|» Cumbria » The Kings Arms Hotel, Hawkshead|
The Kings Arms Hotel, The Square, Hawkshead, AMBLESIDE, LA22 0NZ [Map]
I last stayed in Hawkshead in March 1991 whilst attending a university meteorology field trip. Quite a memorable trip. I seem to remember spending the first day positioning rain gauges seemingly on the summit every peak in the Lake District only to find not a drop in any a week later! The driest March week in living memory so we were told! Fortunately many a throat was dampened during the evenings with fine real beers from the Kings Arms though me, he who hadn't yet seen the light, foolishly chose a fizzier more taste-free alchoholic choice.
Anyhow that was years ago, but since the day that I did flick on the real beer light switch thanks to Simon Wilson, I've always promised myself that one day I'd return to the Kings Arms. So August Bank Holiday Sunday 2002, having found many a campsite in the vicinity full to the brim apart from the pound a night per tent, per person, per car Hawkshead Hall Farm (tel: 015394 36221) which we resisted for want of a shower, we opted for the National Trust site at Low Wray (tel: 015394 32810) by Lake Windemere where the staff kindly squeezed us in. We then walked to Hawkshead across the fields gazing at the wonderful scenery. Two and a half miles was just about right to work up a thirst for a decent pint, and the Kings Arms certainly came up trumps. Three Coniston brewery brews were on tap from where else other than Coniston but a handful of miles away, along with Hawkshead Bitter (abv 3.7%). The Hawkshead Bitter was clearly the one to go for being the local local brew. Hadn't heard of the beer before, let alone the brewery. I guess that the brewery had opened in early 2002 with the beer available at just a few local outlets. Popular stuff though as everybody seemed to be drinking it. When I asked the barman, he said that the brewery's about a quarter of a mile down the road. A very flavoursome session bitter with an addictive hoppy nose served at a perfect temperature. A lovely fresh pint no doubt assisted by the fresh mountain water used in the brew. I wouldn't be surprised to see this new beer winning many a beer award in the future, like its Coniston cousin Bluebird Bitter (abv 3.6%).
Anyhow, you can wash your beer down with bar food at lunchtimes and during the evening. Quite a varied menu from sandwiches through to home made pies and roast lamb, roast potatoes with salad (!?) on the specials board that I went for. Perhaps could have done with some veg but the lamb was great and the potatoes lovely and crunchy. They also have a room to the side where you order the food. This has a more restauranty feel and fills during the evening with folk after a fuller menu.
There's a number of picnic sets out front by the square where we sat and enjoyed out food and beer and watched to the swallows performing amazing acrobatic displays in the air.
A quick stroll down the road to another pub and we were soon drawn back to the Kings Arms by the Hawkshead Bitter. Clearly a popular pub with the locals and visitors alike. We were lucky to find a seat in the crowded beamed bar. We randomly struck up a conversation with Carol and Clive which lasted well into the night and I think that we owe them a pint! Discussions included travelling around the world, marriage and life in Leeds! They'd sensibly opted for the showerless but seemingly infinitely closer Hawkshead Hall Farm campsite, half a mile up the road, and once we'd bid them good night we soon realised that the road route home was a further 3 miles which took the best part of an hour and fortunately the beer haze was just thin enough to allow us to find our way home past fields full of very noisy sheep that responded to our every baa….. Within seconds of hitting the pillow in the tent we were unconscious no doubt dreaming that Lake Windemere had magically been turned into a lake of Hawkshead bitter………