I've only been twice, but I have an irrational and emotional connection to it, possibly to everything it represents.
Growing up in Lancaster the Trough of Bowland was so close, but yet so far. Signs to places like Oakenclough, Calder Vale, Chipping and Clitheroe pointed to destinations we never quite reached. The hills and vales seemed like a nether region, somewhere that an Ordnance Survey map offered mystery, but an ancient map in an antiquarian bookstore would probably denote them as "there be dragons". We had our own names for our favourite beauty spots for picnics and paddling - the pipe place, the pools, the rocky place. Far from ice cream vans and penny arcades they contain firm memories of enduring innocence and, I've grown to appreciate, wise parents.
JRR Tolkein visualised Middle Earth when he was embedded at Stonyhurst College, a few miles away. As you peel away from Whalley with your Sat Nav charting a course ahead, along no obvious highway, defying logical directions to anywhere in particular, you can see why. It is glorious countryside, rolling and surprising.
Yesterday was a magical, glorious, emotional day. The wedding of our very special niece Danielle to Carl Holden, such a smashing lad. These days layer on the pleasurable experiences that cement a reputation. Stood on the terrace with braziers burning brightly and warmly added to the sense of comfort and hospitality. And I'm a sucker for a shop stocked full of cookbooks and expensive cashmere socks.
The Inn also kicked off the TV series The Trip, where Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon open their food travels of the North. The surprises on seeing that for the first time back in 2010 are all happy ones, a real delight, heightened possibly by Coogan's chicken choice pretty much matching what we had as our wedding banquet yesterday. I scanned the menu while we were there; local, seasonal and utterly tantalising. On the way there we passed by the Three Fishes at Mitton, the first of Nigel Haworth's monuments to Northern food where we have enjoyed many a splendid lunch.
I got hopelessly lost on the way home, in the dead of night. It didn't put me off, quite the opposite. I liked that it requires extraordinary effort to discover, but also to escape. I love that no-one stumbles on it by chance, that you have to go there with purpose and prior knowledge.
And that photo above of my beautiful wife Rachel in the private dining room will be one to treasure forever.