1. Comfort and charm in Lancashire
WHERE? The Inn at Whitewell, Near Clitheroe, Lancashire
WHY IT’S SPECIAL This historic inn, on the banks of the River Hodder in the Forest of Bowland, forms part of the Duchy of Lancaster Estate. Indulgent bathrooms, four-poster beds and polished antiques characterise many of the 23 bedrooms, and the bar and restaurant have a satisfyingly eccentric undertone. There’s also an independent wine shop, Bowland Forest Vintners, which favours small producers from around the world – and which is where you’ll find the reception desk.
ON THE MENU Right now, chef Jamie Cadman’s Whitewell classic of roast grouse, pink and off the bone, with all the trimmings. No fewer than 140 grouse were served last year. Look out also for beef from Burholme Farm, so close you can see the cattle grazing from the inn.
DON’T MISS … a visit to J Atkinson & Co ( thecoffeehopper.com) where you can watch the master coffee roaster at work on his 1945 British-made Uno roasting machine. This Lancaster institution also has two cafés, one housed in a rococo pavilion, the other in an art deco hall.
01200 448222; innatwhitewell.com ; doubles from £120 B&B; three-course dinner about £35 in the restaurant, £27 in the bar
2. Wild Welsh getaway
WHERE? The Cors, Newbridge Road, Laugharne, Carmarthenshire
WHY IT’S SPECIAL The Cors is a rambling Victorian house in Laugharne, on the Taf estuary, a town made famous by its former inhabitant, the poet Dylan Thomas, whose house you can visit. The Cors’ owner, Nick Priestland, is an artist – and it shows, from the tumblingly gorgeous garden he has created to the wickedly dark, candlelit dining rooms inside. Upstairs are three rooms for B&B guests. Nick also cooks, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. His straightforward, classic dishes, along with the charm, make The Cors a place of pilgrimage around these parts.
ON THE MENU Delicately spiced American-style crabcakes or, more unusually, haddock crème brûlée (a Cors classic) to start might be followed by beef bourguignon with creamy mashed potato, then Nick’s oozingly indulgent sticky toffee pudding, which few can resist.
DON’T MISS… On the way home, stop in at Wright’s Independent Food Emporium ( wrightsfood.co.uk ) at Nantgaredig and stock up on Welsh cheeses, Middlewhite pork sausages, organic native-breed beef and organic vegetables.
01994 427219; thecors.co.uk ; doubles from £80 B&B; dinner about £30 for three courses
3. Idyllic West Country getaway
WHERE? The Wild Garlic, Iwerne Minster, Dorset
WHY IT’S SPECIAL It’s owned by the genial, goateed Mat Follas, who won MasterChef in 2009. The original restaurant was in nearby Beaminster, but in summer 2013 the foraging-mad chef relocated to larger premises – a roadside pub – which has allowed him space for a larger restaurant and a casual bar and grill, as well as five comfortable bedrooms upstairs.
ON THE MENU Clever flavour combinations are the name of the game in Follas’ kitchen – venison with elderberries in a chocolate and espresso sauce with a hint of bitter rowanberry, for example. Elsewhere, he might pair seafood with smoky flavours, such as smoked mussel gratin with sea beet and rock samphire. At this time of year, expect the likes of blackberry or sloe clafoutis for pud.
DON’T MISS… Mat’s foraging courses in the surrounding countryside. A scenic 12-mile drive away, there’s also Pythouse Kitchen Garden ( pythousekitchengarden.co.uk ), a stunning 18th-century walled garden with a farm shop/café
01747 811269; thewildgarlic.co.uk ; doubles from £75 B&B; four-course restaurant dinner £39
4. A taste of Italy in East Anglia
WHERE? Chalk and Cheese, 1 Eastgate Street, Shouldham, Norfolk
WHY IT’S SPECIAL What could be unusual about a B&B in a converted village schoolhouse? Well, everything. Owners Bridget and Andrew Archibald are strangers to convention and together they’ve created Chalk and Cheese. There are three pretty, budget bedrooms and the unexpected addition of a bar and pizza restaurant within this vast old hall. It’s filled to the brim with the kind of antique finds only an auction aficionado like Bridget could gather together.
ON THE MENU Andrew has installed a wood-fired oven in the kitchen, from which emerges moreish, pungent garlic bread and gratifyingly fresh, thin-based pizzas. Five options range from a simple margherita to the signature ‘chalk and cheese’ with caramelised onions and olives.
DON’T MISS… the Archibalds’ farm shop, just across the car park. Everything you eat at breakfast (except homemade bread), is on sale, from local ladies’ jams to bacon. Each box of fresh eggs is dated and inscribed with the name of the hens’ keeper.
01366 348039; bed-and-breakfast-west-norfolk.co.uk ; doubles from £70 B&B; dinner about £20 for three courses
5. Idyllic Yorkshire coastal village
WHERE? The Marine, 13 Marine Parade, Whitby, North Yorkshire
WHY IT’S SPECIAL From the windows of The Marine, there’s always something to watch: herring gulls wheeling, fishing boats chugging out to sea and little drifts of visitors heading towards the bridge that spans the River Esk to the cobbled streets of Whitby’s charming Old Town, which rise steeply behind the harbour. Above this waterfront bar and restaurant are four contemporary bedrooms. In-the-know regular weekenders from Leeds and York snap up rooms One and Two for the views.
ON THE MENU There are generous Yorkshire helpings of fish pie, Whitby lobster and steaks from a local butcher, but small plates are available too if you just fancy, say, a bit of Whitby crab. At breakfast, smoked fish is the main event.
DON’T MISS… kippers and bacon from Fortune’s ( fortuneskippers.co.uk ), whose tiny smokehouse has been in operation in Whitby for 140 years. You can visit the shop and take some home, too – if you arrive early enough on a Sunday.
01947 605022; the-marine-hotel.co.uk; doubles from £79 B&B; dinner about £24 for three courses
6. Walking in Scotland
WHERE? The Cross Keys, Main Street, Kippen, Stirlingshire
WHY IT’S SPECIAL The great food, roaring log fires and simple rooms that look out towards Ben Ledi and the Trossachs are all you could want on a walking break. The Cross Keys was taken over six years ago by a former TV director and a restaurant manager from Glasgow, and now a former Fifteen London chef has joined them. Wander in for a pint, a snack, a meal, or stay the night – you’ll probably want to do all four.
ON THE MENU Seasonal Scottish fare is what it’s all about. Think red wine-poached pear, blue cheese and walnut autumn salad with mustard dressing, pan-fried guinea fowl, beef stock-braised puy lentils, caramelised shallots and carrots or apple and pear crumble with vanilla crème fraîche.
DON’T MISS… Visit Knockraich of Fintry ( makinginteriors.com ), an artisan dairy just up the road. You’ll have eaten the dairy’s crème fraîche at The Cross Keys – now sample the award-winning crowdie soft cheese, crumbled into a lunchtime bowl of soup, in the dairy’s café
01786 870293; kippencrosskeys.com ; doubles from £80 B&B; dinner about £25 for three courses
7. South Lakeland escape
WHERE? The Sun Inn, 6 Market Street, Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria
WHY IT’S SPECIAL This town centre pub lies on the cusp of Cumbria, Lancashire and the Yorkshire Dales. Not all 11 rooms have views, but take a short stroll through the churchyard behind – with a glass of something from the bar – and you can enjoy the famous Ruskin’s View (it inspired the famous Victorian aesthete) across the River Lune to the Howgill Fells.
ON THE MENU Tuesday to Sunday you can graze all day from the tapas-style menu. On autumn evenings, expect hearty delights such as rabbit and chestnut pie with jerusalem artichokes, confit savoy cabbage with mustard and thyme jus, Cumbrian venison and mini game shepherd’s pie. Leave room, though, to tackle desserts such as ‘composition of chocolate’ – brownie, sorbet, torte, white chocolate pannacotta, dark chocolate and orange sauce.
DON’T MISS… Kitridding Farm Shop & Café ( kitriddingfarmshop.co.uk ) sells slowly matured meat from its own animals. Buy Swaledale lamb as well as their own sausages, black pudding and pork pies.
015242 71965; sun-inn.info ; doubles from £99 B&B; three-course dinner £27.95
8. Laid-back Cornwall
WHERE? The Old Coastguard, The Parade, Mousehole, near Penzance, Cornwall
WHY IT’S SPECIAL Fans of the Felin Fach Griffin near Brecon in Wales and The Gurnard’s Head in Zennor now have a third chilled-out, food-centric destination from the Inkin brothers. The Old Coastguard is their first hotel (the others are restaurants-with-rooms). The 20-odd rooms, many with sea views, are simple and comfy. Downstairs, the bar is a laid-back spot to watch the seascape through the large picture windows.
ON THE MENU Chef Tom Symons cooks locally caught plaice and flavoursome lamb. Other local seafood includes Fal oysters, Fowey mussels with shallot vinegar and Newlyn crab bisque. Pudding might be pressed apple terrine with candied pecans and salted caramel ice cream.
DON’T MISS… the Wednesday morning farmers’ market in the village of Paul, above Mousehole, or the Friday farmers’ market in Penzance for organic rare-breed lamb, beef, herbs and flowers.
01736 731222; oldcoastguardhotel.co.uk ; doubles from £110 B&B; dinner about £23 for three courses
Image: The Inn at Whitewall