A walking tour of Ambleside’s pubs and bars
The town centre has eight pubs/bars, all within 5 minutes walk of each other. There is a mix of free and tied houses. Cumbria as a whole has spawned a large number of micro breweries and most Ambleside pubs offer a selection of real ales from these thriving enterprises. In the town as a whole dozens of real ales are available.
The pubs vary from quiet houses to busy places of entertainment. Live music is often played and some run quiz nights and bingo. Nearly all pubs offer all day food.
Ambleside is a peaceful town and there is seldom any trouble in our pubs. A barwatch scheme operates to deter the more excitable drinkers.
This brief tour starts at the southern end of town in Lake Road
The LILY. Located in Lake Road, on the left going south, this independent is the town’s newest pub. Modern decor attracts all ages but mainly a younger crowd. The Lily offers several lagers, draught cider, some real ales and an extensive menu of starters, mains and light bites.
Entertainments include Open mic on Sundays, speed quiz, pitcher nite, a DJ on Tuesdays, live bands. Wifi. There is no TV or sport.
CHURCHILLS. Turn right out of the Lily, Churchills is just a step away across the road. Once a temperance hotel, now a free house, this spacious pub appeals mainly to young people seeking entertainments with their drinks. Strong on Sky and BBC live sports transmissions, mainly football, Churchills also provides main meals and lite bites all day, karaoke, a Bingo night, a Quiz night and Sunday roasts.
There are two bars, Winston’s at street level and a smaller one, Monty’s, downstairs, also a pool area. At the bar is a large selection of lagers, ciders and some real ale. Wi-fi. Rooms available for Bed & Breakfast.
ROYAL OAK. Turn left out of Churchills, ‘The Oak’ is on the corner of Lake Road and Church Street. This is an ancient traditional 17th century Lake District pub owned by the John Barras company, popular with locals. Ceiling beams and real fire. Smallish rooms lend a cosy atmosphere. There is an attractive street corner outdoor area, sheltered and heated.
A changing selection of mainly local real ales is available, also Guinness, lager, traditional draught ciders. Food offerings include pies, burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches and baguettes. Quiz and curry nights, some live music.
WHITE LION HOTEL. Across Lake Road is the large White Lion with extensive outdoor table area, umbrellas and heaters when needed. Inside the bar area is spacious, with an equally spacious dining area beyond. The bar serves an extensive real ale range, some local, with a ‘try before you buy’ option, and discount for CAMRA members. There is an extensive food menu of starters, sharers, pasta, pub classics and generous wine discounts in Sundays. Also serves breakfast from 8am. Dog friendly, quiz night Thursday. There are 7 bedrooms.
QUEEN’S HOTEL. Almost opposite in Market Place is the Queen’s. This has a long history, being used once as a youth hostel and as a refuge for the evacuated Royal College of Art during WW2. There is a large bar and dining area. The range of well-kept real ales is extensive, local and reasonably priced. The extensive food list includes steaks, pies and roasts, with an early doors (before 6pm) budget priced menu.
The warren-like Cellar bar downstairs has a range of lagers and shows football on TV. Music downstairs is provided by a juke box and there is a pool table. A small tree shaded patio can be accessed from both bars for smokers and a TV monitor is viewable there. Dog friendly in the bar. Wifi. Twenty six bedrooms for B&B.
AMBLESIDE TAVERN. Leaving the Queens by either exit, go left, down past the shopping precinct and left again at the traffic lights into Compston Road. Ambleside Tavern (more recently known as The Sportsman) is across the road on the right.
This is a Thwaites Brewery house offering their range of real ales plus changing local ones. Bar meals are available, including starters and mains, burgers and ciabattas, with Sunday wine discount. Sky and BT sport on TV. Live music on Saturdays. In the cellar downstairs there is a late disco until 2am on Fridays and Saturdays. Dogs welcome. Wifi.
UNICORN INN. Retrace your steps past the shopping precinct and turn first left into North Road. On the left is the Unicorn, a Robinson’s Brewery pub serving only Robinson’s real ales, plus Guinness, lagers and draught cider.
This is a historic 400 year old traditional small Lakeland house with a cosy and friendly atmosphere, popular with visitors for its live music (Thursdays and Saturdays) with a folk and country flavour. Open mic possible on Saturdays. Food is served lunchtimes (12 till 2) and evenings (6 till 9) and there is a good home cooked menu. Wifi. No TV. Five bedrooms are let for B&B.
GOLDEN RULE. Leaving the Unicorn, turn left up North Road and go first left into the Golden Rule by the back yard, where there is plenty of outdoor seating, some covered and heated. This is a historic Lakeland Robinson’s (previously Hartleys) pub serving only Robinson’s real ales of which there is an extensive choice. Also served are lagers and draught ciders. There are four rooms, beams and real fire.
The pub has had the same landlord since 1981. He has steadfastly resisted attempts to introduce food, sports TV and music (although good pork pies, scotch eggs and packet snacks are available). As such the pub is very popular with those who seek a peaceful atmosphere where quiet sociable conversation is preferred to music and other distractions. Darts, wifi. Dog friendly.