On our way up to Scotland last month, we went via Northumberland to visit friends who live near Morpeth. Chris used to work with my husband, until they moved to take over The Swan at Choppington, the hotel / restaurant where they now live and work.
We arrived on Sunday just in time for lunch, having spent the morning looking around the nearby Belsay Hall. Chris & Kirsty live above the bar, and eat most of their family meals in the restaurant - which surprised me, although it makes perfect sense once you think about it. We joined them for lunch, once the restaurant had emptied of regular customers. The vegetarian roast was a huge portion of nut loaf, which was really tasty - and was served with a rich gravy and plenty of fresh vegetables.
Being invited to stay with hotel-owning friends was a bit of a novelty - rather than a spare room in their home, we got to try out one of the hotel bedrooms, which are in a separate, purpose-built annex to the side of the main building. Our room had a small sofa and coffee table by the window, which was an ideal spot to sit and read, and two comfy beds (a double and a single). Of course, we didn't spend that much time in our room, as we were there to visit our friends - so we went for a walk on the nearby beach, and then spent the evening chatting in the bar (which is closed on Sunday evenings, so we had the place to ourselves).
It was fun to get some insight into what it's like to run a busy hospitality business - with lots of staff to manage, menus to plan, and rooms to refurbish. I always like to take a look behind the scenes, at how a business really works, and particularly in an industry that's always interested me. I've often thought I'd like to have a B&B or a small cafe one day, but I'm not sure I'd want to be responsible for something on this scale. Though, as always, catering kitchens make me just a little bit jealous (and tempted to redesign my own kitchen).
If you're in the area, I'd definitely recommend The Swan for dinner or as a place to stay - and not just because we know the owners!