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Pub/Bar of the Month August 2017: The Hikers Bar, The Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel, Great Langdale, UK

The Hikers Bar, The Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel, Great Langdale, Cumbria, UK

Great Langdale, today, is not at its most beguiling. The rain has stopped but dampness lingers in the air and clouds hang low over the Lakeland pikes like wisps of grubby candy floss.

Old Dungeon GhyllShivering, newly-shorn sheep mope along the narrow roads, occasionally stopping to reach for the most inaccessible grass on the top of a not-so-dry-stone wall.

The fields, though lush and verdant, are heavy and sodden and the slate-grey farmhouses and barns have a drab dourness not noticed on brighter days.

But Great Langdale, even in this lacklustre state, remains hugely impressive.

Millennia of glacial action have cut a wide valley through central Cumbria, leaving a flat bottom and towering, craggy sides. Stands of pine trees cluster on the hillsides and waterfalls, like thin ribbons of silver, slice keenly down the precipitous slopes.

The hardy folk who are out walking are drenched but by no means dispirited. Their pace may have slowed after hours on the fells but they have every reason to feel uplifted. Their own dedicated pub is near at hand and they have earned their reward.

Historic Hotel

The Hikers Bar sits at one end of the Old Dungeon Ghyll, a 300-year-old hotel towards the head of the valley. In this dank weather, its whitewashed walls stand out like a beacon against the roughly-hewn stonework of the hotel itself.

Old Dungeon GhyllCondensation, misty on the windows, prohibits a clear view inside but suggests that, within, there is plenty of human activity, and this is confirmed when the bottle green door pushes open to reveal huddles of steaming hikers stretching legs and resting sore feet.

These people feel at home here. The single, barn-like room has – literally – been tailored to their requirements.

No fuss is made over dirty boots. Hardy lino in deep burgundy is a practical and sensible flooring option. There are no soft furnishings to be stained or soaked by the elements, only bare settles that are as hard on the buttocks as they are easy to clean.

Redundant cow stalls break up the room and provide a little alcove privacy but the comforts are spartan and the stripped wood tables the walkers lean on are slightly clammy from the moisture in the air.

One table, in a corner, has been reserved for musicians arriving later in the day. In the opposite corner, there’s a neglected dartboard. For the moment, the swapping of ramblers’ tales is entertainment enough.

Muddy venturers of all ages continue to arrive, shaking drops off anoraks, stamping boots and gratefully slipping backpacks onto the floor with a satisfying squelch.

Good Beer Guide Regular

Some call for food – there’s a pie of the day, a lasagne, some soup and fresh sandwiches – or a warming pot of tea, but many have made this place their destination for a hard-earned pint.

Old Dungeon GhyllRelieved of their loads and beer in hand, a few study the gallery of mountaineering pictures scattered around the white walls. Others make for the huge black-leaded range, primed in colder weather to dry out soggy coats and socks.

On the glass panels above the bar, a colourful collection of Good Beer Guide stickers testifies to the consistent quality of the cask ale dispensed from the bank of eight handpumps.

The selection varies but local beers dominate, including on this occasion Yates Bitter, Jennings Cumberland Ale and the impressive Loweswater Gold from Cumbrian Legendary Ales. The pumps are working hard today.

Noise levels pick up as one group of walkers prepares to hit the trail again. With a rustle of Gore-Tex and the clatter of emptied glasses, they’re off.

The door pulls wide, offering a short blow of fresh air and another glimpse of the wet but spectacular landscape beyond, then quietly closes.

I’m a bit of a rambler myself, though definitely of the fair-weather persuasion. Weighing up the options, I decide to order another pint, wipe the steam off the window and appreciate the wonders of Lakeland from within. No brainer, really.

The Hikers Bar at the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel, Great Langdale, Cumbria, LA22 9JY, UK
Tel. (015394) 37272
Opening Hours: 11–11

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