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For Tamsin Burnett-Hall, this authentic country inn was the perfect hideaway on a muddy walking weekend
From the moment we drove up to the Rose & Crown in the picturesque Teesdale village of Romaldkirk, it was clear that we were in true Land Rover country. Not your typical shiny city-based SUVs parked outside, but proper work-worn Defenders that function on all terrains and in all weathers.
This is serious farming country, which means that the inn’s head chef Dave Hunter is spoilt for choice in terms of low-food-miles suppliers, often buying ingredients direct from the producers. Our weekend plan was to get away from it all, pull on our walking boots and explore this rural part of County Durham, knowing that we’d come back to a blazing fire, good meal and cosy bed at the end of a day’s ramble as the inn’s location is the perfect base for outdoor pursuits.
Whether you want to take a leisurely stroll along country lanes, head for the fells, try your hand at fly-fishing or shooting, or just drive around the pretty Dales villages, stopping off to wander around the antiques shops in nearby Barnard Castle, you are really spoilt for choice.
We had taken our time on our drive through the area, pausing for a walk along the River Tees, from the rapids of Low Force along to High Force, one of England’s highest waterfalls; a beautiful and dramatic introduction to the region. You can’t miss the imposing former coaching inn as you drive into Romaldkirk.
Standing on the crossroads of one of the village’s three greens, next to the Saxon church, with the many windows aglow as the light faded, it’s a very welcoming destination. Inside, the 18th-century inn is a comfortable mixture of tradition and contemporary country style. Bedrooms in the main building of the inn have period features and antiques (paired with luxurious modern beds). Checking in with one of the friendly staff (many of them live in or near the village), we were given our door key, with an adorable felted woollen Dales sheep acting as the key fob.
Our suite was one of the spacious single-storey courtyard rooms, with roses rambling up the veranda. Each of these rooms has its own covered outdoor seating area, where we could safely leave our very muddy boots overnight. After a muscle-easing soak in the bath, a pre-dinner drink by the fire in the cosy flagstone-floored bar was in order. The walls are adorned with horse brasses, shooting prints and copper hunting horns – just as my Yorkshire grandparents’ house had been, so highly nostalgic. Fortunately, the soft furnishings and drinks choices are decidedly more of the modern era; I chose a local rhubarb-infused gin, while my partner, Pam, perused the area’s craft beers.
Moving into the oak-panelled dining room for our meal, we kicked off with a sharing platter of locally produced cured meats and Dales cheese, to get a taste of the flavours of Teesdale. After such a generously portioned and delicious starter, we were relieved to find that our mains were created with a lighter touch: I enjoyed crisp-skinned sea bass with pepper relish and tempura prawns, while Pam had an artistic vegetarian creation of butternut squash, roasted spring onions, wild mushrooms and pumpkin seed granola. We did need a pause before something sweet, but I’m rarely able to resist sticky toffee pudding when it’s on the menu; Pam went all-out for the chocolate brownie.
With our waistbands well-stretched, we rounded off our evening in the residents’ snug. Lamps cast soft pools of light between leather sofas, and there are plenty of magazines, books and games on offer; a few rounds of dominoes was another reminder of childhood times with my grandparents. After breakfasting on maple bacon rolls next morning, it was with some sorrow that we handed back our cute sheep keyring as we checked out – but left with insider information on exactly where to go and buy one for keeps!
How to book
A double room at The Rose & Crown, Romaldkirk, starts at £190 per night, on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis; rose-and-crown.co.uk.