The White Lion Hotel is a beautifully restored former coaching inn dating from 1657, and is the oldest building in the attractive market town of Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. The inn has a riverside location in the town centre making it easy to explore the town on foot. In addition to good road connections, for those visitors arriving by train, Hebden Bridge station is only a 10 minute level walk from the hotel. The station is on the Calder Valley line with frequent services between Leeds and Manchester taking under an hour.
Nestled in the South Pennines where there were once over 30 mills in and around Calderdale all carrying out one or more of the 17 processes that went into making cloth. After the Second World War the town’s fortunes declined but a bohemian vibe helped repopulate it. Artistic people working from home bought properties in the town and added to the eclectic mix of people already there, making Hebden Bridge a great place to both live and visit.
Today Hebden Bridge is known as the ‘Town of Little Shops’ and has been named as the best town in Britain and Ireland at the Urbanism Awards for its vibrant, independent economy, welcoming streets and stunning valley setting. Other accolades awarded to the town include Walkers are Welcome and Fairtrade. The area is frequently used for the filming of television programmes including Last Tango in Halifax, Happy Valley, The Brontés, Ackley Bridge and Gentleman Jack.
Arrival and Check-in:
We arrived at the hotel shortly after 3.00 p.m. stepping into the cosy bar with its roaring log fire to enquire about our reservation.
The staff were very organised and expecting us and soon we were being shown up to our room on the first floor. It was so nice to be accompanied to our room rather than just being handed a key and left to sort ourselves out. The staff member checked that we were happy with the room and pointed out the guest book to which we could refer for more information as needed.
We‘d selected a Boutique Suite room which I fell in love with instantly with its country check furnishings and windows to three sides flooding the room with natural light. Our king size sleigh bed had an extremely comfortable mattress fitted with high quality bed linen and its throw and cushions co-ordinated with the curtains beautifully.
The two armchairs near the window were bathed in sunlight and perfectly positioned for either watching television or just resting. In addition to the usual Freeview channels, the Smart TV was also connected to Netflix and YouTube so we were sure to find something to interest us. It was simple to connect to the Wi-Fi which provided us with a fast, reliable service and once connected that was it, never logging us out unlike numerous places we have stayed in, which is always annoying,
A Nespresso type coffee machine with an accompanying small chest filled to the brim with Costa tea and coffee pods, milk and packets of biscuits was at our disposal and even though we made several drinks during our stay, there were still several pods left when we checked out.
Moving into the spacious en-suite bathroom, it featured a free standing roll top bath and a large walk-in rainfall shower, Spa toiletries, thick fluffy towels and a hairdryer.
Despite the age of the coaching inn, there were no draughts and although it was icy cold outdoors, we were warm and snug in our lovely room and didn’t need to alter the temperature settings as they seemed just to have been set perfectly.
Although it’s not absolutely necessary, we had reserved a table for 7.00 p.m. This was actually a good idea, as it‘s a popular place and was in fact quite busy for a mid-week evening. We were seated in the main bar to one side of the crackling log fire and it felt so cosy that I knew we wouldn’t be rushing off. There’s also a restaurant, snug and smaller rooms adjoining the bar but being winter you can’t beat a real fire and the main bar was definitely the most popular option that evening.
We sipped glasses of local beer whilst studying the extensive menu and being spoilt for choice, eventually decided on slow braised chilli beef from the Specials Board and a homemade classic steak burger with chips from the main menu. These were reasonably priced at £13 and £11 respectively.
The coaching inn prides itself for its traditional pub classics which are all made to order using locally sourced quality produce. Our dishes were imaginatively presented and tasted even better than they looked. I pinched a few chips from across the table and these were crispy on the outside with a piping hot snowy white interior and I could have eaten them all.
Food is served throughout the day and if you happen to be at the White Lion between noon and 5.30 p.m. Monday – Friday then you can enjoy a two or three course lunch for £12.95 or £15.95 and with lots to choose from, it looked an absolute bargain.
Breakfast is served in the restaurant between 8.00-9.30 a.m. and slightly later at weekends. From a table we helped ourselves to juice and cereals with pastries and yoghurts available on request. Menus listing hot dishes are on the tables and the selection includes Full English, vegetarian options and Eggs Benedict, Florentine and Royale. I was torn between Eggs Benedict and a traditional breakfast and deciding on the latter, I wasn’t disappointed.
Eggs can be prepared anyway you want, and you know me and my runny yolks, these were spot on and cooked to perfection. We rounded off our breakfast with thick cut toast and preserves then sat back and relaxed over large cups of cappuccino whilst glancing at the morning papers.
The hotel features six luxuriously appointed boutique rooms on the first floor of the inn. I managed to get to peep into several of them and they were all beautiful, having been recently updated whilst retaining their traditional charm.
Accessed a few steps from the hotel’s rear entrance across a cobbled courtyard there are a further four courtyard cottage rooms which offer disabled access and are dog friendly.
Dogs are welcomed into the hotel bar but not into the upstairs bedrooms, there is even a dog treat jar in the doorway filled with little treats for our four legged friends, one of which was enjoying curling up by the log fire when we visited. Due to the age of the Inn there isn’t a lift but the courtyard rooms provide level access to all ground floor areas and into the restaurant.
The hotel has its own car park which, if you are arriving by car, is extremely useful as the small town is very popular and finding a parking place can sometimes be quite difficult. Along from the car park is a riverside beer garden which I’m certain will be a very pleasant place to soak up the sun during the summer months.
Guests are welcome to utilise any of the cosy lounges during their stay and as the pub doesn’t open to the public until 12.00 noon each day, one can sit quietly reading the paper or catching up on work as necessary. Along the corridor from the first floor bedrooms is a private function room which is licensed for weddings and can also be hired out for meetings and family gatherings.
Out and About
Hebden Bridge is an attractive small town with its small shops, cafes and pretty canal side walks. Beyond Hebden Bridge, the larger town of Halifax is only 8 miles away and is definitely worth a visit to see its marvellous 18th century Piece Hall.
The sole surviving cloth hall of the north of England exemplifying the trade in handwoven textiles. The Piece Hall now features numerous wine bars, restaurants and craft shops and sitting out on its piazza on a sunny day, one could easily feel they were somewhere in Italy.
One mile from Halifax is Shibden Hall, a half timbered Tudor house set in 90 acres of parkland. The hall is open to the public and very interesting to visit. It’s actually the focus of the BBC drama Gentleman Jack which explores the life of Anne Lister.
Another nearby place of interest is the charming village of Heptonstall accessed by a very steep, winding narrow road or if you are feeling energetic it’s a six and a half mile (11km) round trip on foot with some steep climbs approaching the top.
I’m a big fan of old country inns and The White Lion reminded me why I like them so much. Warm and cosy interiors and luxurious rooms that wouldn’t be out of place in a five star hotel coupled with delicious home cooked food and friendly, welcoming staff – it says it all really.
Details: The White Lion Hotel, Bridge Lane, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, HX7 8EX. Tel: 01422 842197
We were guests of the White Lion Hotel and as always all views and opinions are entirely my own.