The Drunken Duck Inn

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Address: Barngates, Ambleside, LA22 0NG, England

Star rating:
4 star hotel

4.2

One of the original Lakes gastropubs that first put Cumbria on the foodie map.

The Drunken Duck is something of a local institution. It has been packing in punters since the Seventies with its genre-defining take on gastropub food and high-quality accommodation.

Today it remains as busy today but can it keep up with the new generation of young pretenders? Maybe.

The business has boomed over the years with an extension of new rooms, a well-regarded on-site microbrewery, The Barngates, and the addition of a more formal restaurant to complement the high-end bar food.

But, while it still retains a certain cachet, I do feel the much-loved Duck is getting a bit old and flabby.

Location
4.5
90%
Eating/drinking
4.4
90%
Leisure facilities
4.4
90%
Service
4.1
90%
Value for money
4.1
90%
Bedrooms
4.3
90%
Public areas
4.3
90%

Location

Scenery alert: the elevated crossroads on the B5343 between Hawkshead and Ambleside offers one of the best drop-your-overpriced butty views in the Lakes. The Duck faces this very crossroads, so sundowners with a vista are beyond compare.

The road from the Outgate turning, however, is taxing enough to ensure you'll be drinking in the views only once safely parked up.

Bedrooms

Split across four room categories, there are eight smaller in the main house with more traditional furnishings, and nine garden rooms set across a gravel courtyard by the brewery. The latter ones have a more contemporary feel and garden access.

If you're opting for a cheaper room in the main house, it's worth paying a bit more for a standard with view - you'll get that famos crossroads scene each time you fling open the curtains.

Predictably, the Garden Room, the largest and most expensive suite, packs the real wow factor - think spacious and luxurious with floor-to-ceiling windows, beamed cilings and a roll-top bath.

Public areas

The lounge, set away from the dining areas, feels cosy and calm with a hunting-dogs theme and a wood-burning fire.

Eating and drinking

The bar is the original heart of the Duck with its slate bar, open fire and a very quaffable pint of Tag Lag on draft. It's a more relaxed spot to browse the lunch menu and can accommodate small children in high chairs, and wlakers with dogs.

Lunch offers quality gastropub fare, albeit at restaurant-level prices, while a handy guide to suppliers gives you the lowodwn on the food miles involved in what's on your plate. Dinner is a grander affair with a menu of pudding wines, aged ports and a dinner cheese menu, featuring local favourite Blue Whinnow.

My beef is this: one lunchtime I ordered a ham sandwich. It was pretty ordinary - I've probably made tastier at home - and cost £5.25.

That must be the most expensive ham sandwich in the Lake District.

Leisure facilities

Staying guests have a free pass for the leisure facilities at the Langdale Spa and Country Club - a 15-minute drive - with pool, steam room and gym. Guests also receive a 20% discount on all Spa treatments pre booked with Langdale.

Alternatively, take a stroll in the private garden with its own tarn to walk off the calories.

Service

Variable. The bar is more relaxed, some have found verging on indifferent; the restaurant is more fine dining and formal. People around the Lakes have told me "It's customary to dress for dinner these days at the Duck."

Personally, I find that a bit overstated.

Who stays there

Foodies; weekend indulgers and out-of-towners chasing the heritage.

On the day of my visit, I encountered a man in salmon-pink jeans, jabbing at his IPhone and barking instructions to some lackey about a gallery opening in Hoxton.

The locals must have been splitting their sides.

Price advice

Rates include cooked breakfast, afternoon tea, newspaper and use of the leisure facilities. All room rates are hiked for Fridays and Saturdays, and for public holidays.

 

Amenities

  • Parking
  • Pets Allowed
  • Restaurant

Recommended for

  • Couples
  • Foodies
  • Mature travellers
  • Seasoned travellers
  • Great views / scenery
  • Sightseeing
  • Chilling out
  • Nature / wildlife

Pros & Cons

  • The view from the picnic tables
  • A bit of Lakelad history
  • The most expesnive sandwich in Cumbria
  • Price versus value
  • A bit too pleased with itself
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