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 . . .
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