Occasionally, you go somewhere and for whatever reason — sometimes good, sometimes bad — it sticks in your head and you can’t shake the memory of it. I’ve had this with The Queens Head Troutbeck for the last twenty years.
My boy and I had gone up to the Lake District for a wedding and decided to spend a couple of extra days there afterwards.
We were quick to soak up all of the usual touristy goodness but what we failed to do was book accommodation.
We were living in London at the time and just assumed there’d be a wealth of B&Bs or Travel Lodges, ripe for the picking.
What’s that old adage about assumption?
‘Assumption is the mother of all f**k-ups’.
At one point it looked like we were going to be sleeping in the car; as every hotel we stopped at, Richard emerged from the doorway shaking his head.
Until we spotted a guesthouse in Keswick, that had a little handwritten sign at the window; spelling out ‘vacancies’ in spidery writing.
They Don’t Use Doors There
I don’t remember the name of the guesthouse (probably with good reason).
Our room didn’t have a lock on the door but had two single beds with candlewick bedspreads and a tree outside that tapped on the window.
There was a shared bathroom on the next floor — no en-suites in those days — plus an imaginatively titled ‘tea and coffee station’ on the landing.
It felt old (not in a good way) and creepy.
We made our escape to the local pub for the evening; and on booking a taxi, for the way home, the driver laughed when we told him the address we were staying at.
He began regaling us with tales of spooky goings on there and when I said:
‘Blimey… we don’t have a lock on our door!!’
He said — with a smirk on his face —
‘They don’t use doors there… they walk through the walls.’
The Queens Head Troutbeck
Needless to say, after a restless night, we were swift to leave in the morning and decided to head to Windermere.
On the way there, nestled on a hillside surrounded by the most spectacular countryside, we spotted The Queens Head Troutbeck and decided to pull over and ask if they had a spare room for the night.
They did and we ended up having the most memorable stay.
Delicious food, served in a cosy —beam bedecked — pub. A roaring fire in the grate and friendly staff.
The bar was made of a giant, wooden four poster bed (that allegedly some queen or other had slept in — hence the name).
We slept in a comfy bed, in a wonky room (there wasn’t a straight edge in sight) and woke to the most glorious view of the fells in the morning. It was perfection.
Twenty Years Later…
A couple of week’s ago, after Kendal Calling, we decided to pay a visit to The Queens Head Troutbeck.
Our initial stay had been so memorable, I was a little bit nervous that it wouldn’t live up to expectations.
That the rose tinted memories, I so fondly remembered, would be tarnished.
But I needn’t have worried.
Looking almost exactly as I remembered; the building had had a little bit of a makeover — and had changed hands — but essentially was the same.
The Pub Of Dreams
The pub of my dreams was still just as good as I remembered.
OK — the decor had changed but the essence of the place remained.
Great cask ales on tap — which pleased Mr D — and a good gin selection for me.
The menu (although we didn’t eat) still looked varied and enticing. A start of smoked bacon and crushed avocado on toasted sourdough (served with a free-range poached egg and sundried tomato and chorizo jam) caught my eye.
There were thoughtful touches everywhere.
And the decor was lovely too.
It felt warm and homely and was exactly the kind of place we needed to be on a grey, cold and rainy afternoon.
We whiled away a couple of hours, playing Dobble and discussing the weather.
‘Is the rain ever going to stop?’
‘You’d never guess this was our summer holidays — it looks like autumn outside.’
It was perfect. Just the kind of gentle, slow afternoon I like.
And, best of all, I now have another lovely memory of The Queens Head Troutbeck to keep me going.
Although I hope not to leave it another twenty years until the next time.
We didn’t stay — or eat — this second time round although I’m sure it would be fantastic.
The Queens Head Troutbeck is such a lovely place to spend an afternoon. If you’re in the Lake District, I highly recommend you pop in. It certainly didn’t disappoint me, after all those years!