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It doesn’t do fancy wine bars or slick cocktails, but what the Lake District does do brilliantly is its host of characterful, unspoiled country pubs. Even better, Lakeland pubs invariably have fantastic beer on tap courtesy of a plethora of high-quality microbreweries and bigger regional brewers who know what they’re doing. Throw in the most glorious landscapes imaginable, and you’re in pub paradise.
Britannia Inn, Elterwater
A much-loved and ancient inn on the village green and a popular watering-hole for anyone heading for the Langdale Pikes. Two bars and a dining room offer solid pub fare and a wide list of guest ales.
The Golden Rule, Ambleside
No music, no food, no games, no telly, so what’s so special about the Rule? Just that. A warm and engagingly decorated old boozer, tucked away off Ambleside’s main tourist track that serves half-a-dozen real ales in a warren of rooms and feels like your own private discovery.
Hawkshead Brewery and Beer Hall, Staveley
A brilliant success story. Alex Brodie, a former BBC foreign correspondent, packed it all in for the simple pleasure of brewing beer. His award-winning Hawkshead Bitter and numerous other beers are brewed in this purpose built brewery that includes food, bars, a shop and views of the brew house.
The Howtown Hotel, Ullswater
Perfectly located, this charming, time-warp hotel sits at the foot of Hallin Fell, the merest stroll from the Ullswater Steamer landing stage. It has shelter in a gorgeous panelled and blood-red residents’ bar and the popular Walkers’ Bar at the back. And on a sunny afternoon, there’s nowhere better than its garden to take in the timeless lakeside scene.
The Mardale Inn @ St Patrick’s Well, Bampton (pictured, top right)
At the Haweswater end of the Eastern Fells, this ancient inn is rough hewn on the outside but serene within, with its chalky green walls, fires, rustic tables and country chairs. Good beer and food are a given, but beware film buffs reciting their lines – this is the heartland of Withnail and I.
Old Crown Pub, Hesket Newmarket
The very first pub to be run by a co-operative of villagers, who took over in 2003 when their local was threatened with closure. This gem of a pub has bags of character inside and its own brewery outside at the back with nine ales. Food served daily.
The Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel, Langdale Valley
Known as ‘base camp’ for British climbing, the Hikers Bar in the ODG is rough and ready, fashioned out of an old cowshed and without that much of a makeover, but is steeped in climbing history. Food is simple, but the point is a pilgrimage for anyone who takes walking or climbing seriously, or wants to experience an extraordinary drinking hole.
The Pheasant Inn, Bassenthwaite
The tap room of The Pheasant Inn is pure magic. Dark and moody, it’s furnished with a collection of old settles, school chairs, frayed carpets and laquered walls strung with a collection of photos, maps and hunting scenes. The gleaming bar always has at least three local ales and some 50 single malts.
Tower Bank Arms, Sawrey
The wooden porch and clock of the Tower Bank Arms was immortalised in Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck and inside it is just as storybook: a traditional English pub with flagged floors, slate-topped tables, a fire in the grate, hearty food and excellent Hawkshead beer on tap.
The Wasdale Head Inn, Wasdale
Old maps and faded photographs recall the days when Victorian mountaineers scaled the fells behind the inn. Ritson’s Bar, named after the first landlord Will Ritson, is another Lake District climbers' bar, dramatically set at the dead end of Wasdale, and considered the true birthplace of mountaineering.