Nestled next to a soaring stretch of the beautiful River Ribble, with views stretching a cross the Forest of Bowland, The Spread Eagle at Sawley has earned its reputation as a calming bolt-hole in a stunning corner of our beautiful Lancashire countryside.
A visit to the independently-run stone coaching inn, which boasts an enviable location between the babbling river with its active population of ducks and the 12th century Cistercian Sawley Abbey, is one for the memory banks when you are caught up in the stress of a week at work.
On a fine day, it’s a fabulous starting point for a countryside walk by the riverbank, or a pleasant amble through the derelict abbey, with unobstructed views to the brooding and atmospheric Pendle Hill.
Spring was evident on our visit, with daffodils springing up along the river, at the Abbey and even around the generous car park across the road from the Spread Eagle itself.
You don’t need to wander far for that Forest of Bowland feeling.
The main restaurant at the Inn boasts windows overlooking the river and valley itself, so be sure to ask for a window table.
The Spread Eagle is currently spreading its wings with a renovation (spring, 2018) so scaffolding is part of its current story, but don’t that let you put off visiting for a bite to eat, or an overnight stay (as we did) .
Pub tables and a more formal restaurant are available.
We spent some time drinking in the atmospheric bar, including a snack (Lancashire crisps, obviously) , taking advantage of the gin menu and selection of local ales.
We also enjoyed saying hello to a few of the visiting pooches taking advantage of the Spread Eagle’s dog-friendly status which includes a full ‘Dog’s Dish Menu’ including starters, main courses and a dessert.(Mint Dentastix)
There is something very atmospheric about a proper British Inn and the Spread Eagle certainly ticks all the boxes.
We arrived at the Inn mid afternoon, with plans for an early dinner ahead of a wedding reception on bank holiday Monday, complete with the smug knowledge of an extra day off work.
By all accounts, it had been a busy old bank holiday weekend for the Eagle staff.
Visitors wanted comfort in the elongated winter weather but staff were still smiling and welcoming to incoming strangers.
There are no pretensions here.
The focus is on top-notch food in a sophisticated, cosy, environment.
Nothing seems to be too much trouble for the guests, whether overnighters, popping in for a pint-ers or diners in the surprisingly large restaurant.
We took a window table overlooking the river, in early evening.
We didn’t want to overdo it due to predicated dancing antics at a wedding reception in nearby Clitheroe and the promise of late night post-champagne bacon sandwiches.
So despite mouths watering at the starters, which started at perfectly respectable £4.50, we dove straight into a main course.
All the main courses come in at about the £15 mark, unless you opt for a more expensive steak.
My usual indecisive self, I teetered between a number of steak and fish options before opting for a mouth-watering ( and beautifully presented) cottage pie.
This was a very different dish to the one my mother used to make, featuring high-quality tender and tasty beef which was mouth watering with a mashed potato topping that was light, fluffy and thankfully lump-free.
It was served with a side of spicy red cabbage, a delicious and Lancashire-inspired addition which balanced the palate perfectly.
My fellow guest enjoyed an equally delicious pork fillet with apple from the specials menu which vanished every quickly, showing a distinct lack of appreciation of what I thought was stunning presentation.
It must have been good.
If we hadn’t wanted to avoid bursting out of our wedding outfits, we would definitely have chosen a pudding from the fantastic selection – but on this occasion vanity overtook greed for once.
I simply opted for a revitalising coffee.
But we will most certainly be back for a full three courses, with a side order of a country inn welcome and a dessert of Forest of Bowland magic to walk off the excess.
And looser clothes…