This 17-century inn is not our usual type of lodging as it's neither within our search radar, ie. booking.com or airbnb, nor in our price range. However, Ian has heard so much praise regarding the place, and we got some free flight delay compensation money to spend, so we decided to step out of our comfort zone. And it turned out to be a real treat.
The inn is located in an area of Lancashire called the Forest of Bowland, about an hour's drive from Manchester. To get there, you need to drive through small, windy and undulating roads, but the scenery is amazing.
Edging the bend of a river, the inn offers a great view of the lush field where cows graze away their leisurely day. At the time of our arrival, autumn had started to leave its yellow marks on some trees but the rest was green and lively.
If your eyes follow the water, they would soon meet a set of stepping-stone connecting one side of the river to the other. There, the river bed widens and turns steep, which makes the crossing look rather precarious.
They have the kind of rooms that give you the feeling of ultimate protection and comfort when harsh English winter gales blow. Our bed stood high with a thick, hard mattress, some heavy bedding and several layers of cover. In addition to four pillows, we had several cushions to tuck around, keep us warm, almost to the level of suffocation.
At the foot of the bed, there stood an equally comfy couch.
If you pay £50 extra (we paid £150 per night), you would get a riverside room which offers stunning views of the meadow. A great sight to see while sipping your morning cup of tea.
The inn has a restaurant, which needs reservation. You can also eat at the bar where they serve typical hefty pub food of very high quality. We chose the latter as we prefer it casual.
The bar has a big supper menu packed with national favourites like fish pie or sausages and mashed potatoes, to reward hikers after their long treks. Apparently, the wine selection is impressive even though they only had three types of beer when we were there.
After a strenuous four-hour walk, I treated myself with the high-protein Potted Cornish Crab with Cucumber Pickle and Avocado Puree - starter, smoked kipper - main, and finished with the bigger half of a sugar-loaded sticky toffee pudding. Ian went for his all-time favourite starter: baked goat cheese then moved onto slow roasted belly pork - the best I’ve ever tried. It was fat but not fatty, and the skin was crunchy but not too hard to chew.
Many people that I met in Europe or in Asia knew only of English food as fish and chips or curry. They are great themselves, but if you want complexity, take a trip to the countryside and try dishes like gammon steak or roast lamb.
The Inn at Whitewell is a great place to start several long walks across moorland and through forests. We decided on a 6-mile trek described as being “rather wild”.
We set off at 2pm, after savouring two bacon butties in the nearby village (served at the post office!). It was thick and lean bacon, not the funny kind we found in AH supermarkets in Amsterdam. We packed two chocolate bars lest the hike should become too rough.
The sun was high and bright, and we enjoyed a pleasant temperature for an October day in England.
The route started unchallenging, with us following the river through a couple of fields. Chicken strutted on low grass and hard soil. I took photos of silly sheep, dreaming of a pleasant stroll to come.
Well, that was another dream that didn’t come true. The hike was physically challenging but the views and the tranquility were well worth all hard work.
As soon as we left the main road and passed the first farm, we had to climb up a hill where the grass was knee high. As we searched for a sturdy, dry path among ferns, I felt like we had gone back in time, or fell into a strange dimension as we seemed to slog up forever. At first, there was a path, then there wasn’t. The ground was dry and solid in parts but boggy and overgrown most of the way.
The higher I climbed, the less I hoped to see other hikers. Ian loved the solitude but I didn’t share his strange, secretive dislike for human beings. I wanted to see people, to convince myself that the route was the right one. As much as I wished to, we saw no other hikers to say hello for the whole 4 hours. I found only some lonesome horses, black as well as white sheep, and enormous cows.
When we finally reached the top of the first hill, I found a mansion with more chimneys that I could count. How many people live in this remote place? - I couldn't help wondering out loud.
We rolled down the hill, then up another. From then on, we were in constant doubt whether we were still following the route described in the guidebook given to us by the inn. As the moor opened wider and wider, the path disappeared beneath the tall grass, and become interweaved with various streams. Soon enough, our shoes got soaked and our socks stuck to our feet, while water and god-knows-what-else seeped in.
One time, we had to follow some sheep blindly to look for a lone tree, on a path which was mostly likely made by the sheep rather than anybody else. We did find the tree, thankfully. It was a beautiful tree, standing tall and solid in a scene of peace and serenity.
Another time, down a limestone hill, we had to put all our effort into avoiding massive holes formed by cows' heavy hooves rather than finding the right route. Eventually, we got to the bottom of the hill, though I felt like I twisted my ankles more than once. I was lucky that I didn’t get trampled by any cows though I would not say that my shoes didn’t touch any of the stuff they left.
Knackered and muddy, I was glad to get back to the inn and climb into a hot tub. The hike was confirmed as a rather wild walk, but I would suggest the Inn highlighting the beauty of the moorland in its guide. Ian and I fell in love with the wildness, the vastness and the freedom that stretch as far as the horizon.
After the bath and the big meal, I totally recovered and thought that I could probably do it again, in a few years.
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