I don’t need to tell my Welly readers that living in Cumbria is sometimes like one long holiday… that is, aside from the daily grind of work and family routine of course. Let me explain – what I mean specifically is that our vast and beautiful county is the perfect place to spend a ‘staycation’ – okay I’m going all American on you but this nouveau word perfectly sums up the notion that although we may live here, we also are happy to holiday here. Living in South Lakes is the perfect location for a getaway break north of the county to beautiful Buttermere and Crummock for example…
Last weekend we decided to hook up the caravan (yes I have officially turned middle-aged) and make our way over to the far west of Cumbria, staying in the Camping and Caravanning Club Site of Ravenglass. A fabulous location, we were a stone’s throw away from the wind-swept pubs of this tiny village and the small gauge railway known affectionately as La’al Ratty.
Like proper tourists we boarded the train on a glorious morning, luckily avoiding all flooding to the east of the county and headed for the Eskdale Show. We alighted a stop earlier to take advantage of a walk over Muncaster Fell and arrived at the show in time for beer-o’clock (Mr Welly’s words not mine).
Utterly charming, this was a proper country show set deep in rural west Cumbria with all the usual livestock demonstrations – from poultry to Herdwicks and even a tongue-in-cheek competition showcasing the longest nettles and brackens.
I had been invited to lunch over at The Woolpack Inn in Eskdale, just up the road from the show. The landlady Paddington (no, nothing to do with the bear – just a childhood love of marmalade sarnies) came over and picked us up. She had owned the pub up the road with her husband many years ago but found the workload overwhelming when they had a family. Since throwing themselves back into the pub trade they’ve both created a fantastic bolthole in what would otherwise be a fairly isolated location.
The Woolpack is a huge pub, cleverly split into three areas. As you walk in on the left-hand side, there’s a separate dining area – cosy and warm with a large fire and walls flanked by bookshelves.
Walking right, the pub opens into a central bar area which then follows through into a larger space known loosely as the Hardknott cafe. It’s a great concept as the pub attracts both regular drinkers and visitors seeking a pint of local ale as well as the many bikers and fell runners wanting coffee and cake.
We sat in the café, which still felt very much part of the pub. A relaxed feel and filled with groups of friends meeting for lunchtime drinks and food.
The menu itself is extensive and split into two parts. There’s a traditional pub grub style offering of fish and chips etc and then a secondary menu with a range of pizzas and locally-sourced food. Paddington had already told us all about her former chef who had recently set up his own recipes under the name of Amazing Grazing, which she fully embraced under this very individual menu, so I chose the Herdwick Mutton burger – it seemed like a fitting choice for the area as all the lamb is sourced quite literally from the adjoining farms. Mr Welly had already spied the fully-blown wood-fired pizza oven in the far corner and decided upon a Hawaiian.
Both the burger and pizza tasted great. A lamb burger would never be my first choice but I knew that this lamb burger would certainly be no ordinary one.
Together with a glass of Solaris English wine (ironically from near our old stomping ground down South) and a pint of local Hardknott, this was a proper Lakeland lunch – honest, quality food served in a warm and welcoming setting.
I never cease to feel proud of where I live and the fact that no matter how far you go into the depths of the Cumbrian fells, there’s great pubs like The Woolpack serving up hearty, decent food, locally sourced and at a good price. The Woolpack is a large establishment offering an array of different food and drinks and yet Paddington seems to take it all in her stride – it’s obvious she loves the food and drink she serves here as well as the business, of course.
A massive wine fan, she organizes regular wine festivals with often over 50 wines available by the glass. The next festival takes place on 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th of November. There’s live music and a variety of food including tapas on offer. Why not get down there and book yourself a room? It’ll be well worth the effort and you’ll definitely feel like you’ve really got away from it all, yes even if you live just up the road and over that yonder fell… 🙂
Good for: Ramblers, hikers, cyclists, drinkers, friends, families…. just about anyone seeking a relaxed pub serving good grub in ‘proper’ Cumbria.
Not for: High-end diners. Pick a posh restaurant further east…
£: Great quality food at fabulous prices. 12″ pizzas at around the £9 mark – huge and tasty. My local Herdwick burger was just £7.95! I almost felt bad that the poor sheep died for me at such an obscenely low price… Traditional pub mains from the alternative menu priced from £8.50. Sweets from £4.95. You couldn’t make up these prices for the quality of food and service you’ll experience here.
Tips: Plan a weekend now and book a room. Alternatively reserve a room at Paddington’s sister B&B, Stanley House. She’ll even pick you up and take you home in her custom army truck – now that’s service!
The Woolpack Inn, Hardknott Pass, Eskdale, Cumbria, CA19 1TH