Gillian Parkinson heads into rural Lancashire and finds the perfect place for a break
We were sitting on a squishy sofa, feet atop a footstool in our lovely four poster bedroom, gazing at the idyllic view outside.
Beneath us the River Hodder flowed and across its banks newborn lambs played together in the fields, the majestic Lancashire hills rising up all around.
All was definitely right with the world.
We were in one of the rooms at the Inn at Whitewell, a beautiful and traditional country inn (think log fires, stone floors and lots of wood) far from the madding crowd.
The view is so stunning it makes the TV in the bedroom practically redundant.
This is a hotel where you can genuinely get away from it all. There is no mobile phone signal. Yes, you read that correctly. This may be the last place in the world where you can escape those incessant ringtones which are the soundtrack to our modern lives.
If you really can’t bear to be away from civilisation, there are old-fashioned phones in the bedrooms and, a more recent addition, wifi, in case your need for emails becomes too much to resist.
We had no such needs.
We deliberately arrived earlier than our room was ready in time for the busy lunchtime session, but still had no problem finding a corner table for two in one of the many lovely rooms around the bar area, where we and the dog could do a spot of people watching – well-behaved pooches are welcome everywhere here except the dining room and the staff are trained to avoid stepping on them!
A couple of pints of Blonde Witch later and it being Sunday, the roast sirloin, Yorkshire pudding and all the trimmings seemed the fitting thing to order. Neither of us could resist either that or the sticky toffee pudding which followed.
The beef was a pink medium rare and the gravy and vegetables full of flavour.
Top marks to chef Jamie Cadman, who has been keeping up this standard of cooking for 18 years now.
Later, much later, we tried one of the dishes for which Jamie – and Whitewell – have become rightly famous, the fish pie. A great fish pie is a truly wonderful thing and Jamie has cracked it. Succulent pieces of white fish plus prawns, topped with creamy mash and grilled cheese. It may just be the best fish pie in the world.
Whitewell is not the kind of place where you need to do much, which is just as well after all that nosh. Sit on the terrace or in the bar, relax in your room or take the dog for a walk in the countryside.
You could spend a happy afternoon looking at the paintings on the wall and trying to work out how a fox’s bottom protrudes from one of the walls... or pop into the gent’s loos for a lesson in cricketing history!
Of course, if you are feeling a little more adventurous, you could get a fishing permit and head into the great outdoors or you could travel to one of the nearby towns or villages – Clitheroe and Whalley are nearby – but there is no need.
The whole point of a stay here is to get away from it all... so we complied.
In between eating, drinking and relaxing, we chatted to other folks who were there to stay or eat and discovered that almost everyone was a returning visitor.
“We love it here,” one woman said. “We’ve got friends in Cumbria and we always stop here on our way back home to London.”
Another couple – and their grown-up children – had travelled from across the border (Yorkshire) for dinner and yet another were from the Midlands on a third visit.
The joy for us is we don’t even have to travel that far.
But it’s not difficult to see why people return here again and again.
The rooms are wonderful, the food exquisite, the beer and wine excellent and the welcome genuine.
We’ve already joined the Whitewell club and booked for another night. At the risk of starting a rush, I recommend you do too!
n Inn at Whitewell, near Clitheroe, Lancashire, BB7 3AT Telephone 01200 448222
Rooms for two from £132.