Country houses for sale

Douthwaite Hall, a magnificent country house on the outskirts of one of Britain’s prettiest villages, is seeking a new owner

Douthwaite Hall is a grand and beautiful home tucked away in an idyllic North Yorkshire setting, as Penny Churchill explains.

You’d think it wouldn’t be easy to lose a substantial, 9,410sq ft, ten-bedroom stone-built country house plus 33 acres within the North York Moors National Park. Yet according to Christine O’Neill, owner of— whose much-loved family home it has been for 29 years — ‘many of the locals don’t even know we’re here’.

Anyone who dreams of getting away from it all will be keen to find this home, though, sitting in the hills — or rather the Dales — of North Yorkshire. York-based Blenkin & Co are selling the handsome, Grade II-listed Douthwaite Hall with a guide price of ‘excess £4 million’.

Despite its location three miles from Kirkbymoorside and within a stone’s throw of the picturesque village of Hutton-le-Hole — described by Arthur Mee as ‘a charming little place to find in a green hollow of the moors… all up and down with a scurrying stream winding among houses scattered here and there’ — Douthwaite Hall enjoys complete seclusion within Douthwaite Dale, a steep wooded valley carved by the Dove through limestone hills that has no public footpaths or rights of way.

In medieval times, the land round about was a medieval park and hunting reserve of the powerful de Stutevilles and Nevilles of Kirkbymoorside.

According to its Historic England listing, the Shepherd family enjoyed unbroken occupation of Douthwaite Hall site from about 1500 to 1886. They must have built the original Elizabethan farmhouse, the timber crucks of which were used to support the roof of the main Georgian house, constructed in 1760.

A large wing was added in 1814 to replace a demolished section, with further alterations carried out in Edwardian times.

Period features abound throughout the house. In addition to a carved overmantel dated 1659 and a chimneypiece of 1666, there are magnificent fireplaces, the old flagstones and oak flooring, 16-pane sash windows, a handsome turning staircase with a polished handrail, and a notable 18th-century window on the half-landing, with its original glass revealing whorls made by the glass blower.

A previous owner, Admiral Sir Cyril Fuller, a distinguished naval officer who owned Douthwaite Hall in the early 20th century, is believed to have added the porthole windows and to have brought home from the First World War the impressive wrought-iron gates that open onto the flagged yard. Born in the Isle of Wight, he joined the Britannia Royal Naval College as a cadet in 1887 and rose swiftly through the ranks to become Second Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Per-sonnel from 1930 to 1932. During the Second World War, he was Zone Commander for the North Riding of Yorkshire Home Guard.

During their tenure, the O’Neill family has combined a sporting country life with the successful operation of an international business dealing with far-flung outposts of the oil and gas industry, thanks to excellent high-speed broadband.

The main house, which boasts six reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, 10 bedrooms, eight bathrooms and a top-floor sitting area, offers plenty of room to manoeuvre, with further accommodation in the 760sq ft Cedar Lodge. The property comes with stabling for six horses, too, and an unusually fine range of traditional outbuildings and barns with significant scope for development.

Douthwaite Hall stands on high ground overlooking its 33 acres of mature parkland, separated by a ha-ha from the beautifully planted formal landscaped gardens that have been Mrs O’Neill’s area of special interest.

A series of central stone steps lead down gently through lawns and herbaceous borders, passing clipped yew hedging and a disused tennis court.

An established lake with a small jetty is tucked into the valley in the lee of a summer lake house — an idyllic setting for barbecues and parties, even in the midst of winter.

Douthwaite Hall is for sale at £4 million via Bleknkin & Co — see more pictures and details.

Hutton-le-Hole: What you need to know

Location: In the southern swathes of the North York Moors National Park, seven miles north of Pickering and three miles of Kikbymoorside, which sits on the main A170 road that runs from Scarborough to Ripon. The agents selling the house are based in York, but the city centre is 30 miles away — roughly an hour’s drive.

Atmosphere: ‘Sheep roam the streets at will’ is a priceless throwaway line in the opening paragraph of Hutton-le-Hole’s Wikipedia entry, which gives you the measure of the place. It’s an ancient village mentioned in the Domesday Book (as Hoton)  The village is regularly described as perhaps the most picturesque spot in Yorkshire, and has even been named one of the most beautiful 20 villages in the UK… and while that’s a pretty high bar, it’s certainly extremely pretty and unspoilt with its stretch of old stone houses either side of the large expanse of green that forms the centre of the village, through which a stream, Hutton Beck, flows hither and thither.

Things to do: The village is full of the sort of things you’d love to do on a day out here: there’s the Ryedale Folk Museum, a tea room, bakery, village pub and apparently even a chocolate factory — you actually couldn’t make it up. And if your dog jumps into the stream and gets mucky enough that he’ll mess up your pics for Instagram, there’s even a grooming parlour.

Further afield, the walks in the North York Moors are justifiably famous — this is wild England at perhaps its grandest and most dramatic. There’s the North York Moors heritage railway nearby at Pickering, Castle Howard is but a short drive away, and not much further are the beaches at Robin Hood’s Bay and the equally eye-popping (in an entirely different way) Scarborough.

Schools: There’s no primary school in the village, but Gillamoor C of E School is not far away and rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted. For non-academic education, the Ryedale School of Music is close as well, in Kirkbymoorside. In the same village is Welburn Hall secondary school — also rated ‘Good’ — while the famed Ampleforth is a mere 10 miles away.