Hipping Hall is three miles from Kirkby Lonsdale, Lancashire, a short drive from Junction 36 of the M6. As its owner Andrew Wildsmith is keen to emphasise, its location in the Lune Valley, with easy access to the Yorkshire Dales to the east, the Lake District to the west and the Eden Valley to the north makes it an ideal one stop venue for those with limited time to explore the region. Many repeat guests also use it as an restful half way stop en route to Scotland.
Opened in 2005, Hipping was the first of three Wildsmith hotels, the others being The Ryebeck, which Andrew took over from his father, and the more recently acquired Forest Side, both in the Lake District. He opened Hipping without any experience of the hospitality industry and is largely self-taught. Learning on the job with the aid of trusted advisers has proved to be the most effective way of offering high quality accommodation, food and service. By 2010, so distinguished was Hipping’s reputation that the BBC chose it as one of five locations for the series The Trip, in which Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon reviewed restaurants in the north of England. Each course was turned four times in a six hour service for filming. Andrew remembers vividly how “intoxicating” two days’ of filming were, despite it being edited down to ten minutes for television.
Ruth Davies for Fine Dining Guide gives her impressions of this AA five star / three rosette restaurant with rooms.
Hipping Hall is a delight. Tucked away behind trees and at the end of a winding drive, the first-time-guest discovers this treasure gradually. Winding its way from the cleverly disguised parking areas, the path crosses Broken Beck whose original stepping or ‘hipping’ stones gave this beautiful sandstone and slate roofed building its name. From the bridge a tiny 19th century Grade 2 listed wash house, now the wood store, can be seen perched on the bank of the stream, and behind this can be glimpsed the newly refurbished stable blocks which are an altogether different lap of luxury.
Continuing across a small paved courtyard, guests enter the spacious reception area where another reference to Hipping Hall’s historic past presents itself: a well in the centre of the floor! Fortunately for the unwary it is now stylishly planted with ferns and covered by glass.
An unassuming door to one side of the reception area hides Hipping Hall’s spectacular secret, the dining room. Having seen life over the centuries variously as a blacksmiths forge and a village meeting place, this room has been lovingly stripped back to its bare walls and rafters, and is nothing short of a 21st century interpretation of a medieval ‘Great Hall’. Referencing the one remaining 13th Century wall, it is a triumph which provides a magnificent backdrop for Oli Martin’s delicious food.
A large heavy wooden refectory table, featuring a splendid floral display resides in the centre of the room underneath an impressive stained oak chandelier. This is balanced perfectly by the elegant, white table-clothed individual dining tables which are arranged towards the edges of the room. One side wall features large mullioned windows which flood the room with light and are dressed with sumptuous heavy curtains hanging from wrought iron curtain poles. The equally sumptuous woven fruit design of the material echoes the fabric of an impressive tapestry on the end wall. Featuring medieval nobility on horseback and engrossed in pursuit of falconry, it would thrill the heart of any Gothic revivalist. If this were not sufficient, the opposing minstrels gallery seals the dining room’s warm historic atmosphere. The old and the new are perfectly balanced in this room and reflect the attention to detail manifest throughout Hipping Hall.
Leaving the reception area on the opposite side to the dining hall, the guest enters the sitting room and bar. As the living rooms of the original house, and with lower ceilings, they provide a cosy contrast to the grander dining room. The bar leads on from the larger sitting room and features at its centre a low upholstered coffee table surrounded by four comfortable red leather winged back chairs. The sitting room itself is calm and relaxing, and on chilly days, has a very welcoming open log fire. Subdued lighting, and comfortable arm chairs and sofas upholstered in a variety of fabrics and designs, but all in shades of aubergine, caramel and cream are arranged in small groups and encourage the visitor to linger a while. It is now that one notices the low window seats and the garden beyond. Drinks on the lawn in the summer are a must.
Opposite the sitting room an unusual staircase with the leather handrail detailed in Hipping Hall’s Listed Building documentation, leads to a spacious landing and the bedrooms. Luxuriously comfortable, each room has its own distinctive character save for the signature patterned voile canopy over the bed. Restful shades of cream and taupe dominate with differing accent colours for each room featured variously in the plush throws or floor coverings. Large sash windows are dressed with both soft velvet blinds and floor length, heavily lined slubbed silk curtains, which most definitely keep any adverse weather away. Andrew Wildsmith’s attention to detail is evident everywhere. Bottled water beside the bed and fruit in a bowl refresh the traveller as a prelude to an indulgent wallow in a large, deep bath with a plentiful supply of decadent toiletries. And afterwards, hurrah, the oft neglected full length mirror to make sure all is in place before dinner.
The refurbishment of the adjoining Stables is adding a very exciting new dimension to the accommodation offered by Hipping Hall. Ideal for a celebration weekend or a house party, this self-contained facility is beautiful, and with the signature attention to detail one has come to expect from Andrew Wildsmith and his team. The large central communal area of the Stable building itself is on the first floor and divided into two, a very comfortable sitting room with sofas and arm chairs upholstered in locally sourced fabrics together with oak coffee and side tables, and next to it, a dining room. This room is nothing short of inspired. A beautiful table, which extends to seat up to 14 people, is its centrepiece, and is indeed a work of art. Crafted in wood, a herringbone inlaid pattern covers the surface and immediately demands ones attention. It is beautiful. If I had to stand up to eat at this table, I would not complain. Fortunately the diner is provided with a comfortable leather chair on which to sit! Overlooking is a mezzanine which can easily be pressed into service as an area for children, as behind is an additional bedroom which I presume was once a hayloft. The Stables has its own fully equipped kitchen, staffed by a private chef, and leaves the guest to enjoy the lawns both back and front where there are ample opportunities for dining alfresco, or just the enjoyment of a preprandial drink. The bedrooms also display great attention to detail. Decorated in restful shades of cream, grey and grey-blue, and referencing the colours of the hand woven Herdwick wool throw at the foot of the bed, comfort and style are hand in hand. The baths are large and deep, and the walk-in showers offer ease of access for those of more limited mobility, with opulent toiletries aplenty.
Hipping Hall makes me smile. It is old yet modern, stylish yet relaxed, and with Oli Martin’s food, a perfect place to rest, unwind and indulge.