The Kirkstone Pass Inn - 3rd Highest Pub in England
The Lake District - Cumbria
We recently had a few days holiday in the beautiful Lake District in Cumbria with my sister Jackie and brother in law, Dik.
The Lake District is the largest National Park in England and covers an area of 885 square miles. It is a mountainous region in the North West and is a popular holiday destination.
This was my first visit to the area and although I’d expected to see stunning scenery, the mountains and beautiful lakes still took my breath away.
I will be writing more hubs on the fabulous places we visited, this hub is about our memorable visit to a pub!
When Dik announced he had an idea for our evening meal, we immediately stopped talking, sat up and listened - Dik has great ideas.
Kirkstone Pass Inn Kirkstone
The Kirkstone Pass Inn
We were staying in the beautiful village of Elterwater in the Langdale valley and Dik was keen to visit the highest pub in Cumbria, also the 3rd highest pub in England.
The pub is situated 1500ft high on the Kirkstone Pass and is appropriately called the Kirkstone Pass Inn. It was about a 30 minute drive and my husband - Nick, hesitantly accepted the challenge of driving the 1 in 4 gradient steep drive. This was on the condition we drove back in daylight!
The Kirkstone Pass - also known as The Struggle
The Kirkstone Pass connects Ambleside in the Rothay Valley to Patterdale in the Ullswater Valley and the Kirkstone Inn stands at the summit of the Pass. Originally it was an important coaching inn, nowadays it is a popular place with tourists.
The name of the pass is derived from a nearby stone, called the Kirkstone which stands a few yards from the roadside. It is so called as it’s silhouette resembles a church steeple, ‘kirk’ meaning ‘church’ in old Norse.
Locally, the road from Ambleside up to the Kirkstone Inn is known as ‘The Struggle’ - Nick can confirm this!
Living out in the ‘sticks’ we are used to driving the country lanes and coming face to face with big burly tractors. But this narrow, steep, winding road with few passing places was far more challenging!
As we continued to climb, the views became more and more spectacular. There were excited shouts and laughter from three of us as we enjoyed the stunning views. Nick wasn’t saying much, both hands gripped the steering wheel and his eyes looked dead ahead - I don’t think he even blinked! We eventually arrived at the pub, he looked pretty relieved and I was proud of him!
We hastily took a couple of photos outside of the Inn and the three of them went in. I lingered outside to take more pictures, it looked like rain and would be getting dark soon. It had been raining most of the day and at this altitude it was cold and windy, I was especially keen to get pictures of the road signs.
The sign on the left, says ‘The Struggle’ and states that winter conditions can be hazardous which I would think is quite an understatement!
Looking back now, I wonder why we had all failed to notice the car park was empty.....
The Perfect Pub!
Too cold to take any more photos, I entered the pub - the Kirkstone Pass inn certainly has the ‘wow’ factor - a roaring fire, oak beams, a welcoming atmosphere, the perfect traditional English inn!
“No food” says Jackie - those words made no sense to me, I’m looking at the blackboard menus, “Wow Jackie, what a great menu, they have got curries, I fancy a curry!”
“No food” says Jackie
Nick thrust a beer my way. “Quick, drink up, we’re going” said Nick
“But it’s all so perfect” I blurt out, thinking I’m going to cry
“The chef has gone home” said Jackie, looking around I realise we are the only people in the pub. Apparently the weather had been so awful all day, they’d had no customers to cook for!
We all drank our drinks as quickly as possible, so we could find another pub for dinner before it got too late.
I raced from bar to bar to take as many photos as possible of this perfect pub, while gulping down my delicious beer in record time.
If we hadn’t been so hungry, we could have stayed there just for the beer and roaring fire.
The barmaid was friendly and helpful and suggested - if we didn’t mind driving another 10 minutes on the Pass - the only other pub in the area.
We all looked at Nick, there was a nervous nod of agreement.
Back in the car and sure enough 10 minutes further on the pass, we came across the Brotherswater Inn.
Now this time we did all notice that the carpark was empty. Dik decided to check the place out, we sat and watched as Dik didn’t go in the pub, he spoke to someone from the front step. That wasn’t a good sign.
He walked back to the car - “They have no power! - but the chef has said he will cook us something” we looked at each other, frowning and shaking our heads.
It would be getting dark in an hour or so and Nick still had to negotiate the drive back down the pass. How will the chef cook without power? Too hungry to care, we dived in!
The bar was pretty dark, but with the aid of a couple of candles and gas lamp we managed to decide which beers we would try and found a table.
The Landlord was wonderful, they’d had no power since lunchtime and didn’t have a generator. He was friendly and helpful and said the chef would rustle up four rib eye steaks and chips - sounded good to us!
Waiting for our meal, we fantasized about how chef was going to cook our food, maybe he had a BBQ or grill he could cook the steak on, but how do you cook four portions of chips? We were in fits of laughter with some pretty ridiculous ideas, as the whole evening's scenario seemed to get funnier with each swig of beer.
Nick of course staying sober as the responsible driver acted far more sensibly!
The wonderful landlord served our food - we had no idea how it was cooked, but we all agreed it was the most delicious steak and chips we’d ever had!
Next year, we are returning to the Lake District and will certainly be making a visit to both the Kirkstone Pass Inn and the Brotherswater Inn and it's my turn to drive!
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