29th May 2012Stay the night: The Pheasant Inn

Ask any poet, rambler, historian or farmer...it’s the contrasts that make the Western Lake District special. Rugged fell against shimmering lake, sandy beach against wild waves, lonely roads into lively villages…these things make a place unique.

But despite what you might have heard, the Western Lake District is not just about scenery. Ok, I admit, you can’t exactly escape the views but there are many more contrasts which make the place unforgettable.

While on a reccy of Bassenthwaite Lake and not far from its shores, I found The Pheasant Inn. Now, traditional with a contemporary twist is a phrase we hear a lot, but The Pheasant is an establishment – pub, restaurant, bistro, rooms – that plays on its contrasts with rare skill.

Let’s begin in the17th century coaching inn’s bar - noted as a favoured watering hole of huntsman John Peel, who’d no doubt settle in for a stiff drink after a day of gallivanting in the great outdoors. This is one of those gorgeous places where character and distinctly Cumbrian conversation seems to ooze from the smoky, deep red walls. A story arises from every hanging picture. It’s clearly a sacred place for locals, travellers and gallivanters (expect these days they drive rally cars – more of that later). The only contemporary twist here comes from classy bowls of giant homemade crisps on the bar.

Pheasant Inn West Lake District, Bassenthwaite Lake

But be warned, get too comfy and the 50-odd varieties of whiskey on the bar will distract you from the main event – the food. Moving into the Bistro for dinner, olde worlde charm morphs comfortably into casual modern dining.

One of the Pheasants two restaurants, the Bistro is the more relaxed, laid back option serving both classic and creative dishes. There’s an open-minded approach to ordering too - a good range of dishes can be ordered as starters or mains. The atmosphere lends itself to good wine, good food and better conversation. We noted a few groups of friends dining - old and young - as well as a few couples who were clearly out on a first date. Just the place to impress if like me, you’re never sure which knife and fork to use first.

Pheasant Inn, great food, West Lake District, Bassenthwaite Lake

A masterpiece:  Escalope of pork with parma ham and mozzarella glaze, on a warm salad of potato and green beans.

Then what about the bedrooms? Ours was ‘Caldbeck’ – bright and airy with dual aspect windows, plenty of space, freshly homemade shortbread and cafetiere on the tea tray. The contrasts into play yet again; antique furniture, dainty trinkets and rich floral fabrics…with the contemporary colour of retro-style digital radio and flatscreen TV.

The next morning, breakfast was served in the Pheasant’s Fell Restaurant; peacefully tucked away at the rear of the building. In the evening, the Fell Restaurant becomes the Pheasant’s more formal dining experience – you can drool over the menu on their website. But the staff really are intent on keeping the atmosphere welcoming and relaxed. There is simply no room for stuffiness in this establishment and I love that about it.

Before leaving, we took a walk through the forest and on the slopes of Sale Fell, looking down over the Pheasant and the Lake District’s only actual lake. In this area, immense satisfaction comes from the most manageable of wanders…

Stunning views Western Lake District

You can see The Pheasant on the right, with Bassenthwaite Lake behind.

Things became interesting as we set out on the road passing Wythop Woods. Remember I mentioned rally cars?  Well it now happens that The Pheasant is a popular gathering place for drivers and spectators of the annual Malcolm Wilson Rally – a forest stage event which begins and ends not far away in Cockermouth. One stage of the race takes place in Wythop Woods. Director of The Pheasant, Matthew Wylie, particularly recommended that rally enthusiasts keep a close eye on classic car events throughout the year – the sight when the old cars gather outside the ancient Pheasant Inn is I’m sure, an absolute picture.

Find out more…

The Pheasant Inn, Bassenthwaite lake, Cumbria

Tel: 017687) 76234


Malcolm Wilson Rally, Cockermouth


Explore nearby…

The Pheasant is found between Keswick and Cockermouth in the Western Lake District – perfectly placed to balance mind-blowing scenery with fascinating days in either attractive market town.

Skiddaw, the fourth highest mountain in England, towers over Bassenthwaite lake to tempt the adventurous.

Not far south of Bassenthwaite Lake are the beautiful, undiscovered trio; Crummock Water, Loweswater and Buttermere.

It’s only about a 20min drive to the Georgian port town of Whitehaven, where this year’s Whitehaven Festival will celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee in style.

Whitehaven - the perfect day out
Millom & Black Combe

Brian Sherwen Photography

Many images on this website have been supplied to us by Brian Sherwen.