Friday 24 August 2007

Cober Hill, Cloughton, near Scarborough

A rambling Victorian hotel with a modern conference centre building behind it, Cober Hill is set in large, well-tended and quirky gardens perched on a hillside overlooking the sea and the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park. A battered tarmac tennis court, a half-size croquet lawn, a substantial kids playground, a table tennis and pool hut, a clock golf lawn and many other facilities are dotted around the gardens. Cloughton Wyke, a rocky bay amid the cliffs, is just a 10 minute walk away down a picturesque minor road and Cober Hill is well-placed for exploring the eastern side of the Moors.

Something of a lottery
But the accommodation itself isn't all it could be. Although there are three pleasant lounges in the old house and some of its rooms have fine sea views, the beds can be lumpy, while the wood chip wallpaper and economical furniture is showing its age. Still, the old house is a better option than the characterless modern conference centre. Half-board in high season costs a reasonable £52 a head, but the food is something of a lottery - the fried breakfasts can taste of grease, while vegetables are often boiled to within an inch of their lives. But some dishes, such as rainbow trout with almonds, are prepared with more care. As this not-for-profit hotel has a Quaker tradition there is no bar, but a few warm beers and wines are available for purchase with the evening meal. Most weeks, Cober Hill will be focused on some kind of theme, such a bird-watching, painting or bridge, organised by an appropriate expert. Many of the guests who stay in the summer holidays - a mix of families and the elderly - have been coming for years and know each other well. Hosts organize croquet competitions, barn dances, military whist evenings, quizzes and even a Friday-night concert, giving the place a lively atmosphere reminiscent of a holiday camp. 7/10