Legend has it that Lord Of The Rings author, J.R.R. Tolkien, modelled Middle Earth on the Forest of Bowland, and it’s easy to understand why. It feels magical, otherworldly even, and nowhere more so than the Inn at Whitewell. Sections of this remote refuge date to the 15th century and, from its carved stonework and ancient flagged floors to its comfortable, antique-dressed bedrooms, it oozes character. The Inn sits in a lush green valley, which you can admire from the Inn’s sunny terrace, by striking out on numerous local walks, or while fishing on the adjacent River Hodder: ‘you catch it, we’ll cook it,’ says owner Charles Bowman.
At night, in the Inn’s bar areas, guests feast on hearty British classics like Cumberland sausage and champ, grilled kippers, and the Inn’s famous fish pie. ‘There would be a revolt if we took that off,’ Charles claims. In the restaurant, chef Jamie Cadman offers more refined dishes similarly founded on superb local produce (Goosnargh chicken, Burholme Farm lamb etc.). In September, Lancashire Moor grouse flies out of the kitchen. It’s roasted and served in classic style with bread sauce, cranberry, roast potatoes and peas, and goes very well, suggests Charles, with Zuccardi malbec (£18.50 a bottle). Wine is an obsession at the Inn. It has its own on-site wine shop that focusses on small producers, and the restaurant wine list includes a short section of very special, ‘venerable old wines’, to which the Inn adds a flat corkage of £30. Fantastic things really do happen in the Forest of Bowland. Bar mains from £8.10. Restaurant starters from £7.25, mains from £16; innatwhitewell.com