TRAVEL: Rolling out the red carpet for a warm welcome at Lancaster House

Lancaster House Hotel

The red carpet may have been intended for the arrival of the wedding party, but it had nothing on the real warm welcome that greeted us at our weekend retreat.

A typical autumnal day in Lancashire had set in during the final miles of our trip to Lancaster House, so the site of a roaring open log fire in the hotel reception was the perfect welcome to escape the squalls outside.

Foodworks Restaurant

Warm, glowing and welcoming the centre piece of the entrance hall, with high ceiling and beams and wooden staircase was matched by the friendly and attentive staff who checked us in.

Whether it's learning about the historical importance of the city the hotel gets its name from, or exploring the beauty of the Lune Valley and Forest of Bowland, Lancaster House is ideally located for a weekend of exploring.

But luckily, for the less hardy souls, when the weather is bad the four-star hotel set in the grounds of Lancaster University has enough facilities to take advantage of - none more so than the Sandpiper Health Club. As you would expect the club caters for the more energetic through its fully-equipped gym and swimming pool, or as like me, those who want to a bit of escapism through the range of pampering treatments on offer .

The expert hand of my masseuse soon got to work on all those tension knots that build up from the daily grind as my soothing back and neck message whisked me away from the wind and rain just feet away to a much more tranquil place. As all the stresses seemed to ooze away so did all my cares, as for next half hour or so I indulged in some 'me time'.

Lancaster Castle

After a great night's sleep in the king size bed you could get lost in, a new day dawned, as did a totally different view of the world. Gone was the low grey cloud that had previously blanketed everything out and in its place was the rolling green fields I had expected.

After a short hop in the car a morning or so was spent taking in the splendour of the Lune Valley. While the nearby Lakes and not too distant Yorkshire Dales hog the limelight the Lune Valley is also one of the north's unspoilt gems and just spending a short time here it is easy to appreciate why the area inspired the likes of Wordsworth and Turner .

It's easy to lose a full day immersing yourself in the beauty of the area but we also wanted to see what Lancaster had to offer during our whistle stop tour. Small in size but historically important , Lancaster has more of a town feel to it until you look up and see the castle dominating the skyline.

Penal punishment may not sound the most enthralling way to spend an afternoon but a tour of Lancaster Castle is highly recommended. Here you are told about the near 1,000 history of the landmark, which was Europe’s longest-serving operational prison until its closure in 2011.

Lancaster Castle

As you take in the majesty of the court rooms knowledgeable guides talk your through tales of witchcraft, religious persecution and crime and punishment. Visitors are submerged in how Lancaster Castle played host to Pendle Witches trial which saw 13 people hanged for witchcraft in 1612, while between 1584 and 1646, the Lancashire Martyrs trails, which saw 15 Catholics executed because of their faith, were also staged at the castle.

After a full day out and about it was time to satiate our appetites in the Foodworks Restaurant. The play on words somewhat downplays the fayre on offer, which predictably but not incongruously is a celebration of the area - the celebration continuing through the sketches and photographs of Lancashire in days of old on the walls.

However, as interesting as the deconstructed Lancashire hotpot seemed it narrowly missed out when both our eyes happened upon chateaubriand on the menu.

Hard to resist this French classic for two, the attentive waiting staff carve this thick cut of steak in front of you, bringing a real sense of theatre to the table. This theatre continued with every morsel of tender and succulent steak not disappointing as it melted in the mouth.

Lancaster House combines modern surroundings with comfort, especially in the opulent suites which mix a neutral colour palette with the light wood doors which allow guests to enjoy a separate lounge, bedroom and sleek bathroom. And after an action-packed day it was time once gain for some 'me time' as I enjoyed a relaxing soak in the free-standing bath.

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