CAN there be a better way to enjoy a Sunday lunch than this…?

A moorland walk in bright winter sunshine to work up an appetite, a fine and ample meal in a cosy and historic village pub and then another walk back to the car to burn off all the calories…

I had decided to celebrate a couple of family birthdays by dining at the Blacksmiths Arms in Lastingham, a gorgeous little village on the edge of the North York Moors near Kirkbymoorside.

Inspired by a great little book I had found, Pub Walks On The North York Moors And Coast by Richard Musgrave, I drew up a cunning plan to drive to another picturesque village, Hutton-le-Hole, park up and walk the two miles to Lastingham.

The plan was dependent on the fickle early winter weather but we awoke to find sun streaming down from a cloudless sky, albeit with frost on the lawn, and it was game on.

After an hour’s drive up the A64, A169 and A170 to Hutton, we paid £3 to park in the Crown Inn’s car park and set off, wearing sturdy shoes and wrapped in thick coats and woolly hats.

Our walk took us up the hill and out of the village, and then across a moorland, past fields dusted with snow and frost, and stared at by hardy moorland sheep, before heading down through woodland into Lastingham, which nestles in a valley.

The pub dates back to the 17th century, was once attached to the village blacksmith and features exposed beams, an open fire and a cosy atmosphere.

It was busy but we had booked our table in the dining room, decorated with pictures of blacksmiths from days gone by.

There was a choice of seven starters/appetisers/light bites, costing between £4.95 for homemade soup with chunky bread and butter and a rather pricey ploughman’s lunch for £9.50.

I opted for creamy garlic mushrooms served on toasted bruschetta for £6.75 and it was a good start, with other subtle flavours offsetting a mild garlic base.

The mains started at £9.95 and I chose one of the pub’s signature dishes, steak and ale pie, apparently made with locally sourced beef and homemade shortcrust pastry for £11.50, accompanied by home-cooked chips and vegetables.

The segment of pie was solid with chunks of tender beef in a tasty gravy, the chips crisp on the surface and soft inside, and the vegetables included swede, peas and broccoli.

The menu had promised “proper Yorkshire portions” and it wasn’t kidding.

I only managed to finish off the whole plateful because of the appetite I had worked up.

Meanwhile, my wife had chosen Mediterranean chicken, a fillet of chicken breast stuffed with cream cheese, pesto and sundried tomatoes, wrapped in parma ham and served with a roast tomato, pepper and basil sauce, also with chips and vegetables, for £13.25.

She said it tasted as good as anything she had eaten in the Med.

My daughter had asked for Yorkshire hotpot, which was a little like my pie – with chunks of beef in a gravy - only it was served in a giant Yorkshire pudding topped with crispy sliced potatoes instead of pastry, for £11.50.

She liked it but found it a little dry: that was no problem, though, as the waitress quickly went away and brought back a little jug of extra gravy.

In fact, the service throughout was friendly and attentive.

In the interests of this column, I manfully volunteered for a sweet, choosing a chocolate and nut ice cream sundae for £4.95.

It was delightfully creamy and sweet, with a good nutty crunch.

By the time we had finished it was approaching 3pm and the sun was already going down, and it was time to walk - or waddle in my case - back to Hutton.

However, there was still just enough time to pay a quick visit to St Mary’s Church, situated just across the road from the pub.

There’s been Christian worship on the site since about AD 654, when missionary St Cedd founded a monastery here. He later died of the plague and was buried by the altar.

The current church and its crypt date back to 1078, when it was re-founded as a Benedictine abbey.

The church attracts thousands of visitors every year and I’d recommend it – just like the pub and the walk.


The Blacksmiths Arms, Lastingham

Phone 01751 417247

Ratings (out of ten): Food 8, Service 8, Ambience 8, Value 8