Short break - The Assheton Arms, Downham
- Credit: Archant
Lancashire Life award winner The Assheton Arms now has a new string to its bow – luxurious bedrooms. Roger Borrell reports. Photography by Kirsty Thompson
There’s a certain smug satisfaction sitting in a lovely country inn, sipping a beer and anticipating dinner safe in the knowledge that when chins have been wiped and dishes cleared away you don’t have to go home.
For while few things are better than a stroll after dinner – it’s even better when it lasts just 30 yards and it ends at a stunning cottage conversion containing your king-sized bed for the night.
That’s the approximate distance from the front door of the award-winning Assheton Arms to Ash Tree Cottage, which contains four of 12 gorgeous rooms opened by the Seafood Pub Company. It’s a development which will be welcomed by the many customers who are happy to travel some distance to sample its charms but have, like most of us, enjoyed a meal in beautiful surroundings and thought: ‘I wish I didn’t have to go home.’
That’s not a problem if you are staying in one of the many top class hotels on our patch, but the boom in dining pubs often makes that a little harder. Most of the good ones are in locations that require a car with all the restrictions that entails.
Many are now switched on to this latest shift in the market. The essential ingredients of good beer and great food now have accommodation added to the recipe - a move embraced in the Ribble Valley by the Seafood Pub Company, founded by Lancashire Life Food & Drink Awards winner Joycelyn Neve.
The Assheton Arms is in the delightful village of Downham, one of Britain’s last unspoilt communities thanks to the Assheton family who have kept the worst aspects of the 21st century at bay.
There are no double yellow lines or satellite dishes and the rash of pointless road signs that ruin many pretty places has never been allowed to deface Downham.
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That’s not to say it hasn’t changed – it has, but in a slower, more thoughtful way. It’s the same at the pub. From the outside, the Assheton looks every inch the timeless English country inn. The inside also retains the character of a 19th century tavern but with a 21st century buzz and cuisine and service to match.
The pub was being eyed up by a celebrity chef from the other side of the Pennines when Joycelyn and her team nipped in and took charge. Lovers of the Assheton Arms are thankful it dodged that bullet.
The addition of the en-suite bedrooms – all will be open by the start of June - means it kicks on to a new level of excellence. As well as the cottage there’s a stunning duplex created in the corner of the main pub and the nearby former Post Office has the rest of the accommodation, including three family rooms. One will have what promises to be a stunning feature - an antique copper bath.
Our room had remarkable views of Pendle Hill. It has been converted from what was presumably an estate worker’s home with great imagination but also with regard to the age and character of the building.
There’s a cosy communal sitting room on the ground floor and our bedroom was large but inviting with subtle, natural shades and big armchairs in black and grey check. ‘Because it’s an old building, some people would have used furniture and furnishings that are quirky and eclectic but that’s not our style,’ said Joycelyn. ‘Like our restaurant, we keep it simple and elegant and let the ingredients do the talking.’
They certainly do that at Ash Tree. Scene-stealers are the spectacular bathrooms. Ours, with Orla Kiely toiletries, was one of the most luxurious I’ve seen with a walk in shower so big it required a map to navigate and a shower head the size of a dustbin lid that took you on a tour of a tropical rain forest.
I took advantage of the absence of guests to have a peep in the other rooms and all were extremely well appointed with equally lavish bathroom fittings and beautiful oak floors.
Breakfast back in the pub was outstanding. In fact the only thing wrong with it was that when it was over I really did have to go home.
The Assheton Arms, Downham, near Clitheroe, BB7 4BJ. 01200 441227. Standard rooms are £80-£100 depending on the time of week while the family cottage sleeping four in two doubles with a living room is from £200 to £220. For more information go www.seafoodpubcompany.com
On the menu
The dinner menu at the Assheton Arms always has specials, many fish dishes which are the group’s specialities. Regulars include:
Devilled crab,salmon and brown shrimp £6.75
Potted salt beef £6.50
Southern fried cod with gem salad £5.95
Tikka spiced monkfish with split pea dahl and king prawn pakoras £21.50
Roast hake with smoked salmon potato pancake £15.50
Indian shepherd’s pie with spiced mash and chilli pickled beets £13.50
After Eight choc ice with chocolate mousse and chocolate crumble £5.75
Vanilla crème brûlée with oatcookies £5.50
Passion fruit and blackberry mess with little meringues £5.50