Does luxury and East Lancashire go together? Well, in the case of The Lawrence, it certainly does. On the outside, it looks like an attractive large house, in the midst of Padiham town centre.The minute you enter the Grade II listed building’s hall – adorned by quirky animal wallpaper – you know you’re somewhere special. Elegant.In the small reception, we met Hannah, who was very friendly and helpful. After filling in a short questionnaire asking what we would like to have for our breakfast in the morning, she took us on a short tour, showing the breakfast room, unmanned bar (it has an honesty box) and sitting area. There are also function and conference rooms.Upstairs was the Tolkien suite – luxurious, elegant and extravagant.There was an enormous television with Netflix. A luxurious dark blue velvet settee faced this TV, with a massive bed behind – actually the room was huge, much bigger than what I am used to in hotels and B&Bs. Elegant wallpaper adorned the wall, there was a sweets jar, biscuits, bottles of water, tea bags, coffee and a kettle. On the side of the bed was a pile of Tolkien books, a nice touch. (Tolkien had links with Lancashire).Am I missing something? The bathroom, ah, the bathroom.Normally, the bathroom is a much overlooked although necessary component of a hotel room. Toilet, tick. Shower, tick. Sink, tick. But this was different.For a start, it was upstairs. Yes, this guest suite sits across two floors.A floating bathroom atop a mezzanine balcony. There was a separate shower and toilet cubicle, while the sink and roll top bath was in a more open plan setting.The whole vibe was contemporary luxury, and The Lawrence oozes character and comfort. It is no surprise to learn that the 14-room boutique hotel was been renovated last year. It now has one suite, three signature rooms, three superior rooms and seven snugs.The luxury doesn’t end there. Relaxation treatments are also available if booked in advance and afternoon tea is served on a weekend. Again this requires booking. After checking in, we went for a short walk in Padiham, a small attractive town, located next to the River Calder.Later, eating at Freemasons at Wiswell, in the rural Ribble Valley, was a gastronomical treat. It’s a venue full of refined rustic charm. We sampled many dishes on the Taste of Freemason menu, which highlights chef Steven Smith’s work. Some of these I wouldn’t normally choose but was happily surprised. The dishes were just the right size, none were too filling. At the end, we were both full but not unpleasantly so.Our wine was a Painted Wolf chenin blanc 2017, which was very nice. Our 30-year-old dessert wine at the end of the evening was sweet and delightful. Booking a taxi there and back turned out to be a good choice so we could both sample the wines!Where to start? I’m a cheese lover and I found the Lancashire cheese and beetroot tartlet very creamy and moreish. The salmon scallops and pine nut sauce was scrumptious, as was the brioche cooked in goose fat and rosemary.The duck liver was neatly presented on toast, cooked Yakitori-style (Japanese type of skewered chicken), sitting upon a bed of Wiswell Moor brambles, alongside smoked eel.Now normally, I wouldn’t choose lobster or duck liver or smoked eel, but on this occasion I tried them and I liked them.The menu also offers a Winter Blues Menu, a la Carte, Vegetarian and a Sunday Family lunch.There was still room for breakfast in the morning, held in a very pleasant room adjacent to the garden room. We met the hotel’s dog, Hetti, who was very charming indeed!It would have been delightful to have stayed another evening, but alas, we were only here for one night. So after packing, we left for witch country, aka Barley and the Pendle Hill area, which isn’t far from here. Rather than hike up the steep hill though, we had a pleasant meander to the reservoir and back.Barrowford, a short distance away, and its Pendle Heritage Centre was the next stop. The centre is a Grade II listed farm building known as Park Hill and actually dates from the 1400s. We learnt about the evolution of the building, notable East Lancashire families and, of course, the Pendle Witches, who came from surrounding parts.Before my visit, I never thought of Padiham as a place to stay but apart from The Lawrence being a splendid venue, just perfect if you’re celebrating a special occasion or looking for a romantic retreat, the town is ideal for a convenient stop-over for East Lancashire.Explore the beauty of Pendle Hill, visit Clitheroe and its ancient castle, learn about the witches in the heritage centre in Barrowford or wander around the historic Gawthorpe Hall, there’s so much to do in this sometimes over-looked area.
The Lawrence Hotel26-28 Church Street, Padiham.07921 684742www.thelawrencehotel.co.uk
Freemasons8 Vicarage Fold, Wiswell, Clitheroe 01254 822218www.freemasonsatwiswell.com