Lord Crewe Arms

County Durham, Northern England, United Kingdom Book from

Reviewed by Helen Pickles
An ancient, history-soaked coaching inn, holding court over a beautifully remote Pennine village
Take the comfort of a country-house hotel, mix with the heartiness of a rural pub, deliver with a cool eye for design - and you’ve got the measure of this place. Commanding the centre of tiny Blanchland, a pin-neat estate village (think honeyed-stone cottages and hanging baskets), the Lord Crewe was originally the Abbot’s house of a 12th-century monastery. All thick walls, flagged floors and oversized fireplaces, it’s the sort of place where you take wrong turns and discover another staircase.

In the 21 bedrooms, the style is stripped-down but comfortable with lots of exposed stone and plain woods, battered leather and wool throws. Fires and candles burn throughout, enhancing the already atmospheric building. Most guests (including smart shooting parties in season) disappear all day to walk, cycle or explore Hadrian’s Wall, then return to skilfully cooked yet honest food (including spit-roast options at weekends), a good local pint and a blissfully quiet night’s sleep.

Highs

  • Ridiculously relaxed, but with a well-honed professionalism
  • Sister property to the famous Cotswolds' Calcot Manor, yet very affordable
  • Rooms are generous in size, with luxe linens and Aromatherapy Associates toiletries
  • A choice of eating areas so you can go smart, casual, cosy or romantic; if you’re staying several nights, each dinner feels different
  • Friendly staff who all live locally and are great sources of advice and tips

Lows

  • Although it’s in a small village, few bedrooms have countryside views
  • You'll need a car to get here, and it's a 20-minute drive to shops
  • No mobile signal; not even outside
  • Some bedrooms feel rather spartan in their décor
  • Other than the reception area (or bars), there’s no sitting room to relax in

Best time to go

This is a place that inspires outdoorsy activities so spring and summer are good times; August is particularly fine for the moorland heathers. Autumn, however, is our favourite; the colours are fabulous and the morning and evening mists magical. It’s also prime shooting season, so book ahead.

Our top tips

  • Bring your walking boots or borrow hotel wellies for a walk along the river
  • Nobody does tea and cakes like the village’s White Monk Tearoom (in the former school)

Great for...

Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 21
  • Restaurant and bars (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available
  • Fishing rods
  • Board games
Room:

Rooms

The 21 rooms are scattered between the main building, a handsome house (The Angel, formerly a pub) across the square, and a row of miners’ cottages. An assortment of shapes due to the nature of old buildings, each has a contemporary-rustic style: wooden floors, panelling, wool-padded headboards. Although stripped down to the point of plainness, there’s a sprinkling of quirky touches - an antler’s head or Baroque-style mirror - and many have beamed ceilings and deep window seats. Heathery colours and tartan patterns add softness.

The larger Canny and Champion rooms offer more space but the Cosy category by no means skimps, and all rooms have a bath, a shower and Aromatherapy Associates potions. For more space, the Suites are proper 2-room affairs with private entrances and wood-burning stoves (though no views).

See Rates for a full description of each room type.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Bluetooth music system
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Hot-water bottle
  • Maps and compass kit
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

There’s a ‘modern British’ feel to the menus, with a definite north-eastern twang. Dishes are skilful but not fancy: fried duck egg with spiced brown shrimp butter; peppered steak with crispy onions. On our autumnal visit, the mixed beets (with Yorkshire Yellison’s goat’s curd) were home-grown, while the rowan berries accompanying the roasted Weardale grouse came from a tree in the village. Puddings are old-fashioned, perhaps sea buckthorn posset or Bakewell tart with custard.

Lunches are lighter affairs (we loved the home-cured salmon), except on Sundays when it’s a ‘sharing feast’ for the table. Breakfast is simple but quirky - toast your own crumpets, for example - with hot dishes (pancakes, duck’s eggs) cooked to order.

Apart from breakfast, you eat where you want. The Bishop’s Dining Room is light and rustic with huge arched windows. We preferred the cosy Derwent Bar with its low ceiling, slate-blue walls and flickering fire, and the medieval-style Hilyard Room with its gargantuan fireplace, spit roast and wrought-iron chandelier. In summer, the garden offers views down the Derwent Valley.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Coffee tea making
  • Private dining room
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • This is walking country, from serious hikes across the North Pennines to strolls around the Derwent Valley. A lovely walk follows the river banks direct from the hotel, and there are OS maps and a compass in each bedroom
  • Try your hand at fly-casting (rods to borrow) and hook a brown trout. The hotel can smoke it for you to take home
  • At Derwent Reservoir there’s windsurfing and sailing, and more fishing (novices can sign up for a ‘Try it Day’), plus picnic spots
  • The hotel has bicycles to borrow (free); for a tougher challenge, hire a mountain bike and tackle packhorse trails or the nearby C2C route
  • Hadrian’s Wall, a World Heritage Site, is 32km (20 miles) to the north, with a flurry of archaeological treasures including Chesters and Housesteads Roman forts and Vindolanda with its life-size wall recreation
  • For tea rooms, honey-coloured cottages and attractive shops (gift, vintage, kitchenware, fashion), Corbridge is a gentle day out; neighbouring Hexham has a twice-monthly farmers’ market and a handsome Norman abbey (lunchtime concerts plus a September music festival)

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Mountain biking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Sailing
  • Shooting
  • Shopping / markets
  • Windsurfing

Kids

Although not targeted at families, the hotel has a Family Suite plus baby cots and extra beds. There is no specific children's menu but the kitchens can prepare food for little'uns on request, and there are highchairs.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

The Family Suite has a double room and a twin room. Most bedrooms have a bath and shower and can fit either a baby cot or z-bed.

Babysitting:

On request.

Baby equipment:

Highchairs

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Families Should Know:

Baby monitors will not work through the thick stone walls.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
9/
Food
10/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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Rates for Lord Crewe Arms