Does luxury and East Lancashire go together? Well, in the case of The Lawrence, it does. On the outside, it looks like a normal large house, sitting on a corner of an ordinary looking street.
A guesthouse or B&B maybe. Attractive Grade II listed building, certainly (it’s actually 200 years old), but it doesn’t necessarily look like a fancy spa or boutique hotel.
However, the minute you enter the hall – adorned by quirky animal wallpaper – you know you’re somewhere special.
Along the hall, to the left, is a small reception where we met Hannah, she was very friendly and helpful. The hotel prides itself on providing a bespoke experience for its guests. After filling in a short questionnaire asking what we would like to have for our breakfast in the morning, she took us on a short tour, showing the breakfast room, unmanned bar (it has an honesty box) and sitting area. There are also function and conference rooms and an outside courtyard.
Upstairs was the Tolkien suite – luxurious, elegant and extravagant.
There was an enormous television (which we discovered had Netflix, neither of us has this subscription channel but we took full advantage by watching The Outlaw King, about Robert the Bruce, and Alliances, a spy thriller starring Brad Pitt). A luxurious dark blue velvet settee faced the TV, with a massive bed behind – actually the room was huge, much bigger than what I am used to in hotels and B&Bs. Elegant wallpaper adorned the wall, there was a sweets jar, biscuits, bottles of water, tea, coffee, kettle… On the side of the bed was a pile of Tolkien books, a nice touch.
Am I missing something? The bathroom, ah, the bathroom.
Normally, the bathroom is a much overlooked although necessary component of a hotel room. Toilet, tick. Shower, tick. Sink, tick. But this was different.
For a start, it was upstairs. Yes, this guest suite sits across two floors. A floating bathroom atop a mezzanine balcony. There was a separate shower and toilet cubicle, while the sink and roll top bath was in a more open plan setting.
The whole vibe was contemporary luxury, unlike many chain hotels though, The Lawrence oozes character. It is no surprise to learn that the 14-room boutique hotel was been renovated last year. It now has one suite, three signature rooms, three superior rooms and seven snugs.
The luxury doesn’t end there. Relaxation treatments are also available if booked in advance and afternoon tea is served on a weekend. Again this requires booking.
We went for a short walk in Padiham, a small attractive town, located next to the River Calder. In the 1900s its industries were coal-mining and weaving and by 1906, there were 20 cotton mills. Of course, all this is gone now.
Eating at Freemasons at Wiswell, in the rural Ribble Valley, was a gastronomical treat. It’s a venue full of refined rustic charm, a combination of country pub and shooting lodge.
We sampled many dishes on the Taste of Freemason menu, which highlights chef Steven Smith’s work. Many of these, if I’m honest, I wouldn’t personally have chosen but was happily surprised. The dishes were just the right size, none were too filling. At the end, we were both full but not unpleasantly bloated.
Our wine was a Painted Wolf chenin blanc 2017, which was very nice. Our 30-year-old dessert wine at the end of the evening was sweet and delightful. Booking a taxi there and back turned out to be a good choice so we could both sample the wines!
Where to start? I’m a cheese lover and I found the Lancashire cheese and beetroot tartlet very creamy and moreish. The salmon scallops and pine nut sauce was scrumpish, as was the brioche cooked in goose fat and rosemary.
The duck liver was neatly presented on toast, cooked Yakitori-style (Japanese type of skewered chicken), sitting upon a bed of Wiswell Moor brambles, alongside smoked eel.
Simon didn’t think the taste of the brambles would go with the rest of the dish, but it did and he was very impressed.
The native lobster dish offered Butter poached Tail, tempura claw, crispy chicken wing and sweetcorn among lobster sauce infused with Thai Flavours.
Now normally, I wouldn’t choose lobster or duck liver or smoked eel, but on this occasion I tried them and I liked them.
The menu also offers a Winter Blues Menu, a la Carte, Vegetarian and a Sunday Family lunch.
The following morning we had cereal and our cooked breakfast in a very pleasant room adjacent to the garden room. We met the hotel’s dog, Hetti, who was very charming indeed!
It would have been delightful to have stayed another evening, but alas, we were only here for one night. So after packing, we left for witch country, aka Barley and the Pendle Hill area, which isn’t far from here.
I’ve been to Barley a few times, twice last year when walking up Pendle Hill. I opted for what seemed a never-ending bowl of potato and leek soup (no complaints though, it was very tasty) in the popular cafe at the car park (only £1 to park!) Rather than hike up the steep hill, we had a pleasant meander to the reservoir and back.
Barrowford, a short distance away, and its Pendle Heritage Centre was the next stop. The last time we came here, we did not have enough time to look around so we took full advantage today. The centre is a Grade II listed farm building known as Park Hill, restored using traditional building skills. It actually dates from the 1400s and the museum takes us on a journey of the evolution of the building, from the medieval farmhouse to today’s museum. I found the 1600s hearth display particularly fascinating. We also learn about the families who lived in the house – the Bannisters and the Swinglehursts. According to the museum, the famed runner Sir Roger Bannister is a descendant.
And of course the fascinating but disturbing story of the Pendle Witches, who came from surrounding parts and were executed in 1612, is explored here.
The fine Walled Garden, which dates from the 1700s, wasn’t looking its best as it was November but it promises an array of plants to wander amongst in the spring and summer. And Cruck Frame Barn is an example of early building construction.
Before my visit, I never thought of Padiham as a place to stay but apart from The Lawrence being a splendid venue, just perfect if you’re celebrating a special occasion or looking for a romantic retreat, the town is ideal for a convenient stop-over for East Lancashire. Explore the beauty of Pendle Hill, visit Clitheroe and its ancient castle, learn about the witches in the heritage centre in Barrowford or wander around the historic Gawthorpe Hall, there’s so much to do in this often over-looked area.
The Lawrence Hotel
26-28 Church Street, Padiham.
8 Vicarage Fold, Wiswell, Clitheroe
My previous Pendle post can be found here: