BLANCHLAND, DH8 9SP
High in the Durham Dales, Blanchland is an exquisite little estate village of honey-coloured limestone houses. What is now The Lord Crewe was built as the Abbot's lodge, guest house, dining room and kitchens for the monks of the Norman Blanchland Abbey. Although the abbey was dissolved in 1539 it took until the 1720s before the buildings became an inn, after which it swiftly became popular with miners exploiting the rich deposits of lead up on the moors. It belongs to the group that owns Calcot Manor, Barnsley House and The Village Pub in Gloucestershire, so you can expect the team here to know exactly how to create an enjoyable experience in an historic setting. The bar is in the vaulted crypt, a hugely atmospheric space formed by thick stone walls, lit by 'candle-style' chandeliers, and offering Northumbrian ales, including the inn's own appropriately named Lord Crewe Brew. At lunch the bar and two restaurants might offer smoked haddock rarebit on toast with a fried egg as a starter, and braised lamb on the bone with root vegetables as a main. In the evening you might contemplate a selection including black pudding with crushed apple potatoes and mustard gravy as your starter, followed by Yorkshire mallard with Weardale game dumpling and whipped celeriac; or grilled whole Dover sole with caper butter and charlotte potatoes. Finish with Bakewell pudding with vanilla ice cream, or sea buckthorn posset. You can eat in the beautiful gardens, surrounded by the ancient walls and imagine the monks strolling around all those centuries ago.