Looking for the perfect small staycation filled with hearty food, beautiful scenery and plenty of fun for everyone? You don't need to be looking abroad, as you can just head up north to Northumberland to find one of the country's best hidden gems. I travelled there last month and the timing could not have been better as the surrounding forestry made for unforgettable scenery as the autumn leaves made for a backdrop that would have made many artists jealous.
The hotel is part of the Calcot Collection, a group of high-quality hotels which includes The Painswick and Calcot & Spa.
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As a born-and-bred southerner, the furthest north I'd been in my life had been trips to Alton Towers, so I was excited to have my first proper northern experience, and given how the whole trip was, I'm now looking forward to having my second northern experience…
The Lord Crewe Arms is situated in the historical village of Blanchland, right on the border of Durham and Northumberland and the building was converted from an old monastery meaning that the entire place is steeped deep in history. Located in the village is its old schoolhouse, now converted into a coffee shop, what is believed to be a cheese press, an old guardhouse which is perfect for conferences and not available for the general public, the local abbey which was founded in 1165 and a local crafts shop selling all kinds goods, most of which are handmade.
The village is seeped in history
The village itself was also founded in the 1100s, with many of the buildings having been refurbished over the years, a lot of which comes from 17th century Essex.
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And while the village may be small, it's nearby to large towns like Hexham as well as major landmarks like Hadrian's Wall, which is only a 30 minute drive away. It is also close to another historical town, Corbridge, that featured a wide variety of local independent stores from bookshops, to kitchen equipment to the bakery, Grant's, which sold gorgeous food perfect for lunches when out and about.
If you can manage to tear yourself out of your room, more on those later, you will find plenty to do in the surrounding area. The hotel offers its own packages, for an extra fee, which will treat guests to magical nature walks in the surrounding forests to learn all about the interesting flora and fauna. The local guide was a real highlight of the stay as she knew everything worth knowing about the area and was able to pepper in amusing anecdotes during gaps between stops. Wellington boots are highly recommended for this experience, with there being plenty of mud around, but depending on your foot size the hotel will be able to offer them if you accidentally leave them at home.
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The real highlight for me, however, was the stargazing. The Lord Crewe Arms is the only hotel in the country to have its own telescope on the grounds and during the clear autumn night that we had, it made for perfect viewing as I was able to see Saturn, Jupiter and even the Andromeda Galaxy in all of their glory. A local stargazer is available on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and if pre-booked, will be able to inform guests all about the wonders of our cosmos.
Derwent Resevoir is a nearby attraction
Although I didn't get to experience these during my stay, there are also plenty of mindfulness walks around the village and location as well as fishing and watersports at the nearby Derwent reservoir.
And when you're done exploring and enjoying the surrounding countryside, the best place to relax will be inside the Crypt Bar nestled in the hotel's underbelly. My drink of choice happened to be a gluten-free cider, forgoing my usual fruity option and it was one of the most beautiful drinks that I've ever had. It's not just cider available as the hotel offers plenty of beers, gins and wines, with the Mount Holdsworth Sauvignon Blanc, being a particular favourite of the group.
With an ever-changing menu stocked full of locally sourced produce, it's guaranteed that there will be something to everyone's liking during their stay. From beautifully-cooked steaks to partridge to gorgeous salmon, I was impressed with every meal that I was served during my two-night stay. As someone who has a small appetite, I was partly worried about not being able to finish each of the three courses, but they were perfectly sized to the point where I felt stuffed, but not where others might be left hungry.
All food is locally sourecd and the menu changes every day
Breakfasts were also a treat and while there being less options than the dinnertime menu, which is to be expected, it still featured enough dishes for anyone to be able to find something to suit their tastes. During my stay I enjoyed both a hearty Northumberland breakfast, which came with all that you'd expect for a full English as well as some helpings of black pudding and some smashed avocado on toast and I would have happily had a second portion each time.
There are a wide variety of places to dine in as well at the hotel, with there being the Bishop's Room, a restaurant-styled dining room that is lavishly designed and located right next to the kitchen where all the tasty treats are cooked. There is also the Hilyard Room, a rusitc old dining with large wooden dining tables and open roaring fires, where you're likely to bump into the locals or guests who have brought their pet dogs along with them. And for something even quieter there is also the Derwent Room, a more smaller mroe subdued room that feels just like home and is the perfect place to dine on an afternoon tea.
The hotel offers three different kinds of rooms, and I was treated to a suite and what a treat it was. As I was walked to the room one of the staff members told me that my room was one of their "favourites" and in my mind I initially dismissed this as something she would say about every room, but when I arrived, I could fully see what she meant. I ended up walking around the room for 15 minutes just mouthing "wow" as I couldn't believe that this was a room in a hotel.
The suite rooms were the best hotel rooms I've ever stayed in
The size was unbelievable and if it had a kitchen inside, you could just move in there, as it already featured a spacious living room, complete with a TV; a bathroom with a claw-foot bath and shower that I spent way too much time in relaxing and letting all my worries wash away and a luxury double-bed that was one of those beds that you just fall asleep in as soon as your head hits the pillow.
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And it wasn't just the interior of the room that was sensational, but also the views of the outside that it offered. Going in the autumn was the perfect time as the sun set early, allowing you to watch the beautiful colours during the evening, as well as experiencing the best sunrises in the morning before you head off to grab breakfast.
The Lord Crewe Arms overnight stay, rooms start at £189.00. Prices increase depending on packages purchased for the stay. Find out more on their website.