We stayed here for one night as part of a package offered by the Great North Run for which you pay a flat fee for a night in a hotel and coach travel to the start the following morning.
The issue with this for us was that we were effectively arriving blind; the hotel was arranged as part of the package so we did not really know what to expect as we only had a name and address to go on. I think it is not unfair to say that the name does oversell the hotel a little as what it offers is good, basic accommodation at a reasonable price. 'Spa' suggests something rather different which I think is perhaps what we were expecting.
Something that lets the hotel down in the first instance is that it is very difficult to find, particularly at night as there is little street/outside lighting. The hotel is a converted military building and finds itself in the middle of an industrial estate between a double-glazed window company (complete with a large skip and various bits of window strewn outside) and half an aircraft which is used for staff training. In short, given our expectations based on the name, we wondered what on earth we had come to.
However, stepping inside our fears subsided somewhat as the welcome was very friendly and the reception area bright and fresh.
We were shown to our room (a sadly dying courtesy) and found that it had its ups and downs. The room was clean, the bedlinen and towels white and the bathroom spotless. However, the room was let down by the odd shade over the main light which cast the whole room in a pallid shade of sepia usually reserved for car parks and stairwells. This seems a minor gripe however it makes the room look gloomy and drab when you first walk in. Switching on the two wall lights and extinguishing the yellow peril really did make a difference and made the place much more inviting. Again, this is a question of first impressions which count for a lot with hotels.
The room and bathroom had false ceilings which I cannot stand however that is personal taste and it would be completely unfair to discredit the hotel on that basis. That said, a couple of tiles were stained in the bathroom which did not look great and could easily be fixed in a few minutes.
The bed was comfortable but it was extraordinarily creaky - I was scared to turn over in case I woke up the incumbents of the room next door. This was not an unfounded fear as I was treated to a delightful soundscape of their evening ablutions through what must be a very thin wall between our bathroom and theirs. Noise from within notwithstanding, the hotel is generally very quiet due to its location. We did hear the 6am departure go over as we were already awake however I don't think it would have been sufficiently loud to wake us up.
The shower - over a bath - was excellent with a very strong jet of good hot water bursting forth almost as soon as it was turned on. Toiletries were provided - Travelodge take note - and the towels sufficient to protect the modesty of this 16 stone, 6'3" lump (who was, perhaps unsurprisingly, only accompanying a runner).
Breakfast was a simple continental affair with a selction of cereals, fruit, yoghurt and toast. This was ample for us as we were up very early - it should be noted that the hotel had started serving specially at 4.45 to cater for runners which was much appreciated. The owner was also kindly giving people lifts to the coach pick-up point at a nearby hotel in his own minibus, something which he did not have to do.
To sum up, if you arrive expecting decent quality, if basic, accommodation with a cheery welcome from a friendly owner and a bite to eat in the morning you will not be disappointed. Don't let the location put you off.
*As a footnote - as has been mentioned by others there is indeed a large Alsatian which wanders about the corridors. Its presence was not mentioned when we checked in and we first saw it on our way to breakfast. It didn't bother us as we are dog owners and, to be fair, it hardly even looked at us as we passed. However, those who dislike dogs or have small children might be discouraged by its presence.
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- Also Known As:
- The Hotel Darlington
- The Spa Hotel Darlington