Harley Young escapes to the countryside with a stay at cosy Clitheroe country inn, Assheton Arms
I’ve always lived in cities. Sheffield, Leeds and, for the past three years now, England’s third largest. You quickly get accustomed to the sounds of builders equipped with jackhammers, fellow commuters chuntering to themselves as you dodge their oncoming traffic, trains and buses all ringing their bells in unison like some kind of transport orchestra. Like tinnitus, you drown it out until the noises just become a low hum at the back of your mind, constantly there, just less aggravating than it was when you first moved to the big city.
But every now and then it begins to grate on you. Whether you were born out in the sticks or slap bang in the middle of Manchester or Liverpool city centres, you have to admit, the constant movement becomes a bit too much.
It’s beautifully quiet and quintessentially curated. A true gem just an hour away from the hustle and bustle of Manchester.
As a way to recalibrate my tolerance of city living, I packed a suitcase and caught the train to Clitheroe for a peaceful stay at the Assheton Arms - a quaint country inn on a hill in the small village of Downham.
A short eight-minute taxi from Clitheroe station, after you've weaved through the winding country roads and past cottages, it reveals itself. Standing proudly opposite St. Leonard’s Church, the Assheton Arms is as inviting from the outside as it is inside. The terrace offers spectacular views of the Ribble Valley on one side and with the looming and grand presence, looking out to Pendle Hill just beyond its doorstep. It’s quiet and quintessentially curated. A true gem just an hour away from the hustle and bustle of Manchester.
I could have stood there taking in the breathtaking scenery for hours, but the promise of a cold pint and a warm open fire beckoned me inside.
On entering the Assheton Arms, it’s everything you could ever want from a countryside inn,. It’s a fairly quaint space but is full of character. From the wooden pews with tartan scatter cushions and the border collie asleep in front of the roaring fire to the black and white photographs of yesteryear and the sound of older gentlemen cackling away as they sip on pint after pint of bitter, it It has a serious charm to it.
We nestled into the corner with a pint each - Bowland pilsner for me, Hen Harrier for the other half - and a packet of black pudding and mustard Lancashire crisps. It’s hard not to feel utterly settled in a place like this..
We were told our room was ready so headed out the front door and around the corner to the old post office where a cluster of the ensuite rooms are situated. Our room was modern, beautifully decorated throughout and had a cosy feel about it despite being absolutely enormous. The tartan theme from next door continues throughout the rooms with soft furnishings such as the armchair and throw, and everything else is a neutral yet inviting shade of off-white.
The tea and coffee stations are richly stocked with quality Earl Grey and mint tea bags, ready in their cup and saucer, sat waiting for the hot water to be poured in. If tea isn’t your thing, there’s a coffee machine by the bedside should you need an espresso to wake you from your peaceful slumber in the morning.
Once we’d unpacked and settled in we decided to venture down to Holmes Mill, just an eight-minute drive from where we were staying and a 10-minute walk from Clitheroe train station. It’s also owned by James’ Places - the same business that owns Assheton Arms - so we knew the beer would be good.
On this particular weekend, Clitheroe Food Festival was being hosted at the Mill, resulting in a pleasant afternoon of street food, locally brewed IPAs and sweet treats. Holmes Mill really is a jack of all trades with its own food and beer hall, hotel, duckpin bowling alley and Everyman cinema on site.
After we’d substantially filled our bellies with delicious tidbits from the stalls, it was time to walk it all off. We headed up the hill, past the ever popular Castle Chippy (that’s open on Sundays, would you believe it?), beyond quaint little vintage shops and cocktail bars, and over to Clitheroe Castle. Situated on a small hill overlooking the town, Clitheroe Castle ruins provide spectacular views of the Ribble Valley and Bowland. The short uphill climb is a great way to burn off brisket and potatoes, too.
We mooched around the town for a few more hours, weaving in and out of cobbled streets, before getting a cab back to the Assheton Arms and freshening up, ready for dinner.
As well as a solid selection of traditional pub favourites like fish & chips, ox cheek pie and bacon chop, they have a specials menu that regularly rotates and features some exceptional dishes - a menu we couldn’t help but order from.
To start, I chose the pork croquettes with crispy crackling and gooseberry chutney (£10.95) - a delectable portion of pork that pulled apart with ease, combining salty and sweet, ending with a satisfying crunch from the stick of crackling on the side.
For the main event, I went with the Goosnargh chicken breast stuffed with haggis and wrapped in pancetta, served with fondant potato, purple broccoli and whisky pepper sauce. Absolutely blooming marvellous - both in appearance and flavour.
My partner was wooed by the mini curried venison pie with spiced mango chutney and a cherry tomato and mint salad (£9.95), followed by a hearty portion of the roasted fillet of beef topped with gorgonzola cheese, clotted cream mash, chargrilled asparagus and bordelaise sauce (£35.95).
An absolute sucker for desserts, I gave in to my sweet tooth and we shared a creamy-yet-light serving of the white chocolate creme brûlée with pecan biscotti (£7.50).
Full and satisfied, I decided to call it a night at 9:30pm (like the wild twenty-something I am). As the owner of a shower with the worst water pressure in the North West, I took full advantage of a relaxing soak in the enormous free-standing roll top bath in our room before getting into the super king-size bed and drifting off into a peaceful slumber.
After a restful night's sleep, we headed down to breakfast to enjoy the last remnants of our whirlwind countryside break. Though we’d only spent 24-hours in the Ribble Valley, the fresh air and tranquil surroundings had worked wonders for mind, body and soul.
We managed to get a seat in the corner of the Assheton Arms dining room, beside the bay window that looked out to sheep grazing at the bottom of Pendle Hill. A sparrow came and sat on the window ledge and looked at us for a while as we sipped breakfast tea from a teapot. It felt like something from a Disney movie. I can only begin to imagine how picturesque and peaceful this exact spot could look in the winter when there’s frost upon the ground, the fire is roaring and there’s a warm glass of mulled wine between your palms.
Before long, we were awoken from our dream state with the unmistakable wafting smell of our Full English breakfasts arriving. Complete with all the trimmings including a thick slab of black pudding, quality local sausages, a crispy hash brown and eggs made your way.
I scooped up the remaining baked beans on my plate and sipped the last of my tea. It felt bittersweet. I was gutted for the visit to be drawing to a close, but glad to have found a new favourite spot for escaping from the city.
Assheton Arms, Top Row, Downham, Clitheroe BB7 4BJ
This visit was hosted by the Assheton Arms.
Book your stay now you can take advantage of the Assheton Arms’ latest offer. From now until 30 September 2023, on selected dates, guests can enjoy a midweek overnight stay in a classic double bedroom with dinner and breakfast from just £123 per couple*.
*This offer is available on selected midweek dates across all James’ Place venues, including Assheton Arms and Holmes Mill. Dinner includes a £20 per person allocation. Offer only valid on new bookings and this cannot be exchanged or transferred. Click here to book.
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