Short Break - The Pheasant Inn at Bassenthwaite Lake
PUBLISHED: 01:00 25 September 2015 | UPDATED: 13:37 24 February 2016
A mix of refinement and understatedness are to be found at The Pheasant, writes Sue Riley
The Cumbrian painter Edward Thompson was known to like a drink or two. Certainly when he used to visit the Pheasant Inn at Bassenthwaite he bartered a couple of his watercolour images for beer. Those 1920s pictures still hang in the bar of the 17th Century coaching inn alongside a newly commissioned one by Julian Heaton Cooper. Julian, part of the Lakeland artistic dynasty, has painted an image of the bar itself, although the owners made sure none of their famous clientele could be identified. It’s that mix of relaxed refinement and understatedness which brings back customers year after year to experience the peace and quiet of the inn close to some of the best walking in the Lake District.
The pub prides itself on tradition and atmosphere; they don’t have conferences, weddings or large business groups as they would affect the ambience. So guests are treated to an inn full of fresh flowers and good service which has led to them being inducted into the Trip Advisor Hall of Fame after achieving a certificate of excellence five years in a row.
On cold days the open fires are lit, just right to sit around in one of the cosy lounges after a long, wet day on the nearby fells. Dogs are welcome in many parts of the inn, including a couple of the rooms.
The inn offers the same menu in The Fell restaurant which overlooks the beautiful gardens and Sale Fell, as the more informal bistro. The menu is full of traditional favourites from guinea fowl to sirloin and starters including smoked salmon, egg, avocado and mascarpone. The head chef has been with them for more than 20 years and they used local ingredients long before it was fashionable.
There’s a delicious wine list created by Frank Stainton of Kendal, although the Pheasant’s managing director Matthew Wylie says they have a ‘lot of fun’ deciding on it together. He’s been running the place for the past 17 years and has of late overseen the creation of a bog garden, yet another place to have an aperitif should the sun put in an appearance. The gardens also attract red squirrels and, according to one guest, 48 different types of birds.
Locals - and some well-known TV stars - are often to be found propping up the tiny bar which looks as though it hasn’t changed in centuries. Mr Wylie is discreet and wouldn’t comment that the broadcaster Melvyn Bragg is among them. That’s the beauty of the place, it’s one of the few bastions left where people wouldn’t think to take a selfie or ask for an autograph. In fact I didn’t once hear a mobile phone ring during my 24 hours there, and not just because of a lack of signal.
There are plans to refurbish a few of the rooms this winter, but ‘it will be business as usual.’ All the 15 are different, some with four poster beds overlooking the garden, others at the front of the inn with wagtails making nests in the ivy beneath the windows. Yet they all have traditional floral curtains, bone china cups and other adornments to give a cottagey, comfortable feel.
Despite being only moments from the A66, it’s an oasis of calm with wonderful walking within a short drive, the chance to use the nearby spa at Armathwaite Hall and see the ospreys at Bassenthwaite lake. If that’s too much of a good thing, there’s also a newly opened whisky distillery just up the road which does tours and tastings – and within walking distance too.
The Pheasant Inn, Bassenthwaite. Telephone 017687 76234. www.pheasant.co.uk or email email@example.com for more details