels from the other rooms. There were plenty of facilities including a TV with satellite connection and also a socket for high-speed internet, although I didn't get to use it as I was without my laptop. What I liked most of all about the room though, was the wonderful view. From my room I could see the magnificent setting of Durham Castle.
The hotel has a large main dining area called the County Restaurant. Here breakfast is served as well as the main evening meals. There is plenty of variety on the menus but I did find a rather limited choice for vegetarians (as is often the case). The dining areas is spacious and there are plenty of tables. I usually took my breakfast at about 9.00 am and there were always at least two tables available. Breakfast is self service. Of an evening, as an alternative to the main dining area, you can relax and have something to eat in the smaller and less formal Cruz Brasserie. You can also hang out at the Durham bar which serves a range of exquisite cocktails as well as some of the finest selected beers from the region. The bar is immaculately clean and well run by friendly staff.
The hotel has a luxuriant lounge area and also a conservatory were you can relax and take afternoon tea. If you feel up to it, you can take advantage of the Leisure Club which comprises a gym, sauna and Jacuzzi. There is also an indoor heated pool which is absolutely beautiful with soothing lighting and plenty of greenery. If you get there early in the morning you might get the pool to yourself as I did on one occasion.
The service in the hotel was first class. There was a warm welcome upon arrival and I was made to feel at home as soon as I arrived. Everyone at the 24 hour reception was friendly and very helpful with any questions I had. When it came to checking in and out, the service was excellent and efficient. My bill was settled and we I was ready to leave within about 10 minutes of arriving at the reception desk. I only wish I could have stayed longer and I'm sure I shall certainly be staying there again in the near future.
One problem you might find is trying to find a parking space. There is a car park on site at the hotel but there are only a few spaces and trying to find a parking space nearby in the city centre is almost impossible. You might find yourself having to park a few miles from the city centre. However, personally I dont regard this as a negative factor because I think car use should be discouraged in such beautiful historic places like Durham.
All the details of prices and directions etc can be found at the hotels excllent website: