Higher Buck, Waddington, Lancashire: hotel review | Travel
A stream runs alongside the main street in Waddington. Traffic is so light you can hear it gurgling as you stroll toward the gardens by St Helen’s church, where a sign lists the years (1975, 1979, 1981 … ) in which Waddington has been crowned Lancashire’s Best Kept Village. It is so cute it even bagged top spot in Yorkshire in 1966 (admittedly, at the time it was still part of that historically grabby county).
Suffice to say then, Waddington is a looker. It may not be possible to plausibly describe anywhere as “impossibly pretty” – let us draw a discrete veil over the vast cement works periodically visible towards Pendle Hill – but this village, near Clitheroe, is as close as it gets.
That its precincts of handsome stone cottages are sleepy goes without saying. Discounting the annual village duck race (25 June), Waddington’s last major ruckus took place in 1464, mid-War of the Roses, when Henry VI took refuge at Waddington Old Hall – a jaw-dropping pile, now privately owned.
However, before you shoot off into the surrounding gorgeous Ribble valley in search of walking, cycling and birding action, or are lured into Clitheroe’s fleshpots (OK, it has a castle and some fantastic food shopping), Waddington does have three compelling visitor attractions.
If you like real ale and polished, rustic boozers, the Waddington Arms and Lower Buck Inn justify a visit in themselves. In the Higher Buck, meanwhile, Waddington has a gastropub-with-rooms that comfortably bears comparison with this famously foodie area’s best dining pubs, such as The Three Fishes, Parkers Arms or even – if we’re talking about the technical assuredness of chef-landlord Michael Heathcote’s cooking – the lauded Freemasons at Wiswell.
The Higher Buck is a Thwaites pub (beer a bit dreary, serviceable wine list), which has undergone one of those modish pub makeovers that, while not unpleasant – tartan fabrics, weathered wooden panels, filament lightbulbs, artfully arranged old books and quirky ephemera (baking trays pinned to the walls!) – feels a bit new and artificial. It is a country pub that could only have evolved in an interior designer’s MacBook Pro. Fortunately, the warmth of the staff feels more genuine.
Underpinned by the high-quality local produce that this area has in abundance, Heathcote’s menu is a crowd-pleasing litany of pub classics (steak pudding, chicken Kiev etc), lifted by his deft touch. Ham hock and black pudding croquettes are as gutsy as they are refined, perfect porcine parcels partnered by an expertly balanced mustard mayo. Dense and light as marshmallow, Lancashire cheese souffle is true but clean in its flavours, and neatly offset by a spiced apple chutney and delicate shaved salad. Cod fillet with chargrilled baby gem, chorizo and a butter sauce subtly freshened with orange cleverly reconciles its potentially sharp-elbowed flavours, and comes with deliriously fudgy new potatoes. The only significant error – over-salted scrambled eggs with a broadly excellent full English – comes next morning. Otherwise, this is pub cooking of real sophistication.
The Buck’s bedrooms also satisfy in a way pub rooms rarely do. Design-wise, they take a more modest line than the pub itself. Bar an inspired outbreak of jazzy, Iberian-inspired tiling in the spacious bathroom, my room, Red, has an uncluttered, sober 1930s parlour feel, its chic bluey-grey tones broken up, in simple fashion, by vintage mirrors and illustrated covers of Mrs Beeton cookbooks. Better still, it is one of those rare rooms where everything – idiot-proof blinds, thick curtains, heavy wardrobe doors, one-click wifi – feels sturdy and works smoothly. From the fluffy towels to the firm mattress, it feels like a room built for enduring comfort.
Arguably, those rooms that overlook the road could do with thicker double-glazing to block out the noise – but in Waddington cars are so infrequent it barely matters. I sleep a serene sleep, lulled into the rhythms of a village where not a lot happens, but it happens brilliantly.
• Accommodation was provided by Higher Buck (doubles from £95 B&B, mains from £12, 01200 423 226, higherbuck.com). Travel between Clitheroe and Manchester was provided by Northern (from £15.70 return, northernrailway.co.uk). More information at visitlancashire.com
Ask a local
Sarah Clemson, director, Longitude Art Gallery, Clitheroe
The Ribble Valley has incredible places to eat, such as Northcote, the Freemasons at Wiswell and the Assheton Arms. The Clitheroe food festival (12 Aug) takes over the whole town and showcases Lancashire’s finest food producers.
• Walk and cycle
I live at the foot of Pendle Hill, which has fantastic views of the West Yorkshire peaks. Gisburn Forest is a popular mountain bike trail centre. Try Bottoms Beck before taking on the challenging Hully Gully.
Clitheroe has many thriving independents, but Cowmans Famous Sausage Shop and Bryne’s wine shop are highlights. Holmes Mill is a new eating and drinking destination in an old cotton mill, housing Bowland Brewery and, reportedly, Britain’s longest bar.
Clitheroe Artwalk takes in eight galleries, and launches officially on 14 May.