Battlesteads Hotel, in the picturesque village of Wark, not far from the market town of Hexham, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hadrian’s Wall in the North East of England, is officially Northumberland’s ‘greenest’ hotel. It has a raft of eco friendly credentials, a fantastic restaurant and is next door to a very special dark sky observatory. The observatory holds regular events and talks, giving visitors the opportunity to look through a powerful telescope and learn about the mysteries of our night sky.
As the greenest hotel in Northumberland, Battlesteads holds a Gold Award from the Green Tourism Business Scheme.
Accommodation at Battlesteads
This charming eco hotel has 22 en-suite bedrooms, each with their own décor and character. All have a flat screen television, DVD player, Freeview, free Wi-Fi access, ironing board and hairdryer. Four ground floor rooms have facilities for disabled people and others with accessibility requirements. Even pets are welcome by arrangement and all rooms are within easy and level access to the bar, restaurant and parking.
Some accommodation is in the original old stone building of the hotel and the rest is in spacious eco lodges on the grounds. Friendly staff provide a warm welcome whether you are arriving just for a drink in the pub, dining in the restaurant or staying in the hotel. There is a great choice of ales, beers and wines, and the restaurant prides itself on serving locally sourced produce, with home grown fruit and vegetables from the Battlesteads’ gardens.
The luxurious eco lodges have huge rooms with velux windows looking to the sky, state of the art bathrooms and enormous comfortable beds as well as all the usual mod cons: flat screen TV, hairdryer, tea, coffee, water, fruit and rather scrumptious home baked biscuits.
Dining at Battlesteads
Being situated in rural Northumberland, the hotel is surrounded by some of the finest livestock, game, fish, poultry, fruit and vegetables in the country. Head Chef Eddie Shilton sources prime local ingredients to ensure freshness and flavour.
Look out for dishes including oak smoked duck, chicken and salmon from nearby Bywell Smokery. Vegetarian choices are always available. The cooking style is primarily modern British but there are other international choices for those with a more cosmopolitan palate.
During summer, the hotel uses many of its own herbs, salads, vegetables and fruit varieties from the kitchen garden. The breakfast there features the best selection of homemade jams I have ever tasted.
The delicious varieties include rose and strawberry, apricot almond and apple, Seville marmalade, lemon and lavender, rhubarb and ginger, and white currant jelly. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland wondered if it ever came to jam today — it’s definitely jam today at the Battlesteads hotel in Wark.
Sustainability is important here. The heating and hot water are carbon neutral — an innovative wood chip-burning biomass boiler supplies heating and hot water to the entire hotel using sustainable fuel from forestry only one mile (1.6 km) away, meaning virtually zero fuel miles.
The surplus heat generated is used to heat two poly tunnels, which provide herbs and salad vegetables even in winter months to the hotel restaurant. The use of low-energy light bulbs throughout means that the whole hotel now uses less energy for lighting than the bar area alone did in 2006, astonishing!
Even the toiletries are locally sourced and organic, and the geranium shampoo and orange blossom shower gel smell rather good too. Toilet roll inners are used for potting seedlings and the on site wormeries munch through kilos of food waste turning it into compost. Rainwater is captured in a huge tank to provide water for the entire garden and planters.
The hospitality industry is of course a huge consumer of energy and resources and Battlesteads are happy to offer help and advice to others on how to incorporate sustainability into businesses.
Northumberland is one of the least spoiled parts of the whole country as far as traffic impact, light pollution and urban sprawl go and has been designated as a ‘dark sky’ area. This means light pollution here is very low and makes it an ideal location for the Wark Dark Sky Discovery Site and the Battlesteads Dark Sky Observatory. This is a public astronomical observatory offering talks, activities, drop in sessions, stargazing and astro courses to suit anyone from the absolute beginner to the professional.
Roy Alexander is one of the astronomers who run the astronomy sessions. He is a funny, engaging and infinitely informative host. Where else would you find someone who can answer the question ‘How do you know the universe is 13.8 billion light years old?’ The huge telescope can magnify all the stars and constellations of our Northern hemisphere and you can see for yourself the wonders of the universe close up. As he says, it’s not a pub with an observatory next door, it’s an observatory with a bar!
Battlesteads: a unique place to stay in Northumberland
The observatory offers the chance to view the beautiful majesty of dark skies with the all facilities of the hotel, pub and restaurant just next door. As well as stars, there’s plenty of wildlife in these parts including lots of different species birds; we saw a heron fishing in the river and swallows swooping down to catch the insects on the water’s surface.
Badgers, foxes, herons and red squirrels (Battlesteads is a member of the ‘Save Our Squirrels’ scheme) are frequently reported and apparently a family of otters can be seen in the early morning on the river next to the bridge. The eco hotel, with its cosy quirky decor is a charming place to stay. The food is delicious and having the Battlesteads Dark Sky Observatory next door as an optional activity just makes this an extra special experience.