Sunday 17 August 2008

Cober Hill, Cloughton, near Scarborough

A rambling Victorian hotel with a modern conference centre building behind it, Cober Hill is set in large and quirky gardens perched on a scenic 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 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 sag, 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 £54.50 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 the beef and potato pie, are prepared with more care. As this not-for-profit hotel has a Quaker tradition there is no bar, but a few beers and wines (about a tenner a bottle) are available for purchase with the evening meal. Most weeks, Cober Hill takes in schoolchildren, birdwatchers, painters or bridge players 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 traditional holiday camp. 7/10