Ian and I had a fabulous time at York Races last week which you can read all about it and see what we wore and what we ate in my previous two blog posts.

Although living in Skipton means the journey to York is less than two hours, it was a treat to stay in a hotel afterwards. Visit York had kindly arranged for bed and breakfast at Monkbar Hotel in central York. It’s a 10-minute taxi ride from York railway station and a 15-minute taxi ride from York Racecourse, so it was in the ideal location. Not only this, it sits just metres outside of the city walls and is a very short walk, less than ten minutes, from York Minster and the restaurants, shops and attractions that this beautiful city has to offer.

The hotel is currently undergoing a significant refurbishment which precluded me taking photographs of the exterior and some of the public areas, but do believe me when I say it’s a lovely building with an interior that is stylish, contemporary and well thought out. The reception staff were incredibly helpful and accommodating because we needed our luggage storing and a place to change before the races (we checked in early so our room wasn’t ready), and they did their utmost to facilitate this.

We had a second-floor suite away from the main building which meant it felt like a private escape. The soft furnishings and wallpaper in the bedroom were beautiful and the bed large and super comfortable.

Hotel suite bedroom at Monk Bar Hotel, York

Hotel suite bedroom at Monk Bar Hotel, York, soft furnishings

The sloping roof made the spacious room feel very cosy and added character.

 

Sitting area hotel suite bedroom at Monk Bar Hotel, York

There was a lounge/dressing area with complimentary fruit and bottled water. As well as the usual tea and coffee making facilities was a separate coffee machine: a nice extra.

 

Hotel suite bedroom dressing area at Monk Bar Hotel, York

The bathroom was very stylish with a lovely amenity kit including shampoo, conditioner, soap, cotton wool, cotton buds and toothbrushes.

York Hotel Monkbar hotel bathroom

York Hotel suite bedroom at Monk Bar Hotel, York

York Hotel suite bathroom at Monk Bar Hotel, York

 

York Hotel suite bath at Monk Bar Hotel, central York

 

Breakfast was buffet style with pastries, cheeses, meats, yogurts, fruit, cereals and fruit juices along with hot food. Tea and coffee was served at the table and it was all absolutely divine.

Breakfast at York Hotel, Monkbar

York Hotel, MonkBar Hotel breakfast

 

cooked breakfast, central York hotel, Monkbar hotel

Cooked breakfast buffet, York city centre hotel, York. Monkbar

Thank you to the staff at Monkbar Hotel for making our very brief stay surprisingly restful, (we were at the hotel for less than 12 hours in total, yet it still felt like a break) and very enjoyable. Thank you too to Ana Ignatova from Visit York for arranging our stay.

Love Lizzy x


Best Western Plus Monkbar Hotel
St Maurice’s Road
York
North Yorkshire
YO31 7JA
01904 638086
www.bw-monkbarhotelyork.co.uk
www.visityork.org


Disclosure:
Ian and I had a complimentary stay at Monk Bar Hotel, courtesy of Visit York. My opinions are always 100% honest and the content is always my own. Thank you for supporting those brands, companies and organisations that support What Lizzy Loves.

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Stirk house Gisburn,

At the beginning of April, I was lucky enough to take part in The Pendle Witch Tours, organised by Stirk House Hotel, on behalf of Aspire Magazine.

Stirk House Gisburn,  Pendle Witch Tours, village of Downham

As wonderful as it sounds on paper, (two days of guided tours around the Ribble Valley region of Lancashire, with lunch, dinner, bed and breakfast and afternoon tea at Stirk House), it’s only by experiencing something like this, that I can write a genuine and insightful review, but as jobs go, this one was rather special, made more so because my boyfriend Ian was invited too.

You might remember that I wrote about the background and history of Stirk House recently, but in brief, it’s located on the A59 in Gisburn, just 10 minutes from Clitheroe, 15 from Skipton and 20 from Settle. It has spectacular views over Pendle Hill and it’s the Pendle area around which the tours are centred. 

At the start, I knew very little local history and even less about how in the early 1600s some women were tried and hanged, because they were believed to be witches. It was little to do with curses and spells and everything to do with James I’s paranoia and scepticism about witchcraft and its prevalence among the common people. I was shocked and saddened to learn about the way in which women were treated, simply because they demonstrated courage and intelligence. 

Day One

The tour began at Stirk House and were greeted by our tour guide Simon Entwistle and coach driver Steve. Our first port of call was the breathtakingly beautiful village of Downham, which is where Whistle Down the Wind and Born and Bred were filmed. Here, Simon gave us some insight into the local area and explained that the village was where one of the Pendle Witches, Alice Nutter was believed to have spent time, having hailed from the nearby village of Roughlee.

From there, we continued along to get this spectacular view of Pendle Hill …

View of Pendle Hill

Then on to Roughlee village, where we stopped to see a statue of Alice Nutter, immortalised in 2014 to commemorate the 400 years since she was hanged for witchcraft.

Stirk House Gisburn,  Pendle Witch Tours, statue of Alice Nutter

Following a visit to the Pendle Heritage Centre in Barrowford, we returned to Stirk House for a fabulous buffet in PRIME Restaurant.

Lunch

Stirk House Gisburn,  Pendle Witch Tours, Prime Restaurant

Prime restaurant, Stirk House

It was excellent and it particularly lovely because everyone taking the tour sat together. It was an ideal time for introductions and explanations, (in particular, why I take so many photographs). Lunch, tea and coffee are included in the package price, but Ian and I made it even more special by ordering a glass of Prosecco from the bar. The homemade, super-fresh mini beef-burgers, the sandwich selection and the mini goats cheese tarts, served with salad and fries were all divine and exactly what we needed to refuel before starting the afternoon tour. 

Stirk House Gisburn,  Pendle Witch Tour, buffet lunch

Stirk House Gisburn,  Pendle Witch Tours, buffet lunch at Prime restaurant

We spent the afternoon at Samlesbury Hall in Lancashire, a beautiful stately home. Again, Simon conducted the tour which told of the Samlesbury Witches and he described the history of this magnificent building. 

Stirk House Gisburn,  Pendle Witch Tours, Samlesbury Hall, Lancashire

Stirk House Gisburn,  Pendle Witch Tours, Samlesbury Hall, external Lancashire

Stirk House Gisburn,  Pendle Witch Tours, Samlesbury Hall, Lancashire, view through the window

Stirk House Gisburn,  Pendle Witch Tours, Samlesbury Hall,great hall, Lancashire

The Manor Suite at Stirk House

Back at the hotel, Ian and I checked into The Manor Suite, which is in a lodge detached from the main building. It has far-reaching views of Pendle Hill and of the 22 acres of woodland in which Stirk House is set. The soft furnishings and decor are gorgeous.

Stirk House Gisburn, room 51, lodge, suite bedroom

Bedroom in room 51 suite at Stirk House, Gisburn

The suite has a separate sitting room with its own dining area; private dining, overlooking the picnic terrace, is available in all suites for a true “get away from it all” experience.

Suite 51, living room, Stirk House, Gisburn

The fireplace in the sitting room of Suite 51, Stirk House, Gisburn

The view from the sitting room of Suite 51, Stirk House, Gisbur

Stag blind in room suite 51, Stirk House, Gisburn

The bathroom is stunning with a large roll top bath and walk-in shower.

Rolltop bath in suite room 51, Stirk House, Gisburn

Dinner

Lunch, dinner and afternoon tea can be taken in a choice of places at Stirk House including the Fire Lounge (see the photograph below), on the Champagne Terrace, (which overlooks Pendle Hill), in the conservatory and in the private dining room, (photograph below). We chose to dine in the award-winning restaurant, PRIME which is where we’d eaten lunch earlier.

Prime restaurant, Stirk House, Gisburn, prosecco and dinner

A three-course meal is included in the price of the tour and for my starter, as I often do, I chose fish: smokey fishcake and a soft-poached egg with green herb salsa. It was poached-egg perfection and the perfect accompaniment to the delicate smokiness of the fish. 

Prime restaurant, Stirk House, Gisburn, fishcakes starter

Ian chose a dish with very local provenance: Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese with roast beetroot and spiced walnut salad. The mellow beetroot worked perfectly with the slightly sharp cheese and the spiced walnuts added crunch to the other softer textures.  

Prime restaurant, Stirk House, Gisburn, beetroot salad starter

Prime restaurant, Stirk House, Gisburn, starters

Fillet of sea bream with purple sprouting broccoli and lemon buttered shellfish were too much to resist despite the fact I desired everything else on the menu. The shellfish were both sweet and tangy and the bream was cooked perfectly, (though I’ve come to expect nothing else from the very talented head chef Chris Dobson!)

Prime restaurant, Stirk House, Gisburn, fish main course

PRIME restaurant is renowned for its steaks and several people had recommended that we try one, so Ian ordered an 8oz Sirloin with slow-roast tomato, Portobello mushroom, triple-cooked chips, watercress and a crushed peppercorn sauce. It almost goes without saying that it was cooked exactly as he likes it and was locally sourced. 

Prime restaurant, Stirk House, Gisburn, steak main course

Prime restaurant, Stirk House, Gisburn, wine

Ian and I dine out regularly and we have lost count of times that we would like every dessert on the menu. This was no exception and we finally decided upon warm treacle tart with clotted cream and spiced caramel syrup and orange creme brulee with chocolate shortbread. We shared them and truly, couldn’t decide which was the nicer, both being simply exceptional.

Prime restaurant, Stirk House, Gisburn,treacle tart dessert

Prime restaurant, Stirk House, Gisburn,creme brulee dessert

Day Two

Breakfast, also included in the price of the tour, is buffet style with orders for tea, coffee and hot food taken at the table. Ian chose an omelette which was light and fluffy and the perfect way to start the day. As well as hotel residents, there were some non-residents at breakfast- the convenient location of Stirk House makes it ideal for business meetings at any time of day, several of which I noticed taking place throughout our stay.

Breakfast in Prime restaurant, Stirk House, Gisburn

Day two of the tour started with a picturesque drive to Dunsop Bridge through the Trough of Bowland where we stopped for elevensies at the charming Puddleducks cafe.

Dunsop Bridge post office

Dunsop Bridge post office

Puddleducks tearoom, dunsop Bridge

Ducks at Dunsop Bridge

From there, we headed to Lancaster Castle for a guided tour during which we learned more about the witches, (it was there that the Pendle Witches were tried), and about the legal system both then in the 17th century and in the present day. It was truly fascinating and very insightful. Being both a working criminal and a working, civil court, photography inside the castle is, understandably, prohibited so I can’t show you the civil courtroom which is particularly spectacular.

Lancaster Castle

Lancaster Castle, entrance door

Simon Entwistle our tour guide was absolutely brilliant. His knowledge of the witches and their plight along with that of local history is amazing. He captured our attention throughout and welcomed questions while showing a genuine interest in each and every one of us on the tour. He works for the Lancashire tourist board and as a native Lancastrian, (I was born in Preston), I cannot think of a better advocate to promote my home county. The tour wouldn’t have been the same without him and his enthusiastic personality.

Simon Entwistle, guide for Pendle Witch Tours, Stirk House, Gisburn

Afternoon Tea

Our final destination was back at Stirk House for afternoon tea, again included in the price. Comprising of a selection of seasonal sandwiches, hot homemade sausage rolls, mini brie and cranberry open sandwiches, scones, mini cheesecakes and all sorts of other sweet delights; the perfect way to end the tour.

Prime restaurant, Stirk House, Gisburn,afternoon tea

I can’t finish without sharing a few more photographs of  Stirk House. Over the last eighteen months, Stirk House has undergone a significant and sympathetic refurbishment and it has been wonderfully executed.

This is the bar area…

Stirk House, Gisburn,reception and bar

And this window can be seen on the right of the photo above. It looks into a private dining area, is ideal for a family occasion or similar,

Window into private dining area, Stirk House, Gisburn,

And this is the Fire Lounge, perfect for morning coffee, pre-dinner drinks, informal business meetings, and any other occasion one can think of.

The Fire lounge, Stirk House, Gisburn,

The two day Pendle Witch Tour is absolutely fascinating. For just £295 per couple, lunch, dinner, bed, breakfast, afternoon tea and of course, the fascinating tours are included. It was thoroughly enjoyable, very informative and something different. To stay in a beautiful hotel with an award-winning restaurant and glorious views is something to behold and I recommend it wholeheartedly. It is fabulous and is excellent value for money. The next one takes place on 17th and 18th October. Visit the Stirk House website for more details.

Love Lizzy x


Stirk House Hotel

Gisburn
Clitheroe
Lancashire
BB7 4JL
01200 445581

www.stirkhouse.co.uk

Simon Entwistle
Tour Guide and Professional Storyteller.
www.tophattours.co.uk

Stephen (our driver).
Green Leaf Travel
Private Hire
www.greenleaftravel.co.uk

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Sequinned dress for dinner at Le Caveau French restaurant in Skipton

Date Night

There are a lot of excellent restaurants in Skipton and the surrounding areas and if you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that as part of my job as a writer for the local magazine Aspire, I eat at and review local restaurants quite frequently, a fabulous perk of the job for a foodie like me. On this occasion though, it was date night, not work and I asked my partner Ian where he’d like to dine and Le Caveau, a small French restaurant in the centre of Skipton, was his choice. I’d tried to book a table there on several occasions in the run-up to Christmas, to no avail due to its popularity and reputation and I think it was around February when we first managed to get a table. Not only was the food outstanding, but the front of house staff and chef were incredibly friendly, chatty and informative and it was lovely to witness this as a paying customer and not as the journalist from the magazine there to write a review. We vowed to return and did just that at the weekend.

The History
Le Caveau sits below street level on Skipton High Street and is a small, cosy restaurant with a fascinating history. It started life in the 16th century as a prison for Craven District’s felons and sheep rustlers, (Skipton means sheep-town- we’re very proud of our sheep here!) The low vaulted ceilings, beams and exposed stonework give it an abundance of authentic character and the whole restaurant has a fabulous ambience.
(The team very kindly reset the tables at the end of the night so I could photograph the restaurant without disturbing other guests. They showed us some slides of bygone times at Le Caveau and sat, chatted and had a drink with us at the end of service).

Le Caveau, excellent French restaurant in Skipton, North Yorkshire

Le Caveau, excellent French restaurant in Skipton, North Yorkshire with lovely ambience

Le Caveau, excellent French restaurant in Skipton, North Yorkshire that used to be a prison

Le Caveau, excellent French restaurant in Skipton, North Yorkshire, slides of bygone times

The Chef, Mark Byron
Chef Mark Byron and his wife Esther took over Le Caveau in 2014. Mark is passionate about local food and putting his own twist of French classics. He shoots and fishes to provide for the restaurant and knows the provenance of everything on the menu. If Mark hasn’t caught the fish himself, it is bought from George Wilson, a mainstay and renowned seller at Skipton Market. The meat is sourced from local farms.

Mark Byron, owner and head chef at Le Caveau, excellent French restaurant in Skipton, North Yorkshire

The Food
We sat in the cosy bar area on arrival to peruse the menus and were given canapes to accompany our wine, (there is an extensive wine and spirits menu and we chose a Picoul de Pinet from the Langeudoc region of France).

Bar area and canapes at Le Caveau, excellent French restaurant in Skipton, North Yorkshire

Le Caveau is among several local restaurants taking part in the Ramus Lobster Festival, (17th June-15th July 2017), with special menus celebrating Yorkshire lobster. It was lovely to hear that this lobster had been caught in Scarborough, where Ian and I visited very recently. I’d like to think our lobster had been in one of the baskets from the piles I photographed when there. (Read about our trip here).

As always, we ordered different things so we could share. Ian ordered from the special lobster menu, his choice of starter being salad of spiced chicken, dressed leaves and poached egg. It was divine- the egg utterly perfect and obviously very fresh and the chicken beautifully tender.

Spicy chicken, dressed salad and poached egg at Le Caveau, excellent French restaurant in Skipton, North Yorkshire

 

Poached egg and spiced chicken salad at Le Caveau, excellent French restaurant in Skipton, North Yorkshire

I chose ginger and chilli marinated trout with heirloom tomato and onion salad and salsa verde. It was a symphony of flavours; the slight saltiness of the trout and the contrasting sharpness of the onions was delightful.

Ginger and chilli marinated trout at Le Caveau, excellent French restaurant in Skipton, North Yorkshire

And now onto the star of the show, Whole East Coast Lobster Thermidor (minimum weight 1lb), served with crushed potatoes and seasoned vegetables. It was beautifully dressed and incredibly fresh tasting. It was a nice chunky lobster with plenty of meat for us both to savour. The accompanying potatoes and veg were simply perfect.

Lobster Thermidor caught in Scarborough Ramus Lobster Festival Le Caveau, excellent French restaurant in Skipton, North Yorkshire

I often choose fish for both courses and this time was no exception. The swordfish on the specials board sounded too good to resist and I’m very glad I didn’t. Cajun spiced and chargrilled with roquette pesto and Yellisons goat curd, it was the perfect balance of flavours and textures and colours- a feast for the eyes as well as the tastebuds.

Swordfish Le Caveau, excellent French restaurant in Skipton, North Yorkshire

Main courses: swordfish and lobster Thermidor Le Caveau, excellent French restaurant in Skipton, North Yorkshire

Onto dessert and Ian chose chocolate bread and butter pudding with creme anglaise which proved to be an absolute treat for the tastebuds. Light with a hint of spice and bursting with plump succulent fruit, this was a winner on every count.

Chocolate bread and butter pudding with creme anglaise Le Caveau, excellent French restaurant in Skipton, North Yorkshire

Certainly not overshadowed though, was my choice of ground rice, almond and raspberry cake with raspberry ripple ice-cream. It was mouth-wateringly delicious;the sponge with the unmistakable flavour imparted by the almonds was light and sweet and the ice-cream was, I think, the best I’ve ever tasted.

 

Raspberry rice and almond cake with raspberry ripple ice-cream,Le Caveau, excellent French restaurant in Skipton, North Yorkshire

A Brilliant Evening From Start to Finish

The whole evening from start to finish was absolutely brilliant. The food is outstanding and Mark and Jamie Gemmell who looks after front of house, (photographed below), are as much of an asset as the menus, such is the warm welcome they extend and the friendly humour they impart. This, along with the beautiful building so steeped in history and character makes it a very special dining experience indeed.

This is a hidden gem and one which I want to shout about ans we’re already planning our next visit. If you live locally or are planning to visit Skipton or its surrounding villages, I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically recommend Le Caveau, a gorgeous French restaurant with a Yorkshire twist.

Elizabeth Yeowart with Mark Byron, head chef and owner of Le Caveau, Skipton

Elizabeth Yeowart with Mark Byron, head chef and owner of Le Caveau Skipton and Jamie, front of house

 

Love Lizzy x


Le Caveau
86 High Street
Skipton
North Yorkshire
BD23 1JJ
01756 794274
www.lecaveau.co.uk

I’m wearing:
Sequin shift dress, Mint Velvet, past season

 

I’m linking up with:
Brilliant Blog Posts/The Saturday Share

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