OUR trip to The Manor House was inspired by my coast-to-coast cycling mother, or Super Gran, as she should be known, because it is one of her favourite pit stops when out with her group of two-wheeled golden oldies.

Not far from the A68, near Shotley Bridge, it is high in the hills and commands spectacular views across the County Durham countryside, with seating outside for glorious sunny days.

We visited on a chilly Saturday in December but were given a warm welcome by friendly staff who had placed our name on a card reserving a cosy table in the corner.

The dining room is intimate with room for no more than about 30 people, but it clearly has a good reputation because all of the tables had been booked and I was pleased I had the foresight to call ahead the night before.

With a newfound appreciation of real ale, which seems to have got awfully trendy these days, it was good to see Doom Bar, Golden Hen and Game Bird on offer.

The bar obviously prides itself on its beer and uses local brewers such as the Wylam Brewery, Consett Ale Works, the Northumberland Brewery, and the Allendale Brewery among others.

We went for shandies made with Game Bird, a refreshing fruity amber bitter from The Scottish Borders Brewery.

The impressive modern European menu offers a wide range of dishes with even more choice on the changeable specials chalkboards on the wall.

To start, I went for the chicken liver paté, which was smooth and creamy, served with a mini brioche and homemade red onion marmalade (£5.50).

It was faultless and the same can be said for Super Gran’s tempura battered king prawns, which came with a salad garnish and a sweet chilli dip (£7).

For the mains, after much agonising, I went for the shoulder of rolled lamb with clapshot and red currant sauce (£16).

Clapshot was new one on me so, for the uninitiated, it is a mixture of mashed potato and swede, a traditional Scottish dish originally from Orkney.

Neeps and tatties all in one.

I had been a bit uncertain but egged on by assurances from staff that the lamb was ‘to die for’ I was not disappointed.

Soft, melting, shredded lamb cooked to perfection on the tastiest bed of mashed clapshot, a dish I am nicking for my own roast dinner repertoire.

It was truly delightful, the sort of meal you want to keep going for. No wonder they only had one left.

Super Gran went for the 8oz sirloin steak, which came with the homemade handcut chunky chips, oven roast vine tomatoes and giant onion rings (£17) and a creamy tasty Diane sauce.

She enjoyed every mouthful and a few stolen chips and the odd onion ring confirmed it was every bit as good as it looked.

Desserts are priced £5 and I found room for a delicious pannacotta made with Baileys while SG indulged herself with an incredible sticky toffee pudding with caramel sauce and custard.

Reviewers can be picky over slight things that can be improved, if only to add a little objectivity, but hand on heart there is nothing I can say that would have any part of the meal any better. It was perfect.

But wait, there’s more.

Venturing next door to the bar to check out facilities in the adjoining room revealed a roaring log fire and the cosiest, welcoming little room that was so inviting I wished we could have settled in for the night.

And you can even do that if you so wish as they have rooms available at £75 for two. If I won the lottery I’d stay for a week. I might even move in.

The Manor House Inn, Carterway Heads, Northumberland DH8 9LX

TEL: 01207 255268



Open: Monday, noon to 11pm; Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 11am to 11pm; Thursday, 11am to 11.30pm; Sunday, noon to 10.30pm.

Food: 9 Service: 10 Surroundings: 10 Value: 9