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Hotspot that’s happy to stay under the radar

BLANCHLAND Northumberland Paul Kirkwood

BLANCHLAND is a peaceful village on the Durham/Northumberland border few had heard about. Then actor Robson Green visited last year for a BBC travel show and the secret was let out.

Yet it’s in such a tuckedaway location exposure has made little difference. There’s not much chance of Blanchland becoming a hotspot.

The irony is that this is just what it was in the 12th Century when the village was established as an abbey. Monks wore white cassocks in keeping with those in the Premonstratensian Order, which originated in France – hence the ‘blanche’

(white in French) of the village’s name.

Back then, it was a hive of activity. Then came the abbey’s dissolution in 1539, when much of its stone was reused in neighbouring houses. The abbot’s lodge, guesthouse and lodgings escaped destruction and now provide accommodation much as they always have.

The old buildings have become the Lord Crewe Arms. This is named after Crewe, a Bishop of Durham, who redeveloped

Blanchland as a model village. It’s such a pleasant spot I get the impression that most guests visit the hotel as a destination in itself, happy to dine and lounge in front of the fire with a book and a brew.

But I’m keen to explore. The other two remnants of the abbey in the village are the gatehouse, now the local shop, and the reconstructed church featuring the original choir, transept and tower – plus a mannequin of a monk that startles me as I look around. Two squares

surrounded by cottages with burgundy doors give the place the feel of a piazza in the Med.

Village tour over, I set off on a trail which includes Shildon Burn valley, where an old engine house, formerly used to stop mines flooding, stands. The path follows part of a journey made in 1938 by hiking doyen Alfred Wainwright. He wrote that you should gallop into the village like a knight ‘on a fiery steed’.

My return to Blanchland is not so dramatic, but at least the Lord Crewe Arms, with its suits of armour in the bar, is on theme.

Doubles at Lord Crewe Arms from £174 (lordcrewe





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