“ Address: Barngates / Ambleside / Cumbria LA22 0NG / England „
The Drunken Duck is an Inn with rooms and is situated a couple of miles from Ambleside town centre in the Lake District. I had seen a report on the local news when a reporter stopped off for lunch and thought the place looked interesting. During the early May Bank Holiday, I decided to check it out. We are fortunate enough to live within an hour and a half's drive from the South Lakes and had chosen one of the few sunny days of the year. We parked up in Ambleside to check out the map. The place looked very remote, so we set our trusty sat nav. A fifteen minute drive along pretty, winding country lanes brought us to our destination. Now we hadn't seen one car on our journey and I was half expecting the place to be shut. I couldn't have been so wrong, the place was a hive of activity and we had difficulty parking even though the place has two car parks.
The pub itself is very small and wonderfully traditional; however I didn't like the stuffed fox which was mounted on the wall. The pub boasts original 19th century beamed ceilings which are decorated with dried hops. The floor has the original stone slabs. The Duck has its own brewery, Barngate and attracts people from all over. The bar area and the pleasant outdoor seating area was busy with hotel guests and walkers who had stopped off to enjoy a Cat Nap bitter or a Westmorland Gold. The barman looked disappointed when I ordered a diet coke and half a Guinness for my hubby. The pub serves excellent pub grub. We enjoyed a wonderful ploughman's lunch made up with local cheeses, homemade bread and chutneys. They also prepare unusual packed lunches which appeared popular with the ramblers. There is also a dining room serving up a full range of meals and on this occasion all tables were booked.
After we had eaten, we called in at reception to enquire about rooms. We were looking for a place to stay for hubby's birthday and as this was my treat, I asked for the best room. I was advised this was "The Garden Room" and I booked it there and then. We were fortunate that hubby's birthday fell on a Monday because the hotel was booked up to November for most days. As we chatted to the receptionist, we learned that the Inn got its name in Victorian times. Apparently the landlady at the time found her ducks motionless outside the pub. Thinking they were dead she decided to cook them; she made up a pan of orange sauce and began to pluck the first one. This woke up the duck. Apparently not dead, but very drunk, the ducks had found a leaking beer barrel and had consumed its contents.
September 15 and we set off once again. Not so lucky with the weather this time, a grey day with a light drizzle. Rooms are available from 3pm and we arrived just after. We were shown to our room by the manager, back out of the building and through a courtyard. We entered a very light hall with lots of windows, shelves packed with books and board games, antiques and a large basket of fruit. Our room was up a flight of stairs. All rooms have their own distinct personality but I don't think any could have beaten the one we had. When we entered the garden room, I was instantly in awe. Floor to ceiling windows to the front of the room looked out on to rolling landscape and the Langdales. A further patio window at the side of our room lead on to our own private balcony. This overlooked the wonderful garden and large pond. I watched a field mouse as it ate from the windfall of an apple tree whilst a small rabbit feasted on a dandelion leaf. Well this is Beatrice Potter country and this was just like a drawing from one of her books. It just needed Jemima Puddleduck to complete the scene.
The price of a stay includes afternoon tea and guests can choose whether to take it in the residents' lounge, the garden by the pond (when it's not raining) or in their room. With such wonderful views, we decided to stay in our room. Afternoon tea consisted of tea or coffee of your choice and four warm homemade scones with jam and Cumbrian cream. Hubby chose Earl Grey and I, breakfast tea. All tea is loose leaf and therefore came with a strainer. The scones were delicious but we couldn't manage them all which was I shame. Next time we go, I'll pass on lunch.
Our very large room consisted of a king-sized bed with crisp white linen, an antique wardrobe, dressing table and floor to ceiling book shelf packed with novels and reference books particularly of the area. Personal touches included a fruit bowl, a jar of homemade biscuits and a large bottle of water. There are no tea making facilities, but drinks can be ordered at any time and are complimentary. A radio, TV and DVD player complete with a choice of over a hundred films to borrow took over a corner of the room.
The bathroom had a stand-alone bath and a shower cubicle big enough to fit an entire rugby team. In it was a very invigorating power shower. I noticed that the water in the loo looked a little yellow and wondered whether a previous guest had not flushed it. I learned however that the Duck has its own water supply which is housed in a large purpose built tarn on the fell side. By the time it reaches the bathroom, it has undergone various filtration and purification processes. It is pale peaty in colour and has no added chemicals or chlorine, however the odd bit of sediment might find its way through. Although a little worn looking, two bathrobes hung on the door and we had more than enough towels for our stay. The toiletries are supplied by Arran Aromatics; a family owned business and extra bottles and gift boxes can be bought at reception.
After a soak in water resembling a good malt, we dressed and went down to dinner. Large umbrellas are supplied throughout the hotel as the layout means that most guests have a short walk to the restaurant. There are a few rooms in the main building.
We had a pre dinner drink in the bar before being shown to our table. I was surprised to see how bust the place was for a Monday evening in the off peak season. The atmosphere was warm and merry, walkers enjoying a relaxing evening after a day out on the hills together with folk like us who had done no exercise whatsoever. We were served with a complimentary cup of cream of leek soup, I was glad I had not ordered soup as a starter. Most of the food is locally sourced and the bread is homemade. The menu is an adventurous take on tradition favourites and there is a decent selection for each course. Hubby's Morecambe Bay Shrimps came in a very large jar and were perhaps too much for one as a starter. We could have easily shared this course. I had an unusual but delicious starter of baked custard with figs and wholemeal shortbread. We both chose fish for mains which was beautifully presented. This we washed down with a bottle of champagne as we were celebrating his half century (birthday that is). Starters averaged at around £8 and mains £18. Our champagne cost us £37, wines started at around the £20 mark. The wine list is accompanied by in depth descriptions to help you choose. With no room for pudding or coffee, we returned to our room.
After a peaceful and extremely comfortable night's sleep, we showered and went to breakfast. The morning newspaper we had ordered when we arrived was waiting for us outside the door to the restaurant. We ordered our tea and were given the breakfast menu. The freshly squeezed orange and raspberry juice made for a refreshing change as did the granola, yoghurt and fruit coulis. There was a range of hearty options including the full Cumbrian breakfast and a comforting looking veggie option. For those who preferred fish, there was smoke salmon or kippers. To finish the toast and homemade preserves were delicious.
Rooms at the Duck start from £150; this includes breakfast and afternoon tea for two. Ours, the Garden Room cost £250, but then we were celebrating a special occasion. I would love to go back, but I would want the same room. I don't think that I have been wowed by such a view when staying in England. It doesn't matter what the weather is doing when looking out on England's green and pleasant land, whether it's covered in snow, rain or basking in sunlight, the view is atmospheric.
I thought the Duck catered very well for the area's inclement weather. Excellent reading material and board games together with the vast selection of DVDs, even those not in awe of the views could not be remotely bored. The food and accommodation were excellent. If I have one criticism it would be that I found the service to be a little cool by some members of staff and even a little brusque by one. When I asked for extra water with my breakfast tea and it didn't arrive, I asked again. The reply "I know, I haven't forgotten" was somewhat unwarranted. That aside, this is somewhere I would highly recommend.
Britain's 5 star inn.