A crackling fire, homecooked meal and real ale in hand: the Lakes’ pubs are the best place to get a flavour of local life, whether you’re kicking off your walking boots or purely out for a gourmet binge.
Bassenthwaite’s much-vaunted Pheasant Inn is dressed up in time-honoured country garb: wood panelling, sporting prints and hunting trophies, with beer pumps and vintage whiskies behind the bar. The menu is full of cockle- warming dishes such as Cumberland sausage with braised red cabbage and mash. (near Dubwath; dinner mains from £12).
Having scooped tons of awards, The Punch Bowl is no longer the well-kept secret it used to be. No matter – homebrewed ales come from the in-house Barngates Brewery and the menu showcases sophisticated country food. Choose from delights such as rack of lamb with roasted artichokes or pan-roasted guinea fowl with chestnuts (Crosthwaite; dinner mains from £12.95).
The whitewashed, 1850s Brown Horse Inn is as popular with locals as it is with food-loving visitors. Meat, game and veg are mostly sourced on the nearby Brown Horse Estate, and other produce is local. Expect terrine of pheasant, black pudding and pickled walnuts, and sustainable fish pie. It also has its own microbrewery, with four ales and two lagers (Winster; dinner mains from £12.95).
Walkers’ inns with rooms
Overlooking the Troutbeck Valley, the gabled Mortal Man dates back to 1689. Its decent-sized rooms have comfortable beds and nearly all have top-drawer views of the surrounding mountains, and one has a stonking four-poster. Pub grub is restorative fare, such as shepherd’s pie and bangers and mash (Troutbeck; from £90).
This Wasdale Head Inn is stuffed with hiking history: vintage climbing memorabilia decorates the wood-panelled walls. The snug rooms are small but charming, while more spacious superior rooms and self-catering flats are available in the converted barn. Beers are from the Great Gable Brewing Company, and food is pleasingly sophisticated (Wasdale Head; from £118).
The quaint Kirkstile Inn is a joy. Old photos adorn the walls, hearty portions of ham and leek pudding are on the menu and its homebrewed ales (including Loweswater Gold) have won awards from CAMRA. Upstairs, the 11 rooms are in a tasteful Tudor style, and some have views over Lorton Vale. There’s also a newly converted self-catering cottage. Local walks head to Melbreak Peak and along the shoreline of Loweswater (Loweswater; from £100).
Best for beer
The Drunken Duck Inn in Ambleside is one of the Lakes’ most desirable dining venues. But the bar is at its heart and beer is taken seriously. So seriously, the pub has set up its Barngates Brewery, which supplies its beer to other inns across the region. Enjoy award-winning beers such as Tag Lag and Red Bull Terrier (Barngates).
Bitter End is one of Cumbria’s finest pub-cum-microbreweries, with boutique beers including Lakeland Bitter and Honey Beer. The bar has wood-panelled walls, low lighting and period etchings, plus you can see the whole brewing process through a glazed partition. It’s also got a great reputation for food, mainly generous grub such as bangers and mash (15 Kirkgate).
Black Bull Inn is one of the best small-scale breweries in the Lakes; the Bluebird Bitter and Old Man Ale have scooped awards from some of Britain’s top real-ale associations. Inside, black and white photos of Coniston line the walls of the rambling bar, while the front patio is always packed with post-hike drinkers on sunny days (1 Yewdale Road).
Trains from London Euston to Windermere take about 3¼ hours (from £50); from Manchester they take two hours (from £16). National Express coaches run direct from London and Glasgow to Windermere and Kendal – count on eight hours from London (from £36). Get around by bus – the North West Explorer ticket allows unlimited travel on services in Cumbria and Lancashire (£10 for one day).
Where to stay
Howe Keld is a B&B five- minutes’ walk from Keswick. Rooms are decorated in neutral tones and decked out with homemade furniture. It’s listed in the Michelin guide – breakfasts can include smoothies, banana bread, crêpes, locally smoked salmon, a platter of Cumbrian air-dried meats or a top-notch Cumbrian fry-up (5-7 The Heads; from £90).
Moss Grove Organic hotel champions its green credentials but it’s also an elegant place to stay. The 11 rooms in the Victorian villa are mostly enormous, while breakfast is an organic buffet (Grasmere; suite from £179).
The Samling is a luxurious country house hotel set in 67 rolling acres in Windermere. There are five rooms in the main house, six cottage suites in the grounds, and each is individually decorated (Ambleside Road; from £215).
The article 'Mini guide to Lake District pubs' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Traveller.