After a long day hiking, sailing or generally exploring the Lake District, what better way to unwind than with some delicious food and drink in the comfortable surroundings of a cosy Lake District pub?
For those of us who live and work in the Lake District, we are truly spoilt when it comes to choosing a pub to visit. So we thought we’d focus on Windermere and the surrounding area to provide a little inspiration. Here are ten of our favourite cosy pubs, somewhere to while away a lunchtime and afternoon, or spend an evening, enjoying the fine company of family and friends.
The Crafty Baa
Situated in the heart of Windermere, the Crafty Baa is a family run pub and former AA Pub of the Year. If you’re a craft beer fan, this quirky pub is a must visit for any beer connoisseur, with over 100 bottled craft beers from around the world available, on top of the real ales, stouts, porters, IPAs and lagers. Food is served all day (from 11am to 10.30pm) and it’s definitely worth trying. Whether it’s nibbles, platters or hot sandwiches, there’s something to satisfy most appetites.
The Crafty Baa is child and dog friendly.
The Watermill at Ings
Just a couple of miles out of Windermere towards Kendal is the village of Ings and The Watermill Inn, a multi-award winning, family run pub and brewery located on a peaceful lane just surrounded by glorious countryside.
The pub has gained an enviable reputation for brewing its own beers, twelve in total, and many of them have some sort of canine reference in the name, such as Golden Retriever, a Bit’er Ruff or Collie Wobbles, a nod to the dog-friendly nature of the pub.
The Watermill Inn offers all day, casual dining in a relaxed atmosphere, rather than restaurant dining. The main menu features seasonal dishes, as well as chef’s specials. This is hearty dining and at this time of year, we thoroughly recommend the beef and collie wobbles ale pie.
The Punchbowl Inn, Crosthwaite
On the outskirts of the village of Crosthwaite, about twenty minutes by car from Windermere, is the Punchbowl Inn, a charming and rustic seventeenth century pub in the heart of the Lyth Valley.
The Punchbowl has become synonymous with fantastic food, earning two well-deserved AA rosettes along the way. It offers an extensive menu, available at lunchtime from Monday to Saturday (12.00 – 3pm) and every evening between 5.30pm and 8.30pm (Saturday and Sunday 6pm – 8.30pm). The Sunday Lunch menu changes on a weekly basis and is served from 12pm – 3pm. And you can choose from a traditional bar or formal and informal restaurants.
The bar serves a selection of locally brewed ale, as well as an extensive range of malt whiskies and gins, including local damson gin. There is also an excellent wine list.
If you do decide to book a table, make sure you try the twice baked cheese soufflé. It’s amazing.
The Black Labrador, Underbarrow
The Black Labrador is located in the village of Underbarrow, a few minutes up the road from the Punchbowl. As the name suggests, your canine companions will be given a warm welcome at the Black Labrador.
Open from Wednesday to Sunday (at the time of writing), this 16th century pub provides a warm Lakeland welcome, not least due to the roaring log burner in the bar. It also offers delicious food and a fine selection of beers and wine.
The Hare and Hounds at Bowland Bridge
Nestled deep in the Winster Valley to the east of Lake Windermere is the Hare and Hounds at Bowland Bridge. And if you’re looking for fantastic food without the fuss, this is the perfect place to be.
You’ll find classic pub dishes here, such as beer battered fish and chip or steak and ale pie, as well as daily specials, lighter meals and vegetarian dishes. For something truly special, make sure you book a table for Sunday lunch, particularly if you’re partial to a Yorkshire Pudding.
The Masons Arms, Strawberry Bank
If you take a short (but steep) stroll up the hill from the Hare and Hounds, you’ll come to the Masons Arms, a 16th century inn boasting spectacular views across the Winster Valley. The Masons Arms has been described as a “true Lake District gem”. Here you’ll find a cosy bar, exposed beams and roaring log fires, not to mention stunning food, a fine selection of ales and a warm Lake District welcome.
Dining here is a must. People come from miles around to try some of the gastronomic delights on offer. Enjoy anything from your pub classics to internationally inspired dishes, hot and cold sandwiches to vegetarian options. And if you’re a pudding lover, make sure you try the locally made gourmet ice cream.
The Brown Horse Inn, Winster
Nestled in the beautiful Winster Valley, the Brown Horse Inn is cosy and welcoming in all seasons, but especially at this time of year. The beautiful décor of this 1850’s former coaching inn gives it a warm, traditional feel. And as the nights draw in, enjoy comfort dishes made with a touch of elegance, including slow-cooked meats, Stornoway black pudding or Thai green curry.
The owners try to keep the menu as local and as close to nature as possible. And you will definitely receive a warm welcome.
Tower Bank Arms, Near Sawrey
When the ferry is running, why not head to the west side of Lake Windermere and Beatrix Potter country. Or more precisely, why not pop to Tower Bank Arms, just a few yards up the road from the author’s former Hill Top home.
Nowadays, it’s a traditional country pub with a roaring log fire and flagstone floors. It has three regular ales on tap, while a further two guest ales are usually sourced from local breweries.
The food is considered to be some of the best food in the area, so it’s pretty popular. It’s also earned a reputation for catering extremely well for those with food allergies and intolerances. So if you’re planning on enjoying a meal there, make sure you book in advance.
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The Queens Head, Troutbeck
The Queen’s Head at Troutbeck is a 17th century coaching inn that lies at the foot of the Kirkstone Pass, nestled on the side of the fells which overlook the Troutbeck Valley. The inn has recently undergone an extensive restoration and the result oozes class with ornate wood carvings, large stone fireplaces and exposed beams.
The Queens Head has become renowned for serving up some great dishes, with a range of tasty options, including a full cooked breakfast available for guests and non-guests. The perfect way to start your day. The main menu changes with the seasons and is served from noon until 9pm each day.
Hole in t’Wall, Bowness-on-Windermere
We’ll round up favourite pubs not far from where we started – at the Hole in t’Wall in Bowness, just over a mile from the Crafty Baa. As well as being the oldest pub in Bowness, it was also named the cosiest pub in Britain in a survey conducted earlier this year.
Whether you’re looking for a pint of award-winning Robinsons’ ale, a craft gin or a wholesome meal, a warm welcome awaits you at Hole in t’Wall.
There are so many amazing pubs in and around Windermere, so narrowing it down to just ten was a challenge. But if you’re in the area, these are ten cosy pubs you really ought to visit.
Rachael Thomas is Managing Director of Matson Ground Estate Company Limited, which has a number of Lake District holiday cottages, including Birkdale House. Birkdale House is a luxury Victorian residence at the heart of a privately owned estate in the English Lake District.