My wife and I visited Augill Castle for our 1st Wedding Anniversary, just before New Year. We both decided to stay somewhere 'different', and a castle seemed the ideal spot. It would form the first night of a short tour of the northern Yorkshire Dales.
Before booking, we consulted the website, and the promise of a unique, quirky room in a beautiful remote setting, coupled with a friendly, sociable welcome, seemed to be perfect.
Upon arrival, we were met by a very friendly and welcoming girl, who showed us around the ground-floor facilities, and booked us in. We were delighted with the castle - it was stunningly beautiful, superbly appointed and looked very comfortable - it seemed to promise so much. Our room proved to be very cosy, imaginatively decorated and comfortable. Thus far it was everything we had hoped.
We noticed on the website that dinner was to be a communal affair. The only reason we did not stay for dinner was the fact that we were on our wedding anniversary night, and wished to be alone for a while. We hoped that we'd get the chance to engage with the sociable aspect the castle promised later in the evening. This was not to be, however.
Unfortunately for us, the castle management - in our humble opinion - were not forthcoming as to just how welcome children were in the communal areas of the castle, nor to what extent. The ground floor of Augill Castle comprises seven rooms available to guests, all in a roughly linear arrangement: a cinema, conservatory with honesty bar, library, music room/lounge, dining hall, reception, and further lounge.
From approximately 4.30pm until 6pm, young children were permitted to run freely up and down the entirety of the ground floor, playing games, shouting, throwing things, leaving things everywhere, slamming doors, and tunelessly playing a grand piano. This was fine, we thought - kids are kids, they need to play and burn off steam. So we took our leave and left for Kirkby Stephen for a (very) early dinner at a restaurant. We enjoyed a long meal, hoping that when we returned to the castle, the children would have either settled down, retired to one room or activity, or gone to use the cinema for example.
We returned at 8.30pm, and the exact same game of very loud hide-and-seek was still in full flow, again spanning all seven rooms. This made relaxing, conversing or reading impossible, We both moved several times, to see if the problem was us, or maybe we might find a quiet corner. It was after all, a stunning place to relax in. This was not to be. The parents of these children were either oblivious, non-caring, or absent - their dinner was served at 8, and whilst they enjoyed their food, the children (whom had eaten earlier) were free to roam.
As the piano was struck up once more, we gave up, and went to our room.
As the castle is (obviously) an historic building, allowances must be made for things like creaking floorboards. Unfortunately, once too often, children's pounding footsteps thundered past the door. I went outside to ask a parent if they would mind keeping their children quiet outside our room, to be sarcastically greeted with "They're only playing...".
As I went downstairs to fetch a couple of drinks from the bar, there were younger children playing on the stairs. I politely asked them to excuse me as I returned up with drinks in hand, but was greeted with another rude guest. I fully appreciate that any guest house cannot legislate for the behaviour of their guests, but I feel I must mention this in context, as the frustration my wife and I were experiencing was building.
It was fully ten o'clock by the time the noise abated, and we went back downstairs. This time was wonderful - the lounge areas are extremely comfortable, with hot fires, sumptuous furnishings and atmospheric lighting. At 11, the staff signed off for the night, turning all the lights off bar one, leaving us to our own quiet time. This was very pleasant, albeit very brief.
Breakfast the next day was perfectly perfunctory, well cooked and delicious. The staff were also courteous.
We left shortly after, headed for Askrigg.
So why the low rating?
My wife and I have never before been so frustrated with a stay away. We have stayed in many varied places, and none have caused us to reflect quite as much as Augill has.
It has a huge amount to recommend. The location is magnificent - easy to find, yet rural and secluded. The scenery, grounds and building are stunningly beautiful. The castle is wonderfully furnished, and on paper promises a fantastic experience for anyone wishing to get away from it, relax, and enjoy a friendly welcome.
Unfortunately, our night there was anything but pleasant, overall. The enormous frustration of young children being allowed to run unhindered throughout the entirety of the communal areas, creating as much mess and noise as they wished was intolerable. It essentially rendered the whole of the downstairs pointless for us, and as nice as our room was, it certainly was not worth £160 per night to spend our whole night in.
The enormous frustration came that, even late into the night, there was not a quiet retreat for guests without children. Just one room was all it would have taken. There were seven rooms available downstairs - just one room out of bounds to young children, or maybe a 'no hammering the piano after 7pm' policy could have helped. Maybe a member of staff could have followed them around, picking up the rubbish, bottles, clothes, books, toys and more that was strewn over most of the seating. Or perhaps the parents should have been more considerate? That is not for us to say, or to have to say.
Ultimately, the disappointment at not being able to relax in the gorgeous castle was a bit too much for us. We began to focus on even little things that normally would not have caused us to complain - the bathroom door not fitting properly and needing to be slammed to stay shut, or the unwashed towel with lipstick in the bathroom - because we were fed up.
Having read the many reviews on Tripadvisor and more, it seems that we were partly to blame - if we had read up more thoroughly, we definitely would not have booked into a place that was so progressive with families and children. That is not to fault the castle for being so, far from it. But the website and literature, we felt, needs to be changed to reflect that this is not the place for a young, childless couple in search of quiet.
Perhaps we were unlucky, with it being out-of-school term; perhaps it was a freak booking comprised entirely of young families. The price, however, certainly wouldn't allow us to gamble on a re-visit - which we both found really, really frustrating!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Visit England five star accommodation, Augill Castle sits where the Yorkshire Dales meet the Lake District. Unlike anywhere you have ever stayed before, it is famously family friendly, relaxed and informal. Great for parties, weddings or for just being somewhere away from it all. Enjoy England's Guest Accommodation of the Year in 2009 and Sawday's Special Places to Stay Favourite British Hotel in 2010. ... more less
- Reservation Options:
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- Also Known As:
- Augill Castle Hotel South Stainmore
- Augill Castle England/South Stainmore, Cumbria