Great British Escapes’ review of the Lord Crewe Arms at Blanchland.
We had high expectations for the newly-reopened and refurbished Lord Crewe Arms in historic Blanchland. It certainly promised an array of qualities high up on the Great British Escapes’ check-list…plenty of character, a touch of luxury, beautiful countryside, good food, a bar brimming with the best ales around…there was certainly a lot to live up to.
So, eager to make the most out of our trip, we arrived early afternoon with the intention of settling into the bar and relaxing with a coffee. After a warm welcome we were shown around the hotel, once home to a twelfth century Abbot's Priory, and ended up in the bar – although the term ‘bar’ does not quite do it justice. This is surely one of the finest pub rooms in the country. Set in a vaulted crypt, the setting is unmistakably English with a palpable sense of history. On seeing the array of hand pumps, the idea of coffee went out of the window and we decided it was only right to try one the promised excellent ales. We were reassured by the cheeky abbot looking over our shoulder who had wrestled with the conundrum ’drink is thy enemy’ by proclaiming it was only right that we should ‘love thy enemy’.
A good variety of beer was available and all excellently kept (we had to try a couple of the options!). The Lord Crewe Brew, served up in a proper tankard, was a real highlight. The changing bar food, whilst limited, was also delicious - steak ‘slippers’ and the chef’s posh fish ‘dogs’ were chalked up on the blackboard showing the day’s so-called ‘bar baits’.
Already in an excellent mood, we thought the day could not get much better…but then we were shown to our room! We were staying in ‘Blackdene’, one of the Lord Crewe’s two suites. Split over 2 levels, the huge room blends its historic setting (with touches like a working woodburning stove) with all modern luxuries and lots of thoughtful extras. Proper coffee, homemade biscuits, cosy robes, elegant décor, a freestanding bath, huge bed…all seemed well with the world!
Tearing ourselves away from the room, we decided to have a look around Blanchland itself and take in the nearby countryside before dinner. A lovely short walk took us down the River Derwent (the Lord Crewe actually has its own stretch of river with fishing rod hire available – the challenge is to try to land the native brown trout between March and September) and looped back into picturesque Blanchland. The beautiful estate village owes its name to the French canons who lived and worked in the Abbey, distinguished by their white habits. The village is built from the stone of the 12th century abbey and also benefits from a wonderfully peaceful setting on the Northumberland and Durham border in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
After our brief sightseeing, it was time to sample some more of what the Lord Crewe had to offer and the restaurant food certainly lived up to the standard set by the rest of the hotel. An airy dining room with views over the fells was a great setting for some fresh British food. With an emphasis on excellently prepared quality ingredients, a whole baked sea bass proved to be the delicious centrepiece of our meal. The deliciously rich chocolate mousse was then a decadent (and wonderful!) end to the day.
As if we hadn’t had enough to eat and drink, the next morning saw us greeted with a sumptuous buffet of fresh croissants, yoghurts, muffins, muesli and fresh fruit. No detail was left forgotten and, as we now expected from the Lord Crewe, the attentive staff ensured we had a full breakfast cooked just to our liking as well. Too full to take the hotel bikes down to nearby Derwent reservoir, we reflected on an excellent stay. It’s great to see one of the oldest hostelries in the country back up and running and doing it in such fine style.
With excellent service from beginning to end, the only thing you will have to worry about is whether you want your fresh duck eggs poached or fried…
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