Masons Arms in Cartmel Fell, Cumbria receives top five award (with audio)

PUBLISHED: 14:40 31 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:34 20 February 2013

Diane and John behind the bar

Diane and John behind the bar

One of our ancient inns has been named as one of the top five in the country.<br/>Just what makes it so special?

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When John and Diane Taylor met for the first time it was over the bar of a pub he was running in Southport. The conversation went something like this:

John: Are you looking for a job?
Diane: The only pub Im going to work in is my own.
John: In that case, will you marry me?

Wooing Diane might have taken a little more effort on Johns part, but what seemed like the opening lines of a romantic comedy eventually resulted in a double act which has successfully run inns across the country for over 20 years.

This is number ten and its the last, laughs Diane. If that is the case, the Masons Arms at Strawberry Bank in the South Lakes is a good one to call time on. As we spoke, Diane was waiting to hear if the Masons had won a national competition for Country Pub of the Year after being on a shortlist of just five.

With pubs closing at an alarming rate, Diane and John have found a formula for success. Its not a secret and its not really complicated, she says. Its a warm welcome, looking after people without being over-fussy, staying one step ahead to anticipate what they want and providing a quality range of products. Uncomplicated maybe, but this recipe requires an awful lot of hard work.

Diane and John have been helped by the fact the Masons is in a fantastic setting. The building, sitting on Cartmel Fell and overlooking the lovely Winster and Lyth valleys, is a cosy 17th Century inn full of ancient beams, flagged floors and quirky corners. Its no surprise to discover until quite recently beer was still being served from pewter jugs.

The Masons had a good reputation for its beer and food under the previous management and the Taylors have really built on that.
Southport-born John and Diane, who grew up in Cheshire, are particularly proud of their staff. They are extremely important, she said. We have had so many wonderful comments about them which is encouraging because recruitment here is so difficult.

Assistant manager Alex Routledge has worked there for two years. John and Diane have an incredible eye for detail - its second to none - and they have an uncanny knack of knowing what the customers want.
While the Masons appeals to people who want to stop over - there are two stunning cottages and five luxurious self-contained suites - they know its the locals who can make or break a business.

People in rural communities dont like a lot of change but they have been amazingly supportive. We genuinely feel like we are part of the community, adds Diane.

It has now developed into a meeting place for locals with highly-rated chef David Gribbel and the team cooking for supper clubs, themed evenings and the delightful-sounding crafty lunches, where you can learn anything from cake making to flower arranging.

Its a tremendous responsibility being in charge of such an historic pub, said Diane. Its a demanding job so we try to make the most of it by making it fun. Expect a lot of fun if they pick up that award.

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