I sometime think staying a single night doesn't enable a guest to adequately get a feel for a hotel. I'm sure if I stayed here longer (and if the traditional British weather wasn't in full force), my views might be nudged.
Overall, the first impressions are good. It's got a big gated entrance, a driveway, and looks like a high end English country house hotel. A to be fair, that's exactly what it is. It has, from what I saw through the drizzle, extensive grounds and a lake.
Inside, I felt it was a mixed bag. In some ways, they have kept the quirkiness of the old house, in others it felt like a slightly tired town centre hotel - particularly in places like the bar area.
Don't get me wrong. I emphasis, slightly tired. It's not really a major criticism, more a comment on the decor in some of the public spaces; but not in any way a big issue. The hotel in general feels quite comfortable.
Check in was quick. The room was a nice size. A semi-canopied bed, curiously high small windows, and a smart en-suite with walk in shower area. I noticed that the hot water was very quick - in fact surprisingly so for a hotel in this age of building. I suspect the room would have been fairly dull during the day with those small windows, but difficult to say.
Finding my way back to reception was momentarily interesting. One had to do a kind of dog-leg through a set of unmarked double doors. The only sign was for an emergency exit, so I at first I didn't think it was the way out to reception.
I didn't have dinner in the hotel, I met colleagues in Hartlepool for that, but I has breakfast. A nice choice and a well prepared full english. The staff were polite, although felt like they were all fairly inexperienced. We all have to start somewhere, but it didn't feel like there was one individual there who was the experienced mentor for the rest.
The only problem came at check-out. There were about three people in front of me waiting to check out between 7 and 7:30am. Nobody was at reception, despite another member of staff going to try to find someone. The first lady, clearly in a hurry, gave up and just left the hotel. The other two were waiting for some time before someone appeared. Eventually two staff members were on the desk, but it took a long time to process the other guests.
Curiously it didn't take them long to deal with me, but then my room was prepaid, so that must have made a difference.
My personal view is that I cannot say this is an excellent hotel. I have been to much much better places, and so I know what excellent looks like. On the other hand, it's certainly better than average, and Very good describes it well. I think my problem with the hotel is that from the outside I think it's going to be a luxurious country house hotel like some I have stayed in around the UK, but inside it doesn't quite fulfil that expectation. It is a good hotel. Nice, comfortable. It's just not special, and not luxurious.
Having said that, you are not paying luxury hotel room rates - so from that perspective, the hotel meets expectations.
So if you compare it to somewhere like Ellenborough Park Hotel in Cheltenham, it doesn't come close - but you are not paying the same eyewatering room rates. If you compare this to hotels with similar rates, then I would accept an excellent rating.
Hopefully that has clarified things rather than just confused you all.
One final comment: There is a hotel north of Hartlepool called the Hardwick Hall Manor Hotel, also a nice country hotel but much smaller and a bit more of the beaten track. You may want to ensure you book into the hotel you intend to. less