“ Address: Chester Road / Northophall Village / Flintshire / Wales „
If you believe the marketing people then Northop Hall is the premiere place in Wales to hold a civil wedding. Having spent an evening there recently at a wedding there I'd beg to differ.
The hall is in a fabulous location, the grounds are superb, theres ample parking for around 40 cars and seating for around 60 guests wedged in like sardines in rows too close together to shuffle between. The room sanctioned for the ceremony would once have been absolutely stunning but was rather tired looking and could have done with a fresh coat of paint to spruce it up.
The entrance lobby boast a huge staircase but this opens onto an equally enormous door which sucks all the heat out of the building. Despite several archaic radiators and an enormous open fire one minute you were baking and the next the door opened and the temperature dropped significantly. Rather strangely the hotel lobby was full of tourist leaflets which detracted for the grandeur of the setting.
The reception room boasts authentic dark wood panelling and huge windows which would be rather majestic with fabulous views were it not for them being etched with the hotel name at eyeball level on each and every pane lest you forget precisely where you are. There are plenty of enormous picnic tables outside for summer months but no where for smokers to shelter in the bleak welsh winters.
Those with SatNavs were a tad confused by the hotels Chester postcode despite it being in Wales. Garmin owners didn't realise they needed to change the country and so struggled to find the place.
Dinner was quite frankly disappointing. A rather nice soup with a very dry bread roll was swiftly followed by chicken legs wrapped in bacon served with two roast potatoes and a selection of serve it yourself vegetables which were confiscated before we'd finished eating without asking I'd we'd like more. The service would have been more suited to a speed dating evening than a formal wedding. Barely had you finished the last mouthful than your plate had been whisked away and the next course appeared in its place. Desert was a mass produced tasteless cheesecake unimaginatively presented and unevenly cut with some guests receiving enormous portions whilst others were consumed in three small mouthfuls. Lukewarm coffee arrived in demitasse cups before we were evicted from our seats to make way for the live band.
The bar was overpriced but you come to expect that at isolated venues.
The toilets were nothing short of grotty with fag burns on the seats, peeling paint and taps which struggled to provide a trickle of lukewarm water. Not quite what you'd expect from the myriad of brochures describing it as a tastefully decorated Victorian mansion decorated to the highest standard.
Some friends were getting hitched in Northop in Flintshire, and although we're not a million miles away, we decided that we'd book a hotel for the night so that we didn't need to bother to drive (and also have a couple of celebratory drinks...).
If you've ever tried to book a hotel in this area, then you'll know that they're not exactly overrun with choice. We didn't want to spend too much, given that we'd be pretty much dumping our bags, going to the wedding, then crashing out. Just a clean room for the night with good shower facilities would be fine.
I booked the hotel via Late Rooms after skim reading the reviews on Trip Advisor (a fantastic website). The reviews were lukewarm, but I figured it was a step up from the local Travelodge. It was about £50 for the Travelodge for room only, but about £75 for the 'nicer' hotel - and with breakfast to boot too.
The hotel itself is located on pretty nice spacious grounds - quite pretty surroundings for a wedding, I thought (although the wedding that we were attending wasn't held there). The drive in is quite pleasant... and the car park is free. A good thing. I hate it when you have to pay to park at a hotel.
After the pretty views of the grounds, my first impressions of the hotel were... um, very average. This is not a grand hotel (it's 3*, incidently). It looked a bit on the run down side. A little bit shabby, but not 'shabby chic', sadly.
As we entered the main entrance, we found that we couldn't move any further. There was a bridal party having their photos taken on the staircase! Unfortunately, there aren't any alternative routes to reception, so we waited patiently until the wedding party had dissipated a little to allow us room to slink through. Not that I was bothered - I love weddings!
The check in process was easy enough and the receptionist was very friendly and polite, giving a warm welcome. We were given our key card and we went up to our allocated room.
From reading some reviews, I think that some of the rooms had been renovated and others hadn't. Seeing the wedding party dashed my hopes of getting a decent room. I was sure that the wedding guests would get the best, newest rooms...
This was confirmed when I opened the door. Shabby. It was decorated in 'country hall hotel' style, but it looked like the décor had seen better far days. For example, the carpet looked worn; there were marks on the walls, everywhere looked like it needed a damn good clean. The bathroom also looked the same - a bit grubby looking. I noted the smears on the mirror... Hmm, I knew looking at it that I'd wait until I got home for a shower.
Fortunately, because of the wedding, I didn't need to spend too long in the room, basically just crashing and then waking up in the morning and getting ready.
In fairness, the restaurant area where you have breakfast is nice... airy, bright.... this is a new addition to the rest of the old hotel (which actually dates back to 1872). Service was very average and some waitresses seemed to lack experience. If you're veggie, don't expect any 'special' treatment (me: 'Can you do a vegetarian cooked breakfast?' Waitress (after checking with chef): 'no'. Me: 'right'.). Then, I noticed that there was a table with silver tray thingys on. Ah, that'd be breakfast then. Coffee and toast is brought out to your table, but most of the cooked breakfast options are offered as buffet-style. In the end, I had scrambled egg and toast with beans.
Checking out was a smooth and painless process, but by then, I couldn't wait to get out to the fresh air. Partly to do with the after-effects of booze, but also to do with the gloominess and 'oldness' of the place.
I was pleased to get in the car and leave.
In fairness, my opinion of the hotel might've been different if I'd stayed in one of the better rooms. However, all in all, I would say this is one to avoid.
The hall is secluded in over nine acres serene gardens and woods. This 1872 year old structure has been transformed aesthetically for the comforts of modern day.