As part of our Green Traveller's Guide to the Forest of Bowland, Jackie King picks out a selection of restaurants, inns, markets and farm shops in this glorious Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in northwest England.
The Forest of Bowland AONB is fast gaining a reputation for its foodie scene, and there are a growing number of excellent restaurants, pubs, tea rooms and farm shops all offering up the best produce the area has to offer.
Traditionally it’s a sheep and cattle farming area, so you’ll often find delicious local lamb and beef on the menu, as well as pork and even wild boar. In fact many farmers in the area are choosing to rear traditional breeds and using traditional production techniques, to ensure the best quality and flavour. There are also classic and modern varieties of Lancashire cheese, milk and ice cream to try, and look out for wild, seasonal food such as bilberries from the moors and damsons, sloes and elderflowers from the hedgerows.
We’ve selected some of the best spots for enjoying the region’s produce, whether it’s simply visiting a farmers market, tucking in to an indulgent cream tea, or sitting down for a full three-course dinner.
The Red Pump
As one of the oldest inns in the Ribble Valley, (rumoured to have been built before 1756), The Red Pump Inn nestles in the pretty hamlet of Bashall Eaves and serves up a varied, rustic menu using all local meat, game, cheeses and vegetables. The small team here describe themselves as ‘boringly passionate’ about good food, and it seems to have paid off as they have picked up various awards and recommendations over the last few years, including Taste Lancashire, the Michelin Guide and Alaistair Sawday to name but a few. The menu changes to reflect the seasons, supported by a daily specials' board. The team also go to great lengths to source their ingredients as locally as possible, with the herbs only needing to travel from as far as the Inn’s own back garden. theredpumpinn.co.uk
The Parkers Arms
This contemporary country inn has was originally the coach house of adjacent Newton Hall. It was taken over by owners Kathy and Stosie in January 2007 to be lovingly refurbished before finally re-opening in December 2009 with a rustic yet modern decor. They offer have a standard menu of classic pub dishes, plus a daily three course set menu and a constantly changing seasonal specials menu. Here you’ll typically find dishes sourced just a few miles down the down, for example poached Slaidburn egg and Dunsop Bridge smoked trout (3 miles) or slow roast shoulder of Newton in Bowland hogget with wild Bowland garlic (1 mile). parkersarms.co.uk
The Inn at Whitewell
Head Chef Jamie Cadman, now in his fourteenth year here, heads up the team at the award winning The Inn at Whitewell. Jamie’s ethos is to produce brilliant local food using only the best local ingredients, and cook it simply to let the real quality shine through. Seasonal grouse from the Lancashire Moors, pheasant and partridge from Dunsop shoots, Bowland beef and Lonk lamb from Burholme Farm are all staples on the menu. They have also carefully source an excellent range of drinks from local cask conditioned ales to organic ginger beers, and their in-house vintners offer an extensive and interesting range of wines, with up to twenty available by the glass. innatwhitewell.com
The Highwayman Inn
This 18th century inn is thought to have once been the haunt of a notorious Lancashire highwayman. Whether or not the legend is true, the food is fast gaining a reputation of its very own. Following a £1.2m renovation in 2007, the inn now calls itself not a gastro pub but a 21st century version of ‘a local’. In practice this means offering a seasonal menu of regional cookery and British classics, sourced from a select crowd of local artisan suppliers, plus a great line up of ales, ciders and guest beers. If the weather is in your favour, you can enjoy your meal in the private, terraced garden surrounded by local plants, herbs and fruit trees. Or cosy up in the atmospheric dining room with its craggy stone floors, solid wood furniture and crackling log fire.
The Three Fishes
For over 400 years, The Three Fishes has been a traditional stop off on the old road between the 16th century bridge at Lower Hodder and the Old Ferry at Mitton. Sadly it suffered form years of neglect but in 2004 it re-opened with a new menu inspired by Nigel Haworth, Chef Patron of nearby Northcote and has gone on to acquire a cluster of awards. The pub is very family friendly, with a children’s menu that is simply a smaller version of the regional menu, with lots of fresh, organic food that has been given a twist that kids will enjoy. They can tuck in free range, rare breed chipolatas or locally sourced chicken with seasonal vegetables, whilst the adults work their way through Nigel’s famous hotpot or the Length of Lancashire Cheese Board. brunningandprice.co.uk
A luxurious country hotel with thirty spacious bedrooms, Gibbon Bridge near Clitheroe is set in 23 acres of award winning gardens, making it a wonderful location for a relaxing stay. The restaurant itself overlooks Longridge Fell, and offers a variety of dining areas, from the Cavalier Lounge with its open fire and comfy chairs, to the new contemporary Orangerie which opens out onto a spacious terrace. The hotel boasts its own kitchen garden, greenhouses and polytunnels to provide fresh herbs, fruit and vegetables to the chefs and in-house baker. The bakery supplies a daily selection of fresh breads, confectionery, jams, ice cream and desserts for the hotel, restaurant and surrounding villages. gibbon-bridge.co.uk
The Cabin Cafe
You’ll find this snug little cabin located next to Barley Picnic Site, nominated one of the ten best picnic sites in the North West. Surrounded by stunning countryside and at the foot of the magnificent Pendle Hill, it’s often used as a refuelling spot by walkers climbing the hill or trekking the Pendle Witches Trail or the Pendle Way. Depending on the weather, you can take refuge inside and tuck in to their selection of sandwiches, cakes and drinks, or on a sunny day grab a picnic table and marvel at the view over refreshing drink. The café also serves as a small information point for local sights and walking routes. visitlancashire.com
A family run, country café on the banks of the River Hodder in Slaidburn, often described as the most picturesque village in Lancashire. Popular with passing walkers and cyclists, here you’ll find delicious, home-cooked meals, snacks and cakes made with GM-Free, local produce wherever possible. They’ll also provide you with a take-away packed lunch on request, to fuel your countryside adventures. riverbanktearooms.co.uk
Bashall Barn Food Visitor Centre
This farm-based shop, café and restaurant is a great one-stop-shop for sampling great regional dishes and then taking away the best local ingredients to recreate them at home. Opened in 2001, the farm shop stocks a range of ready meals, cakes, jams and preserves all made on site by their team of professionals. Also don’t miss the award winning, contemporary restaurant which serves up seasonal, traditional lunches and delicious afternoon teas accompanied by a live pianist. bashallbarn.co.uk
For more information on characterful places to stay, nearby visitor attractions and activities, see our Green Traveller's Guide to the Forest of Bowland