Time to re­lax into an old world charm

STU­ART GREER took his wife to Hip­ping Hall in the Lune Val­ley for some se­ri­ous me (and her) time . . .

Macclesfield Express - - TRAVEL -

SPEND­ING an hour sit­ting in snarling traf­fic is never the best way to start what is sup­posed to be a ro­man­tic night away.

But all that mo­tor­way ten­sion melts away when we head up the peb­bly drive­way of Hip­ping Hall.

De­spite its op­u­lent ex­te­rior, the 15th cen­tury house has mod­est begin­nings, start­ing life as the home of the Tathams, a fam­ily of black­smiths who plied their hon­est trade for all those trav­el­ling on the old pack horse route from York­shire to Cum­bria, through Cowan Bridge.

These days it has been trans­formed into a re­treat for food lovers and those look­ing to es­cape the hus­tle and bus­tle of life, by chemist turned hote­lier An­drew Wild­smith.

Sit­ting on the bor­der of Lan­cashire, Cum­bria and North York­shire, you would strug­gle to find a more per­fectly placed coun­try hide­away.

Af­ter leav­ing the car we are im­me­di­ately swad­dled in green­ery, with tall bushes block­ing out the sights and sounds of the whistling traf­fic as it speeds along the nearby A65.

What is left is the crunch of our foot­steps on the gravel amid the bird song as our ac­com­mo­da­tion comes into view.

Walk­ing to­wards Hip­ping Hall, with its col­lec­tion of old stone build­ings. com­plete with ivy clam­ber­ing roofwards, is like step­ping back in time and wouldn’t be out of place in a Beatrice Pot­ter book.

Dap­pled in the fad­ing sun­light the metic­u­lously man­i­cured and sym­met­ri­cal gar­den lawn is im­pres­sive and you can im­me­di­ately see why wed­dings are so pop­u­lar here. In­side, there a much more mod­ern touch to the re­cep­tion room, bar and lounge, but the low beams, steep, creaky stair­cases and the nooks and cran­nies which would have no place in a 21st cen­tury, re­mind you of the history of the prop­erty.

Af­ter a lovely welcome we are led to our suite, known as room four, which boasts a lounge area with a sofa as well as a ta­ble and chairs, a large bed­room and a mas­sive, and I mean mas­sive, bath­room.

If that’s not enough, the whole thing over­looks the gar­den we’d spent so long ad­mir­ing on the way in.

The grandeur of the bed­room is sim­ply breath­tak­ing. It’s not showy or over­stated, it’s just el­e­gant and cosy.

The bed per­fect il­lus­trates the jux­ta­po­si­tion of old and new. Here we have a hand­made base, vis­pring mat­tress and leather back­board, while above are the orig­i­nal crisscross of an­cient beams con­nected by a net canopy above.

The bath­room is again that mix of old and new, with the beams on show, wooden floor­boards, un­der­floor heat­ing and a shower be­hind a long sleek piece of frosted glass, as well as the high­light, a deep dou­ble ended bath, the size of a small boat.

With two hours to kill be­fore din­ner, we en­joy a few glasses of Cham­pagne watch­ing the sun go down be­fore lan­guidly get­ting our­selves dolled up for a night of gas­tro­nom­i­cal in­dul­gence at the three AA rosette res­tau­rant.

Walk­ing into the din­ning room is an ex­pe­ri­ence I won’t for­get.

In the foyer, there is a well lit from be­low, high vaulted eaves and min­strels’ gallery, and the won­der­ful smell of fire­wood. It sets us up per­fectly for an evening of the most sublime tastes and smells.

The am­bi­ence of the room is just right with only a few other cou­ples shar­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence.

Af­ter gaz­ing at the menu and strug­gling to choose, I make the sen­si­ble de­ci­sion and go for the tast­ing menu which com­prises of a mix­ture of meat and fish cour­ses.

To our de­light, the chef, Oli Martin, of­fers to cre­ate a unique ver­sion of the eight-course taster menu for my veg­e­tar­ian wife, so she didn’t miss out on the ex­pe­ri­ence.

Things start with a bang.

Beet­root, bal­samic wasabi crème fresh which is both spiky hot and re­fresh­ing. Then we have cod on broc­coli puréed with toasted al­mond.

My favourite was the classy but fun York­shire pork loin with car­rot ketchup.

We ended the meal with a mind­blow­ing rhubarb with parkin ice cream and kom­bucha, be­fore a les­son in how to en­joy port and cheese.

It is not just the food that leaves us im­pressed, but the stan­dard of ser­vice which comes with style and a smile. There is no room for stuffi­ness here.

Af­ter the best slum­ber I’ve had in a long time – mainly in thanks to our tod­dler – there’s just enough time to en­joy the best eggs royal I’ve ever tasted be­fore re­luc­tantly leav­ing our room to de­part.

Hav­ing spent the last 18 months com­ing to terms with par­ent­hood, knee-deep in nap­pies and wet wipes, learn­ing to func­tion on four hours of sleep and re­luc­tantly aban­don­ing all sense of cou­ple­dom, our stay at Hip­ping Hall with­out the lit­tle guy was ex­tra spe­cial and so mem­o­rable that it would be a crime for us not to re­turn.

●● Hip­ping Hall and, inset be­low, a rather grand bed­room

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