IT has been described as the 'Augusta of the north' and, walking up the superb final hole of Slaley Hall's Hunting golf course, you certainly get a sense of why.

The rhododendrons and azaleas synonymous with the famous US Masters track were not present at the Northumberland venue like they are in spring time.

But the towering trees which flank numerous winding fairways did provide echoes of the iconic American course.

The sunny skies certainly added to the aesthetic but the course - designed by Dave Thomas and opened in 1988 - is not just a pretty picture.

At over 6,500 yards off the yellow tees (and over 7,000 off the Championship ones), it has plenty of length.

And while it is admittedly pushing it to compare the speed of the Hunting's greens to Augusta, they are quick and tricky to read - at least they were to this mid-handicapper.

The par four 18th - which used to be the ninth before they switched the order round - is rated the hardest hole and it is also the best.

The tee-off demands a straight drive through a tree-lined corridor with danger lurking either side.

There is water to negotiate halfway down the fairway before avoiding the bunker protecting a raised green.

It's a tough but lovely finish to a course which has held numerous European Tour and Senior Tour events.

Slaley Hall also has a second 18 holes - called The Priestman, which was designed by Neil Coles and opened in 1999.

While considered the bridesmaid to the mighty Hunting, it is a good course in its own right which has a more open feel and offers some fine views over the Tyne Valley.

Together, the courses offer a great chance for a two-day golf getaway combined with a night at Slaley Hall's accommodation.

Just under nine miles from Hexham, and around three quarters of an hour's drive from Newcastle, its location is an idyllic hideaway surrounded by Northumberland forest and moorland.

At its core is a beautiful Edwardian mansion which houses the most attractive rooms and the hotel's bars and restaurants.

On entering, this is some what hidden by a more functional-looking quadrangle building where the majority of residents were staying, including us.

Our room was nothing out of the ordinary but had everything we needed and did the job.

If you are looking for something more special you can book a suite in the old mansion, which is often a favoured option for wedding parties.

Conveniently, it was only a short walk down to the spa and health club, which offers a whole range of pampering treatments.

While I was golfing, my girlfriend enjoyed a massage before making the most of the peace and quiet in the relaxation room to read her book.

After my round I joined her to lounge around the ample pool area on wicker sunbeds.

There, families and couples were making the most of the facilities, which include a jacuzzi, steam room, sauna and bar.

The swimming pool is not your standard rectangle affair but part of an attractive rock feature which incorporates a slide and waterfall which adds a fun element.

Mind and body suitable restored, it was time to sample the food and drink on offer.

We ate at Mr Kennedy's Brasserie - one of three restaurants in the hotel - where we opted for the three-course set menu for £28.

After a mackerel starter, the highlight was undoubtedly the 8oz Bavette steak and chips, which went down an absolute treat with a bottle of red. Sticky toffee pudding to finish capped off an outstanding meal, which was matched by the service provided by our impressive young waiter Adam.

After dinner we explored some of the hotel's oak-panelled dining rooms and lounges that give the hotel a vintage feel.

The Whisky Snug - which stocks around 60 malts - was ideal for some post-round reflection with a wee dram, as was Tommy Craig's - where we made the most of the many sofas to relax with a pre and post-dinner drink.

Breakfast the following morning was back in Mr Kennedy's - a fairly standard affair with continental and cooked English buffets. There was certainly plenty of choice to fuel up for another day's activity while gazing out on to the picturesque grounds of the Hunting course.

If the option of a second round of golf doesn't take your fancy, there are lots of other opportunities to pursue in the area.

Outdoor events company AllOut Adventures are based at Slaley Hall and offer activities ranging from clay pigeon shooting, quad biking, off-road driving, archery - even axe and knife throwing.

And if you just want to take in more of the beautiful scenery, there are plenty of woodland walks to try.

We were here just for the one day but could quite easily have spent longer at this idyllic hideaway.


One night golf break from £99 per person includes one night accommodation, two rounds of championship golf, an evening meal and full buffet break. (an extra night costs £159 pp).

Slaley Hall has two courses - The Hunting Course (Par-72 / Yardage 6,530); The Priestman Course (Par-72 / Yardage 6,273).

The Hunting opened in 1989 and was designed by Dave Thomas. The Priestman opened in 1999 and was designed by Neil Coles.

The Spa and Health Club features a swimming pool, gym, nine treatment rooms includes a Luxe Dual suite and finishing touches studio.

Run by Q Hotels, Slaley Hall’s accommodation consists of around 140 rooms.

Address: Coal Rd, Hexham NE47 0BX – Located 20 minutes' south of the A69


Tel: 01434 673350