A lord and lady of the manor type of building, The Lord Crewe Arms is perched perfectly in an estate village in the midst of the North Pennine Moors. Holding court over the honey stone village of Blanchland, it was crafted by plucky 12th Century monks headed for the Northumbrian hilltops in search of celestial isolation. Today, the building has been carefully blended with a 21st Century country manor, complete with exposed stone and original fireplaces mixed with modern ironwork candelabras, oil paintings and unexpected flights of stairs around various corners. It's a cosy hangout for those wishing to escape the humdrum of city life.
But creature comforts of our homes are extended here in the shape of individually decorated bedrooms. Reassuringly comfy, each offers the best beds, feather pillows and duvets that are hard to pull yourself away from come morning. Due to the isolation of this place, you are almost guaranteed a good night's sleep, and with complimentary home-made cookies and local fudge in each room, there's even less of a reason to leave in a hurry.
However, long gone are the days when most of us want to get away from it all and simply do nothing. The moors beg to be explored with adventures on two wheels, or by foot. And there is a plethora of activities to throw yourself into right on the doorstep.
Enjoy a cookery demo
Easing ourselves gently, we began our stay with a cookery demo at the old gatehouse, opposite the front of the pub. The open kitchen is used for regular cooking events and is adjoined by a private dining room.
Food is integral to the Lord Crewe Arms, so learning to make sourdough bread was an insightful exercise in learning about the country house's ethos on cooking almost everything from scratch. Chef Simon Hicks took us through the many stages of making the Crewe Sourdough. The laborious task takes no less than 14 days and I doubt I will be making that anytime soon! But a simple bread recipe we were given instructions for, has provided me more enthusiasm to roll up my sleeves and land a few fists in making the dough.
Continuing with the food theme, we were in food heaven. From afternoon tea in the Hillyard to dinner in Bishops, we were well fed at each sitting. The seasonal ingredients, as expected from a place like this, are plucked from countryside spoils and turned into punchy, robust, British dishes rich with flavour. Many of the crops come from the bottom of the garden and heavenly meats are often roasted in the gentle glow of the medieval fireplace daily. The most memorable of the feasts was the surprise dinner with a little taste of Hicks. All the dishes begged to be passed around to be shared and there was more than plenty to go around. The fish, the meat, the vegetables were all so good it was hard to single out any dish.
Take in a tipple at The Crypt Bar
The atmospheric, barrel-vaulted bar The Crypt is almost like the heart of the manor. Here you can expect to find locals and moorland travellers alike in the stone walled, fire and candle lit place gathering throughout the day for a drink and a chatter. There is a hearty stock of Northumbrian ales including a custom-made Lord Crewe Brew and for wine lovers there is a cracking list of wines. The Lord Crewe is incredibly dog friendly. You can bring your own or make a four-legged friend or two at this fascinating bar.
Explore the great outdoors
Outdoors are well looked after with free bikes, OS maps and compasses, wellies and a plethora of walking and cycling routes. But if you are in search of a walking guide, then look no further than Wild Dog Outdoors. Run by Sara and Kevin Robson, they offer tours for visitors who want to explore the history and culture of the North. With both on the doorstep of Lord Crewe Arms, Kevin walked us around the village from the church next door to the River Derwent revealing some of the fascinating stories that unfolded years ago in this part of the world.
The lawn at the back of the manor house is not only ideal for a drink in the summer or a spot for a picnic but can be turned into a place to work on your archery and axe throwing skills, with the help of local company Fury Events. We were treated to both just hours before we left to begin our journey home to London. "In order to shoot consistent and accurately place arrows you must maintain proper alignment throughout the shot." Those were the words of our trainer which echoed through my mind as I impressively delivered a good shot one after the other. However, I wish I could say the same for my axe-throwing skills. Trying to rotate the axe 360 degrees mid-air was something I just couldn’t get the grasp of. Out of a dozen tries, I just about managed one. Luckily it was the one I managed to capture on my phone for that all-important Instagram post.
Prices from £129 per night (based on two sharing and including breakfast).
*During my stay I was hosted by the lovely team at the Lord Crew Arms Blanchland. All opinions are my own.
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