Hipping Hall in Cumbria provided Jane Bradley with imaginative food and some bracing walks
My great grandparents have one of the loveliest views in England. It is official: John Ruskin said so. At least, they would if they could see out. For they are buried in what is possibly the most picturesque churchyard in the world – their gravestones overlooking the renowned “Ruskin’s view”, a sweeping vista overlooking the River Lune, which was, famously, painted by JMW Turner.
I was in Kirkby Lonsdale in Cumbria, a market town nestled on the edge of the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales.
By coincidence, my grandfather was brought up in Kirkby Lonsdale, so it was a chance to do a bit of digging into my family history. His parents, Thomas and the wonderfully eccentrically named Lettice, were natives of the area, ending their days in a plot at the back of the churchyard right above the famous view.
The short walk around the river paths of Kirkby Lonsdale are stunning – 20 minutes brings us to the picturesque Devil’s Bridge, built in around 1370 by monks.
All of that, however, was an added bonus. I was actually there mainly to sample the food provided at Hipping Hall, a boutique restaurant with rooms just a couple of miles from Kirkby Lonsdale itself.
A former blacksmith’s dwelling, the Hall has been beautifully renovated by Andrew Wildsmith, a hotelier with a handful of luxury properties in the Lake District.
Although an undeniably romantic destination, childcare problems meant I had to leave my husband at home and share the Hipping Hall love with my friend Charlotte, who spent the weekend Whatsapp-ing my hubby pictures of our giant stand-alone bath and luxurious suite – just to let him know what he was missing.
The highlight is the Hall’s tasting menus. Head chef Oli Martin is only in his late twenties, but, alongside young pastry chef Ellis, he produces a table of food well worthy of many a Michelin-starred establishment.
Dishes are light, innovative and surprising. The items listed on the tasting menu are little more than an ingredient list, adding to the mystery when the dishes make it to the table.
A dessert featuring “Lancashire cheese and spiced bread” came as delicate little ice cream sandwiches on a smoky bark base, with accompanying glasses of iced tea. A cucumber gazpacho served in a bowl of ice was another highlight.
The next morning, we decided to walk off the enormous amounts of food (even teeny tiny fine dining courses add up when there are eight of them) with a waterfall walk recommended in our helpful in-room guide to the area.
The Ingleton Waterfalls Trail sounded like a gentle enough stroll, but was actually a gruelling hike, taking us up and down stony paths, climbing to the top of waterfalls – and then back to the bottom. Eventually, we emerged on to a gentle path which took us along the top of a ridge and down through sloping hills, back to the car park.
Exhausted, we spent the afternoon sipping coffee in the lovely grounds – recovering from our second tasting menu in as many days, this one as delicious and creative as the first.
A drive down the road to nearby Burrow for a swift half at the Highwayman pub later that evening saw us lucky enough to spot a hot air balloon drifting across the quiet fields.
Back at the hotel, we enjoyed another cup of complimentary tea brought to our room – along with a delicious slice of cake – and happily drifted off, just like the hot air balloon.
As well as its excellent food, Hipping Hall also offers ten luxurious rooms in the main house, in addition to a new separate block with five garden rooms: perfect for a family group or wedding party staying together.
The next day, we couldn’t resist another wander around the shops of Kirkby Lonsdale, mainly, for me, to pick up a bag of homemade treacle toffee from the traditional sweet shop on the Market Square.
If we had had more time, I would have liked to visit the Ribblehead Viaduct at Batty Moss, if just for the wonderful name, while the area also boasts attractions including Sizergh Castle and White Scar Cave – Britain’s longest show cave and the perfect destination for a wet day.
A lost item of clothing left in my room at Hipping Hall – which staff claimed they had found but which has still, at the time of writing, somehow never made it back to me despite repeated assurances it would be posted – was the only negative in an otherwise lovely couple of days.
Bizarrely, the exact same thing happened to me the time I stayed at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire – obviously the price I have to pay for delicious food.
• At Hipping Hall (www.hippinghall.com) Cowan Bridge, Kirkby Lonsdale prices per night start at £189 midweek for a double room. An eight-course tasting menu costs £65, with an accompanying wine package for £42.