There aren’t too many rewards in being over 50 (trust me), but if you’ve had a bit of luck and done the straight and narrow for an extended period, you do get the odd opportunity for a fun and chilled weekend away to a nice place with friends you have known for so long there’s nothing you don’t know about them. So, it came to pass that 38 friends and family zipped from various places across Europe to converge on the tiny village of Ravenstonedale for a bit of TLC and a spot of binge drinking.
Ravenstonedale is in the bit of Cumbria that isn’t the lake district (i.e. rather than hang a left west off the motorway, you get off at Tebay village (near the famous Tebay service station) and roll a right, into the centre of the country. If you want to be in with the locals, the place can be said as “Russendale”.
Ravenstonedale is a little place of one main road and a donkey, but fortunately also with two great country pubs in the village centre. Both are character-full country inns with little rooms, stone flags and lots of local real ale choices. They both also serve good food. We were focussed upon the Black Swan for this visit because it was the larger of the pubs with more rooms to accommodate us all. That said, unlike some pubs it didn’t feel they had over-expanded and lost its original feel and charm. I wouldn’t want the place any bigger, but it worked very well.
Our room at the Black Swan was around £100 a night for bed and breakfast, and we were pleased to see it had its own little seating area in front of an electric fire, a huge bed, and comfortable en-suite facilities. This wasn’t completely plush as the creaking floors and slightly older bathroom facilities attested, but it was nicely comfortable with lots of pale muted cream and browns, more cushions than you could throw a pillow fight at, and sheep wool rugs and throws a plenty. It all felt very homely.
Eats at the bar were something else. I have a friend who is a 2 star Michelin Chef. I won’t quite go so far as to suggest Michelin would go a wow here, but the idea of serving food with a twist is the same. The apple crumble turned out to be an apple flavoured whipped egg white delight. Likewise the flaked Haddock arrived like a topped popped rice cake with lots of crunchy texture to complement the fish. Expect one thing, get something else. It does get an AA double rosette which are considered excellent restaurants with a consistent standard. I’d argue that the Black Swan is a bit better than that. Main courses come in at around £15 for the cheapest, and right up into the mid £20’s if you want some of the gamey or more fancy choices. Again, while I certainly don’t spend that kind of money on a standard meal, it felt about on the nose, and I didn’t feel short changed. The food is very filling and protein heavy, so in fact unless you are wanting a splurge then you can get away with a main course only.
The beers at the Black Swan was excellent, and I also spotted some good whisky, gins and cocktails on offer, so every alcoholic taste was catered for,
Staff at the Black Swan were efficient, polite and friendly if a little reserved; they did us proud and the task of serving 38 of us all at the same time was easily accomplished.
Overall, if you want a special occasion weekend away in a nice country location but perhaps away from the “usual suspects” then you ould do far worse than the Black Swan. Go and take a look at: http://www.blackswanhotel.com/index.html
Picture is of the road just on the edge of Ravenstonedale