Lord Crewe Arms
, The Square, Blanchland, Northumberland.
Blanchland began life as a mediaeval abbey, then became a manor house, then fell into disrepair and was revived in the 18th century by Lord Crewe. The whole village was rebuilt and given to the Lord Crewe Trustees who still own the entire village today. This is why it remains such a charming unspoilt village, with not a a 1960s bungalow or uPVC window to ruin the effect.
The Lord Crewe Arms is at the heart of the village, a large stone building with big stone arches overlooking the stone cottages of the village square. Behind the hotel is a lawned garden which was once the cloisters and chapter house of the abbey, and hidden even further back is the car park which ensures that the square is never cluttered with cars. Inside the style is baronial, with stone-flagged floors, enormous open fireplaces and some heavy wooden furniture. In the Hilyard the effect is pleasingly austere while the reception lounge is cosy with comfy chairs and a permanent fire blazing in the fireplace, summer and winter. The crypt bar is a lovely place to while away some time and it serves the pub's own Lord Crewe ale, which comes highly recommended.
Upstairs is the Bishop's Dining Room restaurant serving an excellent breakfast for residents. The dinner menu varies daily and the chef scours the country for the finest ingredients. There's shellfish from Dorset, beef from Northern Ireland, chicken from the Ribble Valley, tomatoes from the Isle of Wight, asparagus from the Wye Valley and lots of vegetables from the hotel's own kitchen garden. All this good food is topped of by a fine wine list too. On fine days lunch is available at the tables in the garden as well as in the Hilyard or the Crypt Bar.
Most of the guest rooms are in the adjoining house and cottages. They range from Cosy, through Canny and Champion to the glorious Suites. They are all extremely well thought-out and comprehensively equipped, and the beds are wonderfully comfortable. The bigger rooms have sitting areas and maybe a log-burning stove, or a big country fireplace, or even a spiral staircase.
The attention to detail at the Lord rewe Arms is impressive. We especially liked the fog-free mirror in the bathroom, the maps and compass in each room and the planters outside have a clever bar for locking up bicycles (though that seems barely necessary in Blanchland as the local shop leaves produce outside all night!).