Surrounded by magnificent fells lies the honeyed-stone village of Blanchland. Built by 12th Century monks, using stone from the Abbey, the village straddles the borders of Northumberland and County Durham and is home to one of the oldest hotels in the country.
A Northumberland Hotel
Lord Crewe Arms – or ‘The Crewe’ as it’s locally known – is situated at the heart of the village and re-opened in 2014 after a two-year refurbishment. My best friend and I were very excited to get away for a girl’s night away. It took just under one hour and 45 minutes to reach the Inn from Harrogate. The sun was just setting over the Northern Pennines and our drive included stunning views of undulating moorland and the outstanding Derwent valley and reservoir.
After a warm welcome, the lady in a tweed waistcoat showed us to our room. As we were led through the 12th Century Hotel we were wowed by what we uncovered; great halls, inglenook fireplaces, original long drops and stunning interiors.
Lord Crewe Arms – The Radcliffe Room
Our room (The Radcliffe) was in the turret – the oldest part of the hotel – dating back to 1165! It was unlike any room I’d stayed in before.
The Crewe consider this room a Champion Room with a starting price of £204.00 B&B per night. They had thought of everything! It’s rare that I visit a hotel where it has got everything right. There was a tea tray with every tea you could imagine, accompanied by sweet treats of shortbread biscuits and Northumbrian fudge. And for those who love a decent coffee in the morning, a Nespresso machine to top things off.
Additional little touches, which are standard in every room, included a fluffy hot water bottle and bath robes for those cosy nights as well as an orienteering pack for avid hikers. The Radcliffe room had windows on three sides, two original fireplaces and a beautiful large bathroom, complete with roll top bath and a shower which was like a tropical waterfall. There were mirrors everywhere too, all different shapes and sizes – perfect for getting ready.
The Crewe has a great personality – you get this vibe from visiting the website but it’s continued into the hotel and rooms with a door sign with “moor bound” on one side and “more peace” on the other, and marked pages of Susan Bell’s 2014 novel; A Similar Devotion, which is set in these parts.
The view(s) from the Radcliffe Room:
Dining at The Lord Crewe Arms
Dinner was booked at 7.45pm so we unpacked, spruced up and made our way downstairs to the first-floor restaurant – The Bishops Dining Room. The interior is sumptuous but understated, fitting in with the beautiful original features and drawing on the heritage of the place. The food is honest but oozes character.
We ordered the pan-fried scallops with belly pork and a spiced carrot puree (£11.00). The scallops were sweet and cooked perfectly – just how I like them. The pork was of very similar texture to the scallops, so it would have been nice to have a contrast texture to add interest to the very soft dish. Some pancetta or parmesan crisp would have gone down a treat! We also shared the organic duck spring rolls with an English plum dressing and Chinese salad (£7.00). The salad was so flavourful and fresh and went perfectly with the rich shredded duck rolled in a thin crisp pastry.
To accompany the meal we decided to order a cheeky cocktail – why not, we’re on a girl’s night away! The heavenly cocktail got to work and within 10 minutes I was relaxed and happy. The beautiful gin, elderflower, lemon and champagne cocktail was quite reasonable at £10 each – for hotel prices that’s good!
To start, Emma chose the grilled lamb chops with braised shoulder and cabbage in a cream sauce (£17.00). This winter dish would warm anyone up and Emma ordered a side of red cabbage to boot – she loves her red cabbage!
I opted for the Rump of Ayrshire veal (£18.00) with spinach, potato croquettes and a beautiful Cumberland sauce. The redcurrant undertones of the sauce made it feel very festive!
For dessert Emma went for a classic sticky toffee pudding (£6.00) whilst I very much enjoyed a warm raspberry Bakewell pudding with raspberry ripple ice cream (£5.00). It was divine! In my younger years I never would have gone for a Bakewell, in fact I wouldn’t see the point of it as a pudding. It’s always amazed me how much my taste buds have changed over the years.
The Crypt Pub
After a wonderful meal in The Bishops Dining Room, we headed downstairs for cocktails in the Hotel’s Bar – The Crypt. This atmospheric pub boasts a beautiful barrel-vaulted ceiling and local ales including their very own Lord Crewe Brew.
The pub is open to hotel guests and locals, including Tweet, a beautiful 17-month-old Lab-cross who welcomed everyone who popped in for a drink. We played a few board games in the pub before turning in for the night – to be honest we wanted to take full advantage of our bath robes and bedroom.
Rise and shine
We woke up feeling refreshed, relaxed, and ready to explore the area. We went for breakfast which boasted an array of cereal, toast, yoghurt, muffins and fruit along with a selection of hot breakfasts. Both Emma and I chose the Northumberland Breakfast, a hearty cooked breakfast with beans, mushrooms, egg, black pudding, bacon and sausage.
Sadly, it was time to check out – we really didn’t want to leave the place. But before we headed home we walked around Derwent Reservoir, soaking up the autumn sunshine and the stunning colours, as we reflected on our stay.
Watch: My visit to Lord Crewe Arms
Staying at Lord Crewe Arms
My overall thoughts were – it’s a must do! The Lord Crewe Arms have got it so right. Their charming yet professional service paired with generosity, thoughtfulness and a relaxed environment makes this the most perfect escape anyone could ask for. The only thing to note would be the lack of phone signal, but for those who can’t cope without connection, the WiFi is very good.
P.S. The Lord Crewe Arms invited me to stay with them on a complimentary basis.