The checking-in process at hotels can be laborious. Hanging on to a set of heavy suitcases, drained from travelling, waiting for someone on the other side of the desk to click the right buttons so you can get the keys to your room. But when met with genuine smiles (with a 30-second key handover), the welcome at The White Hart makes you feel less like a guest and more like a friend who’s come to stay.

With a modest 16 rooms, this four-star hotel gives you that proper pub feeling. You know, the kind of place you hope to find on a country walk with wooden beams, a roaring fire and local ales with a few locals propping up the bar.

We stay in the cottage a few doors down, which has four rooms and is separated from the main pub (and remaining bedrooms) by a parish hall. It’s all wonderfully higgledy-piggledy – an unusual layout which may be because The White Hart has not always been a pub.

Built in 1788 by local landowner John Buckley, the main building has been a police station, schoolhouse, weaver’s cottage and even a World War Two look-out point. Sold by the Buckley family in 1921 to Gartside Brewery, it was brewery-owned until 1994 when it was bought and renovated, turning it into The White Hart as it’s known today.     

The White Hart at LydgateThe hotel’s food and drink offering is why I wanted to visit so much in the first place. While The Bar & Dining Room often gets the big write-up (born and bred in Lydgate, head chef Mike Shaw has been attracting rave reviews for the last decade), there are options to suit everyone’s palette and we have dinner in The Brasserie which is a little less tasting-menu-and-wine-pairing, more contemporary pub classics.

Warm breads featuring olive, pumpernickel and an intriguing (yet dense) potato bread are served at the table, which is one of a handful in the restaurant, making it feel cosy and intimate. There are 60th birthday celebrations, couples having dinner and the few steps from the Brasserie to the pub means we’re still within earshot of Friday evening merriment.

Middle room, The White Hart at LydgateBut on to the food. To start, we shared two dishes: lobster ravioli and a tender asparagus and parmesan dish with beautifully presented edible flowers. For mains, we went for a poached chicken dish which, while tasty, was not my favourite (maybe I’ve just eaten too much chicken recently). The pan-fried seabass, however, was excellent, with bright orange mussels and a sauce I couldn’t quite put my finger on, providing plenty of punch. 

Mains at the Brasserie average around £18-25 and you’d probably have to get a few sides to feel full. But beautiful presentation, piping hot plates and knowledgeable, friendly staff meant there wasn’t much I’d change.

The White Hart at LydgateFor Manchester residents, The White Hart is a dream weekend away. A 35-minute drive from the city centre, it’s ideal for those looking to escape the city to the rolling hills. There are some fantastic walks right on the doorstep, including a stroll up to the obelisk (more commonly known as Pots and Pans) which sits at the top of the hill above Uppermill and Greenfield.  

My parting takeaway? How great the staff were. Anyone will tell you I have a thing about customer service, but everybody we spoke to were proper salt of the earth types. That combined with a gorgeous setting and hearty grub means that it won’t be long before I’m back to The White Hart. 

By Lizzie Wood, Travel Editor

To read Northern Soul’s food review of The White Hart from last year, click here