In my household, planning weekend strolls is my job, and as such I insist on any potential routes obeying the golden rule: All good walks end in good pubs.
A good tramp around the fells of Lancashire before settling into a pie and a pint or two goes some way to assuaging guilt, and if you’re ever tempted by a third pint, well, you earned it.
A favourite such walk, especially on a sunny autumnal Sunday, is Pendle Hill near Burnley. The weather brings out all ages of walker and dog, families, couples and even paragliders. But as we edge closer to the witching hour of Hallowe’en, and the nights draw in, the hill reminds us of its darker secrets.
At the end of the 16th century, Lancashire was regarded as a wild and lawless region of England and nowhere more so than the area around Pendle Hill.
The trials of the Pendle Witches in 1612 are some of the most famous witch trials in English history and you certainly get a sense of brooding and foreboding in the magnificent settings with spooky woods in the background.
If you hear strange noises and sense eyes watching you, it might be a relief to end the day in the Pendle Inn at the foot of the Hill in Barley Green.
The stone pub stands alone with the foreboding hill as an impressive backdrop, and could easily look haunted in the twilight. The range of local Moorhouses beers (Pendle Witches Brew, Black Cat, White Witch) sit with the equally spooky Cross Bay Beers of Morecambe (Witching Hour, Wolfing Hour), and you won’t find a menu, rather a “Book of Spells”.
The Pendle Inn was not scared to go to town on the witch theme and we perused a long list of starters with names like Malkin Tower at £3.95 (black pudding fritters) and Cast a Spell for £5.50 (warm Morecambe bay potted shrimps with toasted granary bread).
I chose from The Pendle Witches section and went from the Famous Pendle Pie for £8.95 with a side of buttered peas for £1.50.
My bubbling hot pie, clearly straight out of the “coven” (sorry), was stuffed full of Bowland beef steak cooked in my favourite Pride of Pendle ale topped with mash and Lancashire cheese.
The gravy was rich and full of flavour and the pie was huge and satisfyingly hearty.
My companion chose The Spell is Broken, aka ‘my secret recipe chicken Sinatra’, aka chicken breast, Lancashire mushrooms and bacon in a creamy cheese sauce served with rice for £9.95. She commented that she’d never had a meal with two different names before but the result was a rich and very tasty combination of chicken and bacon which was complimented perfectly by the mushrooms and basmati rice.
The pub prides itself on offering delicious pub food, and with everyone comfortably exhausted, the atmosphere is relaxed. We chose to share a pudding at £3.95, which brought the bill to a respectable £37.
As we crossed spoons over a delicious desert, served with two scoops of ice-cream, I christened it broomstick-y toffee pudding. Well, it would have been frightenly rude not to.