The Black Bull in Sedbergh is a gastropub with boutique bedrooms in a property that’s been providing hospitality to travellers since the 17th century. Current owners James Ratcliffe and Nina Matsunga oversaw major renovations in 2018.
Wood panelling and stained glass windows in the stairwell are legacies of the building’s long use as a coaching inn. Exposed ceiling beams in some of the rooms are also a reminder of the premises’ age.
The 18 guestrooms include one suite. Neat and comfortable, they are decorated in neutral colours. Framed photographic prints of scenes from the Howgill Fells adorn the walls and convey the beauty of the hilly landscape around Sedbergh. Wool blankets from Laura’s Loom, a local business, serve as decorative throws on beds and as a reminded of an industry that has long been significant in this part of the country.
The Black Bull is ideally located for hiking in the immediate vicinity and browsing bookstores in England’s official book town.
It’s also a good base for day trips slightly further afield. Sedbergh sits near the Yorkshire Dales National Park’s western edge and is handily placed for heading into the nearby Lake District National Park. On clear roads, Windermere is less than 40 minutes’ drive away.
Some of the bathrooms feature sizable free-standing bathtubs that are ideal for easing aching muscles during a lengthy soak after hiking. The Sedbergh Soap Company has created a pleasantly scented, bespoke range of toiletries for The Black Bull.
Interspersed by photos of local rural scenes, framed Japanese prints hang on the dark wood of the panelled walls in the cosy bar area. Locally brewed ales and premium lagers are served along with a range of craft spirits.
The pandemic has brought increased demand for social distancing and outdoor catering. Drinks are also served in The Black Bull’s sizable beer garden at the back of the property.
Known as The Meadow, the outdoor hospitality space includes tables and bench seating beneath awnings. A chalkboard lists the specials of the day being prepared over charcoal and in the igloo-shaped pizza oven of The Stables.
The food served at The Black Bull is outstanding. Nina grew up in Germany and is of Japanese descent. James is from the Yorkshire Dales. Those background influences have a bearing in the attractively presented, innovative dishes prepared using locally sourced ingredients in the kitchen. The menu evolves to minimise waste and maximise flavour.
The dining room offers plenty of space between tables. Nibbling on the likes of maple pea hummus is an option while perusing the menu and sipping an aperitif. Dishes such as wild venison tartar feature among photogenic starters that are big on flavour. Local Herdwick lamb or roast beef from the Lake District count among flavour-packed Sunday options.
The wine cellar includes a well-curated selection of Croatian, Slovenian and Austrian wines.
Breakfasts served at The Black Bull are prepared with quality ingredients and make for a delicious way of fuelling ahead of walking on the hills around Sedbergh.
Warm service, comfortable rooms and tasty food prove a winning trifecta that make The Black Bull well worth considering during a break in north-west England.
The Black Bull, 44 Main Street, Sedbergh, Cumbria, LA10 5BL, England.
Tel: +44 15396 20264
Turn off the M6 onto the A684 at Junction 37. The Black Bull is on Sedbergh’s Main Street. The entrance to the one-way, single street is diagonally opposite St Andrew’s Church. The narrow entrance into The Black Bull’s car park, where free parking is available, is immediately before the inn.
Type of Hotel: Coaching Inn and Gastropub with boutique guestrooms
Number of Rooms: 18 en suite bedrooms, including one suite, across three categories (Classic, Superior and Luxury). Wi-Fi is complimentary in The Black Bull’s public areas.
Price Band: Medium
Insider Tips: The English breakfast served at The Black Bull is made with quality ingredients and expertly cooked. It’s a great start to a day of outdoor activity.
Dogs make good companions when walking on the Howgill Fells around Sedbergh. Pet dogs are allowed to stay in three of The Black Bull’s bedrooms.
Be careful when turning in and out of the car park. Scratches on the walls are evidence that plenty of drivers have struggled with the narrow entrance between neighbouring buildings.
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10
Stuart Forster is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specialising in food and travel related features.
Photographs courtesy of The Black Bull