We lefties have a vexed relationship with the landed aristocracy. But if the gentry must persist, can we agree that the least it can do is open more swanky country pubs on its estates? Comrades, we cannot expropriate their land, but they owe us a nice weekend away.
Welcome to Brocklesby Estate, home of the Earls of Yarborough: a 27,000-acre, Downton Abbey dreamscape in the Lincolnshire Wolds. Amid its fields, fens and tied houses is the tiny village of Great Limber and the New Inn, a grade II-listed brick pub reopened in 2014. It’s been given a Farrow & Ball makeover – that standard gastropub aesthetic – but off-beat, personal Yarborough artefacts make interesting diversions. There are sentimental personal effects (an Inuit fancy dress outfit, worn at a family party), specially commissioned sculptures and light fittings, and an old stable door, all hung like works of art.
The pub’s 10 bedrooms have more of a Kensington pied-à-terre vibe. They are elegant, comfortable, mature. A few focal antique furniture pieces are as extravagant as the decor gets. The bedrooms seduce by luxurious stealth, in their 400 thread-count cotton sheets, down quilts and heavy towels. Curiously, there were no biscuits on the tea tray. Does Debrett’s consider biscuits vulgar?
Despite all this titivation, the New Inn is no stage set. Particularly in the public bar (dartboard, Magic FM, farm workers in muddy boots), this is a lively village boozer. Staff were unusually helpful and (shout out to Sharon, who jumped-in to ferry me to Barnetby station) seem like a team who take great pride in this pub. Next door, in the quieter snug, you can sit by the log-fire, nurse a pint and browse bookshelves with biographies of great lives – think Gladstone or Churchill.
An offer to store your “golf clubs, bikes or guns” gives an idea of what people get up to while staying here. Guardian readers may prefer local woodland walks to shooting game, and there are coastal paths around nearby Grimsby. If you want a kiss-me-quick seaside town, Cleethorpes is also close, as is Hull, UK city of culture 2017.
The chief attraction at the New Inn is food; best enjoyed in its neat, sensitively lit dining room. Its newish chef, Chris O’Halloran, knocks out technically elevated dishes alongside various pub staples. It helps that many of his ingredients arrive daily from Brocklesby Estate – vegetables from its organic walled garden, eggs, beef and seasonal game.
A starter of crab gateau topped with jellied and diced Granny Smith apple looked prettier than it tasted (it needed a sharper fruit to cut through that rich, creamed crab), but the main, red mullet and squid, was excellent. Semi-dried tomatoes and pickled mushrooms were a novel counterpoint to the seafood and its intense bisque dressing. It was a dish of real depth, deftness and cohesion. Dessert, a lemon tart, lined with bitter chocolate and paired with marmalade ice-cream, was also good. This standard was maintained at breakfast.
As a weekend getaway, and particularly at these prices, the New Inn is a gem. Come the revolution, we will turn it into a co-op of course. But until then, comrades – enjoy.
• Accommodation was provided by the New Inn, 2 High Street, Great Limber, near Grimsby (01469 569998, thenewinngreatlimber.co.uk, doubles from £90 B&B). Train travel between Manchester and Barnetby was provided by First TransPennine (from £11.30 one-way, tpexpress.co.uk)
Ask a local
Nic Till, owner, Riverhead Coffee shops, Grimsby and Cleethorpes
Fish, chips and mushy peas (haddock of course!) at Steels Cornerhouse in Cleethorpes. In Great Limber, also check out Moroccan restaurant La Foundouk.
In Grimsby, Riverhead Coffee hosts live acoustic acts every Sunday, from noon.
For beautiful gardens and various resident animals, head for Elsham Hall. During lambing season you may see one being born. My hometown, Cleethorpes, is a traditional seaside town with plenty to do. The Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway is enjoyable for kids.