You don’t have to be a foodie to stay at Northcote, but the chances are it will be your tastebuds which draw you to this slightly off the beaten track country hotel. Chef-patron Nigel Haworth did, after all, put Lancashire on the map as a dining destination 20 years ago, and the place, which perches unassumingly on the corner of the main road to Preston, is now drawing celebrated guest chefs and those who like to follow them from all over the world.
This 26-room hostelry overlooking the Ribble Valley is a member of Relais & Chateaux – that outfit whose members are required to provide food to write home about as well as elegant sleeping quarters – and has held a Michelin star since 1996.
Facilities are mainly food and drink-related – an elegant restaurant, a pair of private dining rooms which can serve the same number again, and a succession of bars and lounges where conviviality and conversation are promoted both before and after dinner(a compulsory extra for those planning a weekend stay).
However, the rooms are lavish enough to inspire hours of hunkering down outside feeding times; ours in the main manor house was one of six with a working fireplace, and we had a fabulously squashy sofa and chair to sprawl on as an alternative to our huge bed. We made the most of it over a pot of extraordinary Earl Grey and Northcote’s home-made ginger nuts, enjoying a tea-time film on the huge, but elegantly integrated TV when not distracted by views of Ribble sheep and sylvan fields from our window.
Some rooms enjoy private gardens, and there are quiet nooks to enjoy a deux within the surrounding hotel garden, some of which has been eaten up by an annexe. This Garden Lodge has its own lounge, pantry kitchen and boot and drying rooms for post-hiking, and also contains a sumptuous master suite.
Northcote has devised a booklet of walks, promotes visits to the pretty nearby towns of Clitheroe and Whalley, and can arrange visits to a nearby spa and fitness centre. But while sightseeing demands clement weather, none is required for its most sought-after event, the Obsession gastronomic festiva. This sees more than a dozen of the world’s most awarded and celebrated chefs coming from every corner of the globe to cook at Northcote.
The event takes place in January, but sells out within days of tickets being released the previous November. A summer visit would be an ideal time to case the joint and experience the kitchen’s own cooking, featuring an excellent use of local products. Breakfasts are almost as celebrated as the Northcote dinners, with Lancashire cheese souffle and very superior smoked salmon a welcome alternative to the ubiquitous Full English.
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Rooms from £260 including breakfast
0044 (0) 1254 240 555