As you frantically bash your way up (or down) the M6 motorway and then turn onto the quieter A590, It comes as a bit of a shock to soon find yourself on the country road that is the A5074.
The bucolic pleasures of the rolling green hills in the lowland southern Lake District melt away the frazzles of the journey.
The road is a peaceful switchback of curves in wonderfully green countryside, passing country pubs, farms and hamlets on the way to tiny Winster and the Brown Horse Inn.
This wonderful old inn has always had a close connection with horses, as the name would suggest.
Built in the 1850’s as a coaching inn serving the quiet hamlet of Winster in the Lake District, the horses pulling loaded coaches along the winding lanes of the Winster Valley must have arrived nostrils flaring, bodies steaming and sweat-flecked.
They would have been well catered for as working animals and almost as pampered as the guests they carried.
Whilst the horse drawn carriages have long gone, horse power of a different kind in the form of motor carriages still carry passengers to the front door, well – the large free car park to be precise.
The views down over the Winster Valley are reward enough for the effort made to get here, in one of the greener and less visited corners of the Lake District National Park.
It is about six miles west of Kendal and three miles south-east of Bowness on Windermere. So worth the effort to get here though and very handy for the tourist hotspots of Bowness, Ambleside, Kendal and Grasmere.
This former coaching inn is now a family run business with a burgeoning reputation for the quality and provenance of it’s food.
The pub has an extensive estate on which it’s animals are reared and their own vegetables and fruit grown. Indeed, they are now almost self sufficient, and for those few items they do not have, all are sourced from the local vicinity where possible.
The exterior of the pub is as one would dream of. Long, low and whitewashed.
On stepping inside, you cannot fail to be impressed. Stone flagged floors and dark wood, inevitably mismatched furniture complimented by original wooden roof timbers and a log burner fireplace grab the attention.
There are some pew-like wooden settles too. Shabby chic rules the roost here.
Only if it had it’s own brewery would it be my idea of heaven….but wait….it has!
The Winster Valley Brewery was created on the premises, and grew so popular that it has now expanded to larger premises in Kendal. The brewery produces five ales, two lagers and a Smoothflow. All of the brews come in bottles as well as draught.
The chestnut ‘Chaser’ and blonde ‘Hurdler’ were on show on my visit and both were extremely palatable and moreish. Other local brewers are well supported here too, with two further guest ales as well as various lagers, stouts and Guinness.
There is a huge selection of specialist gins too. Cocktails ahoy!
Ten en-suite bedrooms make up the accommodation, four of which have recently been refurbished. Six are within the main building and four in a side extension which has a stone flagged terrace outside for residents to soak in the evening sun.
All rooms have solid oak beds, flat screen TV’s and have views over the delightful Winster Valley.
Our room was in the side extension and was quite spacious with a smaller, fully tiled bathroom with separate monsoon-head shower. It was clean and bijou.
Breakfast was everything one might expect, with a choice of cereals, fresh fruit, yoghurts, juices and toast. There were several hot choices from vegetarian options to smoked salmon to the full English. The ingredients were of high quality and perfectly cooked. This was an excellent and hearty way to start the day.
For evening meals, exactly the same meals can be taken in either the restaurant, for a more formal yet still casual experience, or in the adjacent bar area.
Both spaces were rustic and rural with capital R’s.
Stone flagged floors, wooden beams, mismatched tables, animal prints and country bric-a-brac enhanced by candlelight. What’s not to love?
Prices range from £6 to £10 for starters, £13 upwards for mains and £7 for desserts.
This is around the norm for the area.
The food was generously portioned and high in quality.
I heartily recommend the 10oz. bacon sirloin, a hunk of thick and juicy, tender meat.
The haddock and chips with pea puree and home made tartare sauce also hit the spot and was up there with some of the best I have encountered.
I would recommend booking evening meals in advance as the restaurant is very popular with locals and your choice of times may well be restricted otherwise.
Service is informal, relaxed and friendly.
Across the road from the pub is a quiet lane and an early evening walk revealed sheep (of course), squirrels, a woodpecker, owls and bats. A lovely twilight interlude.
There are three separate and fully self contained cottages on the estate too.
Wi-Fi is provided but due to the location, this is intermittent.
If it’s urgent, perhaps you could send a message by horseback!
For further details go to www.thebrownhorseinn.co.uk