Nikki Hull heads north to one of the UK's most picturesque regions, stepping back in time to enjoy 17th Century pubs, traditional regional cuisine, and 19th Century steam boats.
Nestled in the beautiful hamlet of Troutbeck, with its stunning views of Garburn pass, the Queens Head Hotel is a delightful and hugely welcoming 17th Century coaching house turned charming, cosy and contemporary pub. Boasting ten beautifully styled en-suite bedrooms where weary walkers can rest their aching bones, tasty tipples are of course also on hand, along with fantastic food.
Gutted by a devastating fire back in June 2014, the pub has been lovingly resurrected and redesigned by Stockport-based owner, Robinsons brewery, at a cost of around £2 million. A welcome dose of home from home, or rather Greater Manchester from Greater Manchester, if ever there was one.
Reopening to customers in March this year it’s clear to see where the money has been spent. The refurb is of a seriously high standard with stunning features and striking detail in all nooks and crannies; open fires crackle in cosy corners, there’s a jar of spare reading glasses on the bar for the forgetful bespectacled amongst us, and free dog treats on offer in this canine friendly establishment.
Bedrooms feel luxurious with tall ceilings and broad beams, giving a calm and tranquil feel, with oak, slate and stone making up the décor, and perhaps best of all you’re little more than a stone’s throw from tourist favourites Windermere and Ambleside, but with a lower price tag.
The feeding, as you’d expect, is homely and comforting, packed with pub classics given a notable and welcome regional twist. Deep fried ‘popcorn’ cockles, Appleby cheddar, garlic & herb stuffed mushrooms, Cumberland ring sausage with creamy leek mash and Whitby whole tail scampi all make an appearance. For those on a sweet-toothed tip, you can chomp on treacle tart, sticky toffee pudding or spotted dick with caramelised banana.
If staying the night, breakfast is taken in the bar, and accompanying serve-yourself-pastries, fruit and cereals is an extensive cooked menu including fresh pancakes, eggs benedict and, naturally, a full Lakeland, featuring more of those hearty Cumberlands, and Bury black pudding. If none of that appeals, either have a word with yourself, or the staff, who will pretty much make up any combination you can think of- this really is a labour of love for those working here, not least landlady and manager Samantha, and the passion certainly shines through.
We teamed our visit to the Queens Head with an afternoon on the famous Ullswater Steamers. A mere 20 minute drive from the pub, this famous attraction has been operating cruises on arguably England’s most beautiful lake for over 150 years, laying claim to what is believed to be the oldest working passenger vessel in the world (The Lady of the Lake, launched on 26th June 1877).
The cruises run for an impressive 363 days a year, weather permitting, and connect some of the most famous and iconic walking routes in the National Park, so walkers and day-trippers can either opt for single journeys or an all-day hop-on hop-off fare, which also gives you 50% off sister attraction Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway (by far the best value option in our humble opinion).
One of the largest heritage vessel fleets in the world, the Steamers (which now run on diesel engines) were hit hard by Storm Desmond back in 2015, so it’s wonderful to see them back on their hulls and thriving again. From gentle lakeside strolls, ice-cream in hand, to fell-top expeditions, these boats allow visitors access to Ullswater in the most relaxing and charming of ways, operating varying timetable connections between Glenridding, Howtown, Pooley Bridge Piers and between Glenridding and the National Trust Aira Force Pier. With cruise times from 20 – 120 minutes, it’s the perfect introduction to this beautiful part of the world.
Making use of the hop-on-hop off ticket allows you to easily tackle the Ullswater Way, a 20 mile walking route around the Lake. You'd do well not to miss out on Aira Force, too, where a tumbling waterfall is reached via a beautiful meander through ancient woodland. Cascading 65ft, it’s impressively photogenic. This is also where you’ll find the famous Glencoyne Wood, where William and Dorothy Wordsworth saw daffodils by the lakeshore in 1802, inspiring his most famous poem, aptly titled The Daffodils.
A real ‘get away from it all’ break, we challenge anyone not to feel relaxation sweep over them the moment they arrive at The Queen’s Head and begin taking in the stunning rolling green hills and deep valleys. A true oasis of calm, it's the perfect quick escape from our home city, roughly two hours drive away.
Rooms at the Queens Head Hotel range between £110 and £160 on a bed and breakfast basis, with dog friendly rooms available. Book online at www.robinsonsbrewery.com/pubs-inns-and-hotels/find-a-pub/o-s/queensheadtroutbeck
Tickets on the Ullswater Steamers cost £6 for an adult ticket, (£3 for children) or hop-on hop-off passes are priced at £14.20 (£7.10 for children). For more information and advance bookings, hit www.ullswater-steamers.co.uk/
For more ideas and inspiration ahead of your Lake District trip, try www.golakes.co.uk