A summer stay at Forty Winks Durham

When I organised my Easter weekend in Durham, I didn’t expect it to coincide with the hottest day of the year - it may only be April, but Durham is singing with summer.

Upon my arrival on the Friday of my Easter outing, I found myself stepping out of our Paceman into Mediterranean heat, in a city fragrant with spring blossoms and bathed in golden sunbeams. On the journey down New Elvet and across Elvet Bridge, the Cathedral rose in a haze over the winding River Wear and watched over the streams of people hopping from cocktail terraces to dinner gardens.

The hubbub emanating from restaurants and tourists made the city zing with vivacious vibrancy as I made my way to the sumptuous guesthouse I was to be staying in, cleverly named Forty Winks after its location at Number 40 South Street. The voyage up the cobbled street, lined with a sweet-box assortment of gorgeously unique and luxuriously styled townhouses, was surprisingly scorching; and so I was delighted when we reached Number 40, which stood perfectly opposite the towers of Durham Cathedral, and rang the bell.

We were greeted at the door by the wonderfully welcoming and incredibly chic Guesthouse Owner and Manager, Deborah, who ushered us into an enchantingly opulent lobby of curiosities.

We chit-chatted as she showed us the sumptuously decorated red-velvet breakfast parlour and the lavish reception, filled with books and overlooking the gorgeous garden which her husband was currently working in.

Underneath the sparkling 1920s chandelier, Deborah explained how this had been her family home for ten years, until last year she decided to turn eight of the ten plush bedrooms into guesthouse suites, sharing both the phenomenal Cathedral view and her opulent collection of paintings and unique artefacts with sophisticated guests.

Being the owner of some of Durham's most popular and chic restaurants - including florally adorned Thai restaurant Zen and 1920s inspired Shanghai supper club The Rabbit Hole - she has years of experience catering to Durham's noble visitors, and so her guesthouse is ran exceptionally. Standing by the side of a gargantuan taxidermy giraffe which they had imported from America, she also described how the family had collected a number of antique animals, in order to display them in an environment which appreciates natural beauty, whilst completely opposing modern hunting. Like a museum, her guesthouse showcases a huge array of items from a long-gone era filled with both glamour and curiosity.

Decorated with dozens of portraits and carpeted with leopard-print flooring, the stairwell was a gorgeous combination of seductive and sophisticated – and Deborah pointed out a charming Harry Potter quality to the multitude of paintings which adorn the walls.

The keys to our room were a cause for sheer delight – for not only did they unlock a divine golden bedroom parlour, with a luxury bathroom and whole host of lavish amenities (including a long soft lounge chair, sleek television, and Nespresso machine), they also unlocked the best view in Durham!

Not many people in the world will view such a magnificent Cathedral straight-on from the comfort of a squishy and thickly-quilted memory-foam bed as the sun rises and sets, so seizing the opportunity felt like a Bucket List moment.

Once we had our belongings settled into our lovely room, we explored the gems embellishing the grand stairway and admired some of the guesthouse’s other wonders, including a marvellous working Seeburg High Fidelity jukebox.

Exploring the city in the evening, we walked across Framwellgate Bridge with its exceptional Castle view, and enjoyed dining in one of Durham’s small family-run restaurants. On the way back to the residence, we picked up some sweet treats to enjoy in our cosy bed with a hot cup of tea (Teapigs teabags were provided in our room).

Before settling in, I optimised the exquisite bathroom to shower away the long sunny day, and it had truly the dreamiest interior and facilities, what with a sleek shower, gorgeous bath, a selection of divine Molton Brown shower gels and lotions, and even a heated towel rack (which was amazing).

During a warm and cosy night's sleep (wherein I caught more than forty winks) I woke up to watch the sun rise over the Castle and Cathedral, even taking a moment to read a book on the window seat as the new day’s beams began to shine.

With breakfast being served from 8am, we went downstairs after a small cup of Earl Grey and organising our bags. Into the exceptionally decadent red breakfast parlour Deborah provided us with two gorgeous breakfasts (I opted for sweet porridge with Durham honey, a pot of summer berries, tea, and fresh orange juice) and offered a number of suggestions about the best places to explore in Durham, from the Botanic Gardens to the nearby Crook Hall.

So after a morning of enjoying another hot summer’s day, we headed to the brand new Dim Sum and Tea Parlour at The Rabbit Hole, situated on the lovely Hallgarth Street and decorated with Chinese lanterns and wall-art.

Served by the friendliest waiters, we enjoyed a selection of incredible dishes, including vegetable spring rolls with a sweet chilli dip, gorgeous veggie dumplings, egg-fried rice and Singapore noodles, with the world’s tastiest iced lemon tea to accompany!

At the end of my summery stay at Forty Winks and wonderful lunch at The Rabbit Hole I spent the rest of the weekend enjoying the sunshine in the city - and I can't wait to return to my new favourite places to get the most enchanting night's sleep and enjoy many evenings of great food and soothing jazz!

My stay at Forty Winks Durham was kindly gifted, but all opinions are honest and my own.

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