The Lord Crewe Arms is a much-loved inn on the Durham/Northumberland border. It's an extraordinary building with an extraordinary history – a 12th-century former abbot's residence that dominates the impeccably preserved village of Blanchland. Inside, it's all stone corridors, soaring ceilings, heraldic shields, hidden nooks and majestic fireplaces – including one that hides a secret 'Priest's Hole', where Jacobite rebels once sheltered.
There are guest rooms (21 in total) in the main building and the restored miners' cottages that flank the adjacent cobbled square, and while no two are the same, you can count on a certain updated country-chic style. They range from 'Cosy' (the smallest) to 'Champion' (the best), although all feature king-sized beds, robes, aromatherapy toiletries and carefully selected art and furniture. The Champion rooms and the two suites also boast Nespresso machines. Colours throughout are earthy and restful – just like the peaceful surroundings, where the loudest sound you'll hear in the morning is the birdsong.
Drinking in the medieval Crypt bar and eating in the Bishop’s Dining Room are suitably atmospheric, while grassy gardens back onto the old priory church. The hotel is also a perfect place from which to explore both Durham and Northumberland – either over the lonely moors to Stanhope in Weardale or to Hexham and Hadrian's Wall – and is a bit of a venue for country sports and outdoor activities, too: shooting and fishing, or just enjoying the local walks and bike rides.
Jules Brown writes for Cool Places, a new website from the creators of Rough Guides and Cool Camping, suggesting the best places to stay, eat, drink and shop in Britain (coolplaces.co.uk)
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