Woolpack Inn & the pubs of Boot

When looking for accommodation for a quiet weekend break in the Lake District region, our main list of criteria read, good location, good beer and dog friendly in no particular order. It had me thinking back to a beer festival in a place called Boot in the more remote area of the Eskdale Valley. I’d looked into going last year but couldn’t make it, however I did remember that there were places in the village that would meet our needs.

After much mooching around and with a lot of help from @HardknottAnn we decided that The Woolpack Inn was the way to go. So after many a scary mile last Friday we pulled up here:

The signs were good, it looked rustic but exactly how I imagined it would. The Inn also sits in fantastic surroundings, where apart from the odd car on single track road out front, all you can hear is the sound of running water from the river and many streams and waterfalls all around the valley. How many pubs do yo know that have views like this on their doorstep?

Inside we were met by one of the current owners and taken to our room, where it was explained that all rooms were all in the process of being renovated, as is the whole building. It was smallish but as you would expect in a country Inn, a little dated as per the explanation, but on the whole comfortable (after I’d caught & removed several spiders that had taken up residence).

The downstairs area is split into two distinct parts, so much so you could be forgiven thinking they were in completely separate establishments. The dining area and lower bar are very much old world country pub.

As opposed to the main bar which is ultra modern chic, more in place in a fashionable city bar.

I have to confess to being a bit bemused by this, although the modern area is still homely with a comfy leather sofas, a roaring log fire and a mahusive TV, it just doesn’t seem right in the pubs surroundings. I just don’t get the fact that people come to the area for places like this. If it was in my town I’d absolutely love it, loads of choice, good food, beer and a vodka selection to be proud of, just not here…

It is work in progress and obviously the new owners have a vision, so I’ll be keen to see how it all turns out in the end when all the renovations are complete. Until then on the decor at least the jury is out.

Where The Woolpack really do excel is on the bar and food fronts. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable bringing a really happy buzz to the place. We ate at the Woolpack both evenings and the food was very good, they have a reasonable selection of dishes to choose from and also an authentic wood fired pizzeria on the premises too. All the beers I had (and I tried most of them) were served well and in good condition.

There is a but though.

As you can see The Woolpack is still billed as the home of Hardknott Brewery.

If I had one criticism, it’s about the lack of Hardknott beer on show. I personally had made the choice to stay in The Woolpack partially based on the history behind the Inn, but also at the recommendation of Hardknott Brewery themselves as a place to find their beers.

Although there was a mighty fine cask Hardknott beer on every night, I found out at around 10:55 pm on my last night that they had a full bottle selection in the on site shop. That shop is situated at the back of an office and cannot be seen from the pub, plus the bottles were not chilled. The bar person took me to look around and offered to put a bottle in the wine chiller, but to me it was just too late.

Now ordinarily I would have bought several bottles and most likely have drank them there and then had they been on show in the bars bottle cabinets, sadly they weren’t so I ordered some online at home instead. An opportunity missed..

Note to Woolpack folk: Get them in the fridge or display a point of sale, it’s in your interestsā€¦ šŸ˜¦

Despite my minor grumbles though, we really enjoyed our stay here, we will be going back and a certainly recommend giving them a try. (Just don’t forget where the beer is ;))

Out and about away from the Woolpack is the little village of Boot, it’s just under a mile away but is a steady generally flat walk taking about 15 minutes. Here you will find two further great pubs, The Boot Inn and Brook House Inn.

The Boot Inn typifies what I would have expected here, it’s a buzzing friendly local. Outside there are large gardens and seating areas which were always busy with the many passing walkers that also frequent the place. It’s a tied Robinsons House and I have to confess Robbies is not normally top of my drinking list.

However all the beers I had were very good, with Young Tom (Old Toms younger sibling) turning out to be a lovely drop, everything you like about Old Tom but in an easy drinking session beer. We didn’t eat here at all but the food looked really good which was bourn out by the staff scurrying around with huge plates of food for most of the time we were there. Again friendly welcoming staff all round, with a particular hats off to the landlord for staying cheery despite his team getting a five nil drubbing by Man Unitedā€¦ šŸ˜‰

The Brook House Inn sits on the junction into Boot village and is actually the first pub you come toĀ along the road walking from either direction, (it’s about 300 metres from The Boot Inn).

We very nearly didn’t go in as from the road it looks into quite a formal looking dining room, as we had been walking plus had a very damp dog, we thought it unwise..

We did give it a quick go though on the second day, the public bar area is a nice big space and is dog friendly. The staff seemed friendly and the beer selection looked pretty good, it’s a free house so a mixed bag of six or seven real ales. I can’t remember the name of the beer I tasted as it was only a quick half, but it was enjoyable.

What is of interest here is the massive collection of malt whisky’s they have. The webpage lists 170 but I’m sure when we were there it said over 200. Very interestingā€¦. šŸ™‚

Eskdale and Boot is a cracking place to visit, great walking, great beer, lovely people so you really should pay them a visit.

As an added incentive as if you need one, you could make it for the annual beer festival held here which I mentioned earlier on. Held collectively between the three pubs listed above, for 2012 it is scheduled forĀ Thursday 14th June Sunday 17th June.

Plenty of local accommodation and a very handy campsite close by too, so what are you waiting for, stick it in your diaries and I’ll see you there?


Flintshire Real Ale Trail

Fancy exploring the Welsh countryside and enjoying some fine real ales at the same time this coming weekend? If so this will be very much of interest…

It’s not too far away from the Potteries if you are based in or around Stoke and I’d recommend getting a designated driver to get there if at all possible.

You can get there by rail although it is a little bit of a trek, the nearest station being Buckley according to the rail website, from there it’s a short bus, taxi ride or walk for the more adventurous.

I’m still trying to find out how to get hold of advance tickets if you are not local to the Flintshire area, I will update the blog if and when I do, but if you need more information please email me and I will pass on your questions.

Flintshire Real Ale Trail

Date: Saturday, 16th April 2011

Admission: Ā£4 in advance or Ā£5 on the day, tickets available from participating pubs

Open Hours: 11am ā€“ 11pm (hop on and hop off at any time)

Support proper local country pubs by hopping on the Flintshire Real Ale Trail which takes place Saturday 16th April.

Youā€™ll get the chance to enjoy nine unique country pubs that serve up good food and ale, such as Flintshire Bitter, as well as traditional folk entertainment throughout the day as part of the celebration.

The tour starts at the Gold Cape pub in the easily accessible market town of Mold, then heads up onto Halkyn Mountain, through Caerwys, past theĀ Clwydian Range Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and back towards Mold.

Supported by CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale).

Information: For more information visitĀ www.northwalesborderlands.co.uk orĀ www.discoverflintshire.com

Participating pubs:

Don’t get off the rails, tracking down those new beers…