Stirk House Hotel, located just off the A59 near Gisburn in the Ribble Valley, is a 16th century manor house hotel nestled within 20 acres of grounds giving generous views of Pendle Hill, the Forest of Bowland and the Yorkshire Dales.
While it still has attractive period features and plenty of charm, the interior is modern and stylish. The venue caters for holidaymakers, weddings and conferences however the purpose of my visit was my favourite pastime, afternoon tea.
But before I get to that, my friends and I first worked up an appetite with a leisurely meander in the surrounding countryside on a circular walk from the hotel. The scenery around the hotel is stunning; we traversed open fields and woodland, walked alongside the River Ribble and picked up a little bit of the famous Ribble Way, a 70 mile footpath that follows the river from mouth to source. You can pick up walking routes from reception.
Afterwards, we were lucky enough to snatch a table on the hotel’s terrace overlooking the gardens. There’s also a conservatory if you would like the views without the elements. Stirk House takes its conservation responsibilities seriously; expect to see thousands of trees and wild flowers and, if you’re lucky, deer, kestrels, owls (the World Owl Trust has designated the grounds a Wildlife Conservation Area), rabbits and bees (thanks to a bee hotel designed to protect threatened species).
Afternoon tea started with hot buttered toast fingers plus homemade marmalade and honey, thick and sweet. Then followed finger sandwiches – smoked salmon, cream cheese and cucumber, honey roasted ham and free range egg mayonnaise – on a mixture of brown and white bread.
Cake came in the form of delicate mini éclairs, rich malt loaf, raspberry and mint fools and strawberry shortcakes, not forgetting of course, fruit scones with jam and clotted cream. It was all freshly baked and delicious, however the raspberry and mint fools deserve special mention for tasting so exquisite.
We took our time, enjoying a rare leisurely afternoon throughout which the staff were attentive, happily replenishing our tea pot numerous times and keen to make sure we didn’t leave anything uneaten!
The surroundings could not have been more idyllic; birds singing, rabbits hopping to and fro, bees humming in the nearby flower beds and the chef popping out to pick fresh lavender from the garden.
Dogs are welcome at Stirk House, which operates a ‘four legged policy’, and we saw one lucky mutt being lavished with attention from a member of staff.
Afternoon tea, normally £15 per person, was on offer at just £12 when I visited which I consider to be excellent value for money.