As I first start to draft this post, I am snuggled under the duvet at home alone with
my Pumpkin’s new laptop in hand. I need to acquire my own but my lack of insight into technical details and specifications holds me back, makes me wary about investing unwisely. And there is no notion of “yours” and “mine” in a marriage after all (except when it comes to chocolate).
I am yet to draw the demure, brown curtains in my bedroom but the persistent, undulating hum of roaring vehicles rumbles on in the backdrop as I type. The collective banter of teenagers walking to school with their heads flexed, mobile phones in one hand, school bags in the other, has dissipated. Occasionally, much to the loathing of the cars stuck dwindling behind, the dulled clunking of horse-shoes beats rhythmically, a sound that still surprises me in a city like London. A busy hospital, less than a mile away, draws the recurrent shrill of sirens throughout the day.
Today, I listen intently for these sounds and with effort, I hear them.
Most days, they are inaudible to me. To the de-sensitised ears of a city dweller, these urban melodies fall on deafened ears. This is the sound of London life. Rarely do I look out of the window in my room to see anything other than the status of the weather.
The Anchor Inn Hotel, Whittonstall
Several hundred miles away in the North Eastern part of England, after a blissful traffic-free drive on the A1, we arrive at the Anchor Inn, a family-run pub, the kind of quaint, charming inn you will never want to leave. We step inside the serene, stone walls and leave London behind for the weekend.
Here in County Durham and close to Northumberland, the views from my bedroom are a little different.
I raise the blinds to see nothing but foliage outside, with a a single flower in a simple vase on the windowsill sprinkling a vibrant red into my autumn view.
At sunset, Pumpkin and I will walk just a few steps away from the pub to see expanses of lime-green hills, stretched glutinously as far as the eye can see and draped under the pink glow of dusk. At night, we see stars. The wordplay is unintentional but I am literally startled at quite how many stars, typically wholly consumed by the smoggy skies in the city.
Dining and Food at Anchor Inn
The breakfast views downstairs are equally spectacular. My food starts to get cold the next morning as I spend so long gazing at through the windows. I try to capture a photo that does justice to the scenic landscapes. Far from interfering with the shot, a retro typewriter tastefully sneaks into my picture, a welcome if uninvited guest.
In an establishment so quintessentially English, only hearty, filling and unpretentious English breakfasts would be appropriate and fortunately, they stick to what they know best with classics cooked simply and perfectly.
They ask us for an approximate breakfast time on the guest registration form when we arrive but they show no judgement when we hobble downstairs half an hour late, only kindness, hospitality and a neat and crisp table all ready for us. They offer us a morning pot of tea or coffee. You may recall my love of tea but Pumpkin is not a hot-drink man; yet in this cosy alcove, even he cannot resist.
He loads up for the day with the full English. I attempt at going lighter with smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. The portions are so generous that neither one of us succeed to completion.
And they serve possibly the best value Sunday roast ever – Two courses (yes, who even imagined you could eat another course before a Sunday roast), comprising a starter soup followed by a roast for less than £10/head.
With prices this reasonable, you know you’re not in London anymore! We were not compelled to go for the Sunday roast of course – but when you arrive at a pub on a Sunday at 1pm, there is really only one thing to do…
The Rooms at Anchor Inn, whittonstall
Considering we booked this hotel a grand total of 36 hours before we arrived (I told you I am becoming increasingly last-minute), we could not believe how fortunate we were to find such a cosy abode for the weekend.
I naively told Pumpkin to throw a mini shower gel into our case for the weekend. He insists on pinching them from each and every hotel we stay at (for reasons I still cannot fully comprehend) so the collection at home may as well go to good use. He thought I was being over-cautious but given how little hotel research I had done, I wanted to be safe.
Well, I was certainly put in my place. Not only was the bathroom fully kitted out with all my desired essentials but also, much to our delight, we found two long, fluffy bath robes (perfect for toasting on the towel warmers as the temperature starts to drop after dark.)
The complimentary cookies provided near the tea and coffee-making facilities in the room served to be a handy snack for the car drive home and Pumpkin was relieved to find that a TV with all his favourite channels was lurking in the corner of the room. We are not afraid to admit that we are more than happy to have background television whilst we unwind after a day of sight-seeing.
Even when booking at such short notice, they were kind enough to offer us one of their largest rooms, patriotically named Hadrian with chunky wooden keys that meshed well with the quaint feel of the inn.
An array of books all about Northumberland, Durham and the surrounding regions were available on a bookshelf just outside our room as well as a selection of popular magazines so if you are less of a TV person and want to spend your evenings here planning your route for the next day, there is no shortage of inspiration on what to visit. This is a part of the country where you need wheels, ideally driving for full flexibility or at the very least, to be part of a coach or car tour.
Even at the last-minute, there were several hotels with availability. I guess that’s one of the perks of visiting a region on a Sunday and Monday night when schools are open. We stumbled upon huge country-house hotels with spa and golf facilities, castle hotels, boutique plush hotels and cosy bed and breakfast pub hotels. But something about the homely and friendly character of this one called out to us and our gamble paid off.
If you are planning a visit to Durham or Northumberland and are looking for a small, welcoming, rural pub environment, I highly recommend taking a peek at the Anchor Inn.
Have you ever booked accommodation at the last-minute and how did it turn out for you?