The Ribble Valley, Lancashire’s top foodie enclave, has many idyllic villages, but Downham is special. Its landowner, Lord Clitheroe, has banned road markings and satellite dishes to preserve this unspoilt hamlet. The pub, The Assheton Arms, is a warren of low ceilings and beams but, with its smart fabrics and on-trend fish cookery, it’s contemporary, too. From here, guests can walk in the Trough of Bowland, visit Skipton, or just eat.
What to eat The Ash is the boutique Seafood Pub Company’s flagship venue, and chef Antony Shirley is renowned for his pub staples (fish ‘n’ chips, fish pie) and daily specials, such as grilled plaice caught by day boats on the Fylde coast, served with Jerusalem artichoke purée, charred leeks and a honey-saffron dressing. Local grass-fed beef and game is also huge here. Try chargrilled venison with cottage pie, parsnip mash and spiced cashew sauce.
The booze In the tap room and snug, folk chat over tip-top real ales (Timothy Taylor’s Boltmaker is a favourite), and classy G&Ts made with small-batch gins, such as Caorunn (flavoured with foraged botanicals).
Star suppliers Veteran fish trader Chris Neve, aka The Codfather (he is the father of Seafood Pub Company owner Joycelyn Neve); Johnson & Swarbrick (original breeders of the legendary Goosnargh chicken); and for beef, Roaming Roosters.
The bed 12 bedrooms are spread through adjacent cottages, which enjoy stunning views of Pendle Hill. The rooms are simple and uncluttered. The Post Office is ideal for families, while room four has the most glamorous facilities – a full wet room with walk-through shower and roll-top bath.
The breakfast Naturally, fish dishes (Loch Duart salmon and scrambled eggs; smoked haddock and black pudding hash) feature alongside a hearty full breakfast.
The bill double rooms from £80 b&b. Mains from £10.95. (seafoodpubcompany.com)
Written October 2015
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