The Assheton Arms

Lancashire, Northern England, United Kingdom Book from

Reviewed by Abi Dare
A convivial gastro pub with rooms in an unspoilt conservation village beneath legendary Pendle Hill; ideal for relaxing breaks
Tucked into a leafy corner of the Ribble Valley, Downham feels like a bubble in time. There isn’t a TV aerial or street marking in sight, let alone a modern building, and its ivy-clad cottages are often used as a backdrop for period films. By day, ducks waddle along the brook and sheep bleat in the fields; come nightfall, bats flutter between the trees as wood smoke drifts into an inky sky. Looming above is Pendle Hill, scene of the infamous witch trials of 1612, whose slopes are steeped in tales of magic and mystery.

The heart and soul of the village is the Assheton Arms, a long-term stalwart of the Good Pub Guide. Walkers and wellied locals congregate in the bar, while the rosetted restaurant lures diners with a varied menu that spans everything from hotpot to seafood curry. And for those who want to linger for longer, it now has 12 cocooning guest rooms, spread across neighbouring cottages and even the old post office. Newly opened in 2015, they’re weekend-break perfect, with deep tubs, heavenly beds and muted décor that mirrors the moody landscape outside. Come for lung-fuls of fresh air, lazy fireside meals and blissful sleeps, and forget all about the stresses of 21st-century life.

Highs

  • An enchanting setting in one of Lancashire’s prettiest spots, with beautiful walks straight from the door
  • Accommodation options to suit couples and families alike, plus wow-factor bathrooms in most rooms
  • Delicious food that mixes fresh British produce with international flavours
  • Glorious views of Pendle Hill from the bar, the sunny terrace and many rooms
  • A lovely alternative to the Yorkshire Dales or Lake District: stunning scenery, fewer crowds

Lows

  • Breakfast is an additional charge and only served until 9.30am on weekdays and 10am at weekends - not ideal if you want a lie-in
  • Rooms are attractive but a little uniform in style
  • The restaurant closes at 8pm on Sunday evenings, but food is always available for guests

Best time to go

Downham is beautiful at any time of year. Come in winter for frosty fields, crackling fires and crisp country air, or in summer for alfresco meals on the terrace. Even in the height of August, you won't find the crowds you'd encounter in the Lake District or Yorkshire Dales.

Our top tips

Take a stroll around the village at dusk. It's beautifully still, with barely a sound other than bats swooping overhead, the brook gurgling beneath the bridge, and owls hooting from the branches.

Great for...

Family
Foodie
Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Pub with rooms
  • 12
  • Restaurant and bar (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
Room:

Rooms

Rooms are spread across several cottages and the former post office, whose bell still tinkles above the door. All share the same monochrome scheme - a smart yet soothing blend of grey panelling, woollen headboards and checked blankets. Walls are adorned with black and white photographs of misty moors and moonlit valleys; gnarled beams, tiled fireplaces or sash windows add dashes of period character. Bathrooms are a treat, with marble-clad rain showers and, in many, decadent rolltop tubs.

Categories differ in size and layout. In short, there’s something for everyone: cosy doubles, split-level suites, family rooms with sofabeds or additional bedrooms. Top of the pile are the Double Suites, whose vast bathrooms encompass a freestanding bath and a double walk-in shower (complete with mood lighting, should you want to up the romance). We stayed in the old post office, in the Double Standard. It’s the smallest room, with a tiny ensuite, but the payoff is a full-frontal view of Pendle Hill. We slept with our blind open (no light pollution to worry about here) and awoke to a golden glow bouncing off its slopes - magical.

Features include:

  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Satellite tv
  • Slippers and bathrobes (on request)
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

The pub is a lovely mix of friendly boozer and smart restaurant, and both the bar and dining room buzz with happy chatter. In winter, fires crackle in stone hearths; in summer, you can head out to the terrace and gaze up at Pendle Hill.

The lunch and dinner menus are lengthy and varied, covering everything from classic steaks to steamed Korean buns. Despite the inland location, seafood is something of a speciality (the owners run a fishing company), and many dishes have an international twist. It might sound confused, but everything we sampled was delicious: prawn empanadas, melt-in-the-mouth Lancashire cheese fritters, tikka-spiced monkfish, a rich Peruvian fish stew. To round things off, we treated ourselves to a cheese platter and Port, before waddling back to our room full but happy.

If you fancy something lighter, you can choose from a range of bar snacks - tasty little morsels such as hake goujons and fried padron peppers. Breakfast is the usual buffet (fruit, pastries, cereal), plus hot dishes such as the Full Lancashire and smoked salmon with scrambled eggs.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Coffee tea making
  • Restaurant
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Explore Downham, which has been used as a filming location for Whistle Down the Wind, The Secret of Crickley Hall and more. Paddle in the brook, potter around the churchyard, and stop for ice cream in the pretty little tea room
  • Hike up Pendle Hill. There are several trails to choose from, taking you past copses, crags and reservoirs, and the view from the summit spans several counties
  • Or follow a gentle circular route around Downham and the neighbouring village of Chatburn. Staff can provide maps and directions
  • Head off in search of the Pendle witches, who were hanged in the 17th century following Britain’s largest ever witch hunt and who are said to haunt the area to this day. Waymarkers adorned with broomsticks and pointy hats direct you around farms and villages connected with the trials, and there’s a museum in nearby Pendleton
  • The Yorkshire Dales National Park, Haworth (home of the Bronte sisters) and the market town of Skipton are all within easy driving distance if you fancy venturing further afield

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Mountain biking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Shopping / markets

Kids

Children are very welcome, and the terrace was busy with families during our summer stay. There are accommodation options to suit all shapes and sizes of party, and the pub has a kids’ menu. Best of all, as the rooms are dotted around several buildings, you don’t need to worry too much about your little ones disturbing other guests.

Best for:

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

Family friendly accommodation:

The Family Ensuite rooms each have an additional twin bedroom or a lounge with a double sofabed; one is spread over 2 floors. There’s also a split-level Family Suite, which sleeps up to 6 in a double bedroom, a separate bunkroom and a lounge with a sofabed. Rollaway beds can be added to most other rooms, and all have space for a baby cot. Many bathrooms have tubs.

Baby equipment:

  • Baby cots
  • High chairs

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

Children's meals:

The kids’ menu encompasses tried-and-tested favourites such as fish fingers, ice cream and pitta soldiers with hummus.

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Paddling in the brook and feeding the ducks
  • Pendle witch trail
  • Clitheroe Castle (10 minutes’ drive)
  • Pendle dry ski slope (20 minutes’ drive)
  • Bowland Wild Boar Park (40 minutes’ drive), with all sorts of animals to meet and feed

Families Should Know:

As rooms are spread across several buildings. baby monitors don’t work between the pub and the accommodation.

Distances:

  • Airport: 1 hour’s drive (Leeds-Bradford)
  • Hospital: 40 minutes’ drive (Burnley)
  • Shop: 5 minutes’ drive
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

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

{{ review.firstName }}{{ review.countryName ? ', '+ review.countryName : '' }},
Feedback is only from guests who have booked and stayed through i-escape

Rates for The Assheton Arms