Otterburn Hall is a Neo-Elizabethan style county house and estate located in the massive Northumberland National Park, Otterburn, Northumberland. It is set in 500 acres of woodland and deer park, and is an area out outstanding natural beauty, boasting of the darkest sky area in Europe. In fact, Northumberland National Park was accredited with a Gold Tier International Dark Sky Park award.
In addition to the woodland and deer park, an 8 mile stretch of the River Rede flows nearby the estate. There are also a number of historical buildings near Otterburn Hall, including Otterburn Church, which was built in 1857, and Otterburn Tower, a Grade II listed castellated mansion which was built in 1830.
Otterburn Hall was built as a country retreat in 1870 for Lord James Douglas, who had received the land as a gift for the death of his ancestor, the Lord Douglas, who had fought in the Battle of Otterburn and killed near Otterburn Tower. The building was constructed with brick and stone dressing. The impressive country retreat included stables, lodges, and a farm. It is a Grade-II listed building with English Heritage.
In 1905, there were some renovations at Otterburn Hall for Sir Charles Morrison Bell, and a porch was added. Six years later, the Ministry of Defence established the Otterburn Training Area, which was located near Otterburn Hall and was the second largest live firing range in the country.
Another renovation took place in 1930 after a fire damaged a portion of the building, and this included a large conservatory which was added to the back of the building.
Between 1940 to 1944, Otterburn Hall was used as a military hospital. By 1980, Otterburn Hall was converted into a hotel, which contained 65 hotel rooms as well as a restaurant. It was owned by the YMCA.
An adventure park was added to the grounds of Otterburn Hall in the early 1990s. This included squash and tennis courts, a croquet lawn, as well as canoeing, rafting, abseiling and orienteering. Within their extensive grounds, they built Scandinavian-style log cabins, some of which catered to YMCA members, conferences, adventure weekends and families.
In 1993, a 13-year-old boy who was accused of setting a woman on fire was ordered to be held at Otterburn Hall. The remanded teenager had been detained at a children’s home but had managed to escape twenty times in the course of just five weeks. There were no secure units available, so social workers decided to send him to Otterburn Hall for three weeks. He was ordered to stay in a log cabin that typically cost £125 a week, which was on the grounds and was supervised by two social service workers.
According to social workers, the teenager did not abscond, with one commenting: “That may be because if he goes one way there is the Netherlands Air Force practicing bombing runs and the other is the Cheviot Hills.” The decision was met with much dismay from the community, in particular the victim of the teenage boy who quipped: “I could have died horribly and here is one of the boys accused living the life of Reilly. I’ve never been able to afford a holiday in a luxury chalet.”
Four years later, there was another controversy at Otterburn Hall when a volunteer youth training worker fell 40 foot during an outdoor assault course. Thankfully he made a full recovery in hospital.
Then in 2002, Otterburn Hall went up for sale for £1.4m and was purchased by the Angel Group. The Angel Group was established in 1999 by Julia Davey, a multi-millionaire who was 17th on the list of Britain’s top 50 businesswoman and the 15th richest in property.
Before being sold, The Lazarus Foundation prepared a business plan to convert Otterburn Hall into a holding centre for asylum seekers. Much of the community branded the plan “absolutely ludicrous” and ultimately it would be denied by the council.
The Angel Group continued to run Otterburn Hall as a hotel and it became a popular wedding venue, and was accredited as a four-star AA hotel and an AA Rosette restaurant. Rooms ranged from £130 per night to £400 per night and Otterburn Hall truly transformed into one of the most opulent venues in the North East of England.
Otterburn Hall drew much criticism from the locals when they requested to erect a marquee in the grounds for music and dancing. The village community kept a seven-month “noise diary” in which they wrote of alleged disturbances at the hotel which they then presented to a licensing hearing. One woman who lived at Otterburn Cottage nearby complained: “We’ve had guests from the hotel drunk, also sleeping on the lawn in front of our house, during the day.”
The owners at Otterburn Hall would ultimately get permission to hold marquee music events, but they were under strict conditions. Just two years later, however, in 2012, the hotel was suddenly closed. There was no warning to staff, leaving 30 people unemployed, and a couple without a wedding venue for the weekend.
Three years after its closure, Otterburn Hall went to auction. A former wing and annex of the hotel were offered separately as well as a number of lodges on the estate. Otterburn Hall sold for £300,000, while the annex sold for £145,000 and the 18-bedroom Coach House for £100,000. Some of the lodges were sold as well.
Shortly thereafter, Pay U Today Ltd submitted a bid to erect lodges in the Otterburn Hall Estate. Their bid read in part: “Otterburn Hall is a rare example of a contained classic country house estate, with a unifying design across it.” Meanwhile, the Coach House would reopen as the Otterburn Coach House Hotel but would then be put up for sale once more in 2017.
While Otterburn Hall was sold in 2015, it never re-opened. In 2019, it once again went under auction with a guide price of £550,000. This included planning consent for a 26 bed hotel, wedding venue, restaurant, bar and spa. Before the auction was held, however, it was withdrawn. Otterburn Hall went to auction again the following year, with a guide price of £235,000. It received no bids.
In 2021, Otterburn was finally sold. Only the main building was purchased, not the annex or conservatory. It was announced that there were plans to transform it once more into a hotel. At the time of writing, work at Otterburn Hall had not begun.
Today, the lodges on the grounds can be rented out. Their website boasts of “a destination where you can escape the every day. A unique natural retreat with thirty-seven self-catering luxury lodges in Northumberland.”