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).
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).
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).
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).
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
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).
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).
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).
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.