Sauntering down the most iconic street in the historic city of Lincoln, my wife Samantha suddenly turned towards me with an apprehensive look on her face.
“You do realise we have to walk all the way back up you know,” she exclaimed looking slightly less than impressed.
Half-nodding, and with a slight smile on my face, I peered back up ‘Steep Hill’ – one of the most popular tourist streets in the UK.
As the name suggests, Steep Hill is...well...impressively steep!
With a 14 per cent gradient in places, scaling the unique 1,300ft-plus stone surface road – which dates back to Roman times and links the city centre to Lincoln Castle and Cathedral – was not what Samantha had initially in mind when I announced we were going on a relaxing break in deepest Lincolnshire.
Fortunately, due to the high volume of independent and boutique retail outlets situated on Steep Hill (which was incidentally voted Britain’s best street in 2012), our journey back up was not quite as bad as first feared.
A sucker for ‘knick-knacky’ items, Samantha was able to take her mind off the physical challenge posed by exploring the many quaint and retro shops, which adorn the narrow street on either side.
We were also able to quench our thirst half-way up at Bunty’s tearoom – what a lifesaver!
Our visit to Lincoln’s famous Steep Hill was certainly one of the highlights of our two-night stay at the delightful Washingborough Hall.
Situated just 5km east of the city centre, the ‘Washy Hall’ is a recently renovated Georgian Manor house hotel and restaurant.
Dating back to the 18th century, the building can boast a long and colourful history.
It was once the home of Sir William Amcotts-Ingilby – an eccentric politician known for his idiosyncratic green hat.
During the Second World War, it was used as a shelter for weary airmen and in more recent times became a nightclub, believe it or not, called Scandals.
There was certainly no hint of its slightly surprising former guises as we drove along the hall’s meandering driveway for the first time, which is surrounded by three acres of sprawling grounds.
Since 2008, the hall has been owned by Lucy and Edward Herring, who have transformed the building into a first-class hotel and restaurant, boasting a number of luxurious rooms.
Keen to maintain its period charms, the owners have added one or two modern touches, ensuring guests can relax and unwind or, if they happen to be more adventurous, use it as a base to explore the nearby tourist attractions.
With a recently finished side extension known as ‘The Winston Room’, the hotel also specialises in providing the perfect wedding setting for couples, as well as providing excellent facilities for business meetings and conferences.
Arriving just after lunchtime during midweek, Samantha and I quickly noticed, as we strolled up towards the grand pillar-fronted entrance of the hotel, that the quaint dining area at the front was full of guests enjoying afternoon tea.
So that was it...our afternoon was spent drinking copious amounts of coffee and tea while being treated to three tiers of fresh sandwiches, cakes and scones with jam and cream.
My particular favourite was the carrot cake, although Samantha seemed to prefer the cherry bakewell slices.
It was only after we had taken care of every last crumb that we could go and properly appreciate the room that we had been afforded for our stay.
Handed the most recently refurbished suite, the bedroom was tastefully decorated green and boasted large traditional-style bay windows, complete with a window ledge seat, overlooking the gardens below.
The en-suite bathroom, though, was the real star of the show. A standalone bath tub complemented by an amazing, glass shower cubicle. The gowns hanging nearby were the perfect finishing touch
With Lucy Herring’s background as a successful cordon bleu cook – having trained at the Tante Marie Culinary Academy – food is an important aspect of the Washy Hall experience.
And it’s fair to say our evening meal did not disappoint.
After enjoying pre-drinks in the classy, but cosy bar, we were invited to our table in the award-winning restaurant.
The friendly waiters and waitresses were keen to strike up conversation as they served us some homemade bread as we deliberated on our menu choices.
I opted for the smoked mackerel scotch egg, white onion soubise and crispy rocket, while the wife plumped for the heritage tomato tarte tatin, baby mozzarella, basil pesto and sweet red pepper.
So impressed with the flavour combination of the smoky mackerel combined with the succulent egg, I am not ashamed to admit that I ordered it again the following evening!
For mains, we both settled on the same – Lincolnshire 10oz sirloin steak, butternut ketchup, hand cut fries and balsamic glazed shallots.
For dessert, Samantha could not look past the cheese board, but being more of a sweet tooth, I ordered the sticky toffee pudding with banana and condensed milk ice cream.
The next day, fuelled by a good hearty breakfast of sausage, bacon, choice of egg, mushroom and black pudding, we set off for a day visiting the sights and sounds of Lincoln.
The castle was our first port of call and, despite Samantha’s poor head for heights, we managed to walk the medieval walls before taking a guided tour around the castle’s prison as well as viewing original pieces of the Magna Carta.
Then it was off to take in Steep Hill, before we finished our tourist walk with a trip around the imposing cathedral, which dominates Lincoln’s skyline.