Travel: Gastro pub is a great lakeland base

We arrived on a perfect winter walking day - bright sunshine, clear blue sky - and bitterly cold.

Saturday, 5th March 2016, 1:35 pm
The George and Dragon is the perfect gastropub

We arrived on a perfect winter walking day - bright sunshine, clear blue sky - and bitterly cold.

But the welcome at the George and Dragon was both warm and perfect; logs roaring in the woodburner, tealights twinkling in lanterns, cosy armchairs grouped around the fire.

An Ullswater steamer is a great way to get around

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It was tempting to drop the bags, pull up a chair, order a cheeky glass and settle down for the evening.

But we dragged ourselves away to check into a well-appointed, stylish room to freshen up before dinner.

The George and Dragon is an 18th century coaching inn, restored by local craftsmen, with a cosy and contemporary vibe - think scrubbed wooden tables, comfy sofas and intimate candle-lit corners. We particularly liked the alcove area on the landing with sofas, magazines and kit to make a cuppa.

Descending for dinner, we found a suprisingly buzzy atmoshpere for that traditionally slow period in mid-February before the tourist season starts; friendly bar staff chatted to drinkers and the informal bar area filled up with diners, both local and visitors. So popular is this little gem that having forgotten to book a table on our second night, we were very lucky to get the last available table. But then the George and Dragon is a recent winner of Cumbria’s Food and Dining Pub of the Year and a former winner of the Cumbria Tourism Taste Cumbria award.

If the provenance of what’s on your plate is important for you, then the George and Dragon is the place for you.

This is an estate inn, part of the nearby Lowther Castle estate and fresh, local produce comes from the estate’s kitchen garden and orchards. What they don’t grow or raise on the estate is sourced from local suppliers - and detailed on the blackboard in the more formal restaurant.

We settled into comfy corner seats in the bar staffed by friendly and efficient staff and ordered from the winter evening menu. We both opted for beef, a gourmet Lowther Estate burger from shorthorn beef cattle raised at nearby Maulds Meaburn Farm and a braised Galloway beef pave - both delicious. Cheese lovers - like us - will adore the generous board with Cumbrian specialities to try.

We woke the following morning to a light dusty of snow and headed to Ullswater, a short drive away.

An Ullswater steamer is a great way to get around

We parked in Glendridding, devastated by the December floods but now very much open for business and desperately trying to rebuild.

Leaving the hard core walkers to hike up majestic Hellvellyn, we opted for a gentler stroll from Glencoyne Bay to the National Trust’s Aira Force waterfall, then returned to the village to board an Ullswater steamer to take in the scenery in comfort and style. Cruising around the whole lake we could take in the full beauty of this most stunning of lakes - and we could also see the extent of the task these communities face as the road and bridge rebuilding programme continues apace.

For the next few weeks with diversions still in place it may take a wee while longer to get about - but the glory that awaits you in this beautiful spot is well worth those extra few minutes in the car.

Cumbria is fighting back - and very much open for business.

* George and Dragon is in Clifton, three miles from Penrith and just a few minutes drive from the M6. Double rooms start from £95 pppn for bed and breakfast based on two people sharing.