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The Lord Crewe Arms: the best thing in the North East? by Maggie O'Sullivan

Posted in HOTELS + VILLAS By Maggie O' Sullivan

A couple of a certain age strides into The Lord Crewe Arms. ‘My wife and I have been driving past this hotel for 30 years. We thought it was about time we stopped and had a look round,’ says the man, taking in the honeyed flagstone floors, the fresh flowers, and the log fire crackling in the grate. He settles into a nearby sofa, while his wife does a recce. When she returns she is smiling broadly. The Lord Crewe Arms has that effect.Potted history: in the 12th century, Blanchland (above) was a large abbey. After the dissolution of the monasteries, it became a private manor house, before being sold to Lord Nathaniel Crewe, Bishop of Durham, in 1709. Lord Crewe subsequently created the village as it stands today and set up a charitable trust to run it in perpetuity. In addition to The Lord Crewe Arms, Blanchland has a church, tearoom and post-office-cum-shop – and that’s pretty much it. Then in 2012 something happened that was to give this quiet Northumbrian village a new lease of life: Calcot Hotels – which runs Calcot Manor and Barnsley House – took over The Lord Crewe Arms. The company spent £1.5m on refurbishment, bringing in Simon Hicks, a protégé of Mark Hix, to oversee the restaurant, and designer Nicky Farquhar to mastermind the grouse-moor-chic interiors. The result is a ‘boutique inn’, offering all the comforts of a luxury country house hotel, but at a more affordable price. Not only did people begin to stop, they drove for many miles to do so. Consequently, we arrive one Sunday lunchtime to find the restaurant fully booked. No matter: in the barrel vaulted Crypt Bar we order bowls of delicious broad bean hummus and eat it by the vast stone fireplace (above), said to have once been the hiding place of a Jacobite rebel.Rooms at The Lord Crewe Arms are in the main house and in the two cottage annexes. They’re divided into three categories – ‘cosy’, ‘canny’ and ‘champion’ – the main difference being size. They all have a king-size bed with top-quality linen, Aromatherapy Associates bathroom products, complimentary Wi-Fi, flat-screen TV and Roberts Radio, and a tea tray stocked with homemade biscuits and Pennines fudge. We are in Bamburgh (above), a ‘cosy’ room overlooking the gardens and a corner of the churchyard. The biscuits and fudge are gone within minutes of our arrival.There’s plenty to do here: one day we explore the moors; the next we head a few miles north to visit Housesteads Roman Fort, just outside Hexam, and to walk a small section of Hadrian’s Wall. But mostly we eat: breakfast at The Lord Crewe Arms is superb, and dinner, in the candlelit first-floor dining room (above), even better. The menu is small but beautifully formed and packed with seasonal produce and locally sourced meat and fish.We begin and end each evening in the Crypt (above), working our way through the local tipples, including a Lord Crewe Brew and a delicious Northumberland gin infused with hedgerow botanicals. One evening we get chatting to a couple who clearly think The Lord Crewe Arms is the best thing in the North East. They might just be right.

The Lord Crewe Arms, from £150 (cosy), £170 (canny), £180 (champion) per night, including breakfast.

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