TIME away from the hectic hustle and bustle of family life is vital.
Everyone needs it every now and again – and that’s why we often opt for one night away from home, but not too far away.
And, once there, it’s amazing how time seems to go into slow motion. Freaky, even.
For this Saturday night away we went to ... Sheffield.
It’s something of a strange place – a city of stark contrasts. A pal of mine did his degree there – or rather didn’t do it – as the social life was so good he managed to fail. Praise indeed for the place, but that was going right back to the early 80s.
He’s head of year at a school now so don’t worry about him.
Sheffield is not far from Huddersfield and yet how many people say they’ve been there? Of those that have, what they often mean to say is that they’ve been to Meadowhall.
At the time of the Miner’s Strike in 1984 I was a van driver and Sheffield was my patch – especially the industrial heartland that was Attercliffe.
Much of that has now been bulldozed with Meadowhall, Sheffield Arena and modern retail parks there instead.
Sheffield city centre is the mix of the old, new, ugly and striking. It’s a place of wild architectural contrasts with the worst of the 60s – building that don’t just look sick they’re distinctly terminal – nestling next to the strikingly modern.
Hotels have sprung up right in the heart of the city – and Jurys Inn is the latest. All brick and glass it’s the latest in the chain’s superior budget range.
It’s bright, colourful, vibrant and modern inside – the restaurant has a cafe feel – and the double rooms are large.
Ours had a double bed, two seater settee, long desk that doubled as a dressing table, flatscreen TV and bathroom.
It ticked all the right comfort boxes – especially the king-size bed – with a view across the city towards Bramall Lane, home of Sheffield United.
The drawback to these hotels is that they have no parking – none whatsoever even to drop off. You need to park across the road in a multi-storey and lump your gear across. Jurys Inn has an agreement with one opposite so you get 25% off which means you pay around £7 for a 24-hour stay.
Food in the restaurant did not pass the budget test, however. In fact, the meal cost more than the room, which explains why the restaurant was virtually deserted.
Starters were £6, mains around £15 and desserts around a fiver with the cheapest wine at a tad under £16 a bottle. It came out at over £60 for two – too much with so many other restaurants a short stroll away.
Breakfast was far better value at a £5 special offer instead of the usual £10. It was the full English cooked affair, even down to the black pudding.
Jurys Inns are now popping up all over the place in Leeds, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Newcastle and London.
The hotel is a five minute walk from Sheffield’s City Hall – it looks more than a castle than a seat of local Government – Peace Gardens and indoor Winter Gardens, the largest urban glasshouse in any European city featuring 2,500 plants from around the world.
Just off it are several galleries and exhibitions and one is a magnificent showcase of Sheffield’s heritage – cutlery and metalwork. There are knives dating back to 1600 and a multi-purpose knife made from stainless steel, gold, silver and mother of pearl that puts Swiss army knives to shame.
You’re not short on coffee houses to choose from around that quarter – on a mild spring day it was really rather pleasant.
To make it a proper weekend away, on the Sunday we drove about 25 miles south to Hardwick Hall, an Elizabethan mansion just off Junction 29 of the M1 near Chesterfield in Derbyshire.
Yet another amazing National Trust treasure. This is going back in time with history coming alive in front of your eyes.
The banqueting hall must be higher than our house and several rooms are in semi-darkness, lit only by candle-like lights to save the ancient furniture from getting discoloured.
Step outside and you can stroll in the immaculately manicured garden for ages.
A real Tudor treat to end a thoroughly relaxing weekend away.
And as soon as we got back, life quickly returned to its normal frightening pace.
Jurys Inn, Sheffield, is at 119 Eyre Street, Sheffield, S1 4QW.
The phone number is 0114 291 2222.
To book direct go to www.jurysinns.com
Cost of a double room is £69.
Breakfast was £5 extra person (instead of the normal £10) which was excellent value for money.
The evening meal was £62 including wine which we felt was overpriced.
Distance from Huddersfield to Sheffield is 32 miles.
Hardwick Hall is just off Junction 29 of the M1 in Derbyshire and is close to Chatsworth House.