Review by Fiona Duncan, published 1st June 2008.
I have a personal, rather than professional, reason to be staying here, as do the 30 or so members of my husband’s family who are with me. Yes, it’s a wedding. James, our handsome and courageous Royal Green Jacket cousin is marrying lovely Sarah, in a match made in heaven or, to be more precise, made romantically at Sarah’s sister’s wedding three years ago.
Thank goodness for the Angel. Before refurbishment two years ago, there would have been nowhere for miles around that was congenial, informal and comfortable enough for us all to stay (though the awful ground- floor loos still need attention, asap). In fact, it makes a near-perfect base, in an attractive town with enticing shops (don’t miss Re, behind the garage) and Hadrian’s Wall just to the north.
We’ve gathered in time for dinner together on Friday night in the new, rather masculine slate-and-wood restaurant, where the sea bass and strawberry cheesecake are just right. Comparing notes, we discover that those in the hotel’s new nine-room annexe, The Angel Radcliffe, have the better deal. It’s a handsome, stone-built house with a domestic feel, now prettily painted in cream and pale blue to match the inn opposite. Here the light-filled rooms are larger, calmer and brighter than those in the inn, with river views.
The six rooms above the pub, by contrast, suffer loud noise from the bar and in ours, the unlined curtains let in sickly light from the street lamps. All rooms are similarly kitted out with black and white floral curtains, a modern take on country furniture and simple new bathrooms (showers only in the annexe). Nothing special, but perfectly acceptable. Everyone in our party, including redoubtable grandparents, is content – quite a feat, given this lot’s bent for strong opinions.
Everyone, that is, with the hilarious exception of cousin Sophie, who has recently morphed from studious teenager into stunning, skyrocketing hedge-fund babe, dressed in couture from head to foot, BlackBerry at the ready. Upstaging her shabby old relations, she takes one look at her room and declares it unfit for human habitation.
Plumb in the middle of Corbridge, the Angel is one of those multi-purpose old coaching inns to which everyone flocks for drinks, lunch and afternoon tea. The wedding guests emerge from their rooms and mingle in the sunshine with the beer-swilling throng who remain oblivious to the faintly ridiculous but oh-so-British sight of frilly women tottering about with Martian-style antennae springing from their precariously perched fascinators.
Next morning, breakfast in the inn (old panelled walls, new leather sofas and armchairs) is a scrappy, rather slow affair. Over in the annexe, which has a pretty sitting room overlooking a garden, things go much better. When the redoubtable grandmother asks for marmalade, the staff know better than to admit there’s none, and a waitress is seen scurrying along the road with a pot hastily secured from a nearby shop.
Main Street, Corbridge (01434 632119). B&B Doubles from £95. Ground-floor rooms suitable for guests with disabilities. Information on Northumberland at www.visitnorthumberland.com.