We encountered a problem finding the Swinside Inn (not to be confused with the more upmarket Swinside Lodge not far away) and using the post code - CA12 5UE - for our sat nav took us to a small car park at the foot of Cat Bells and an obvious starting point for walkers. When we did find it and I asked about this I was told that it happens a lot and that the sat nav is virtually useless in that area! If you have an OS map you will find the Inn at NY24302181 or if you can input coordinates to your sat nav you should try entering the latitude and longitude as 54.58582, -3.17298, both of which will take you to the car park outside the inn.
There is ample parking outside the Swinside Inn which appears as a fairly traditional looking pub with a larger modern block extension that is home to the 6 bedrooms available and the so-called ‘Refuge Bar’ billed as a good place for walkers to relax.
We booked a room through Booking .com during the Keswick Beer Festival at a time when much of the local accommodation was taken and some were charging higher rates because of the demand. All the rooms are en-suite and a twin room cost us £79 for one night, bed and breakfast. A previous attempt to book a room in Keswick was knocked back when the owners said they wouldn’t accept the booking unless we paid more so the Swinside scored here for not trying to make the most of higher local demand and putting the price up.
Our room was clean and well serviced. The twin beds were a little small and at 6ft (1.8m) tall my feet were right at the end of the bed which was also on the narrow side. Everything worked as it should, the shower supplies were good and the tea and coffee making facilities were among the most generous we’ve found with ample milk, tea, coffee and sugar. We found the hair dryer in a drawer but what was missing was a simple card or leaflet giving some details of the Inn. I was very quickly shown up to our room and told when breakfast was served but to be honest didn’t fully take in the details after a full day walking over and around Skiddaw so it would have been good to see it confirmed somewhere in the room. The Inn might also benefit from leaving a menu in the rooms to allow guests to look it over before going down to eat.
Our room had a wall mounted TV we could comfortably watch from our beds but it took some retuning to pick up the best picture and some channels it was still rather pixellated so reception wasn’t great. A plus though was the free wifi which didn’t require a key to access it and worked well while we were there.
The rooms seem to be on each side of the Swinside Inn so one side will overlook the car park and the tables outside but also has a view across the valley with Cat Bells over to the left. On the side we were on, above the lane running alongside the Inn, the view is just of the bank and trees filling the other side. This is a little quieter, but if you open your window you will also hear the extractor fans from the kitchen and more to the point may also pick up the smell of cooked food they have extracted.
We chose to have our evening meal at the Swinside Inn which has a reasonable menu and a specials board and we were advised to book a table because it can get quite busy in the evenings. We found that numbers picked up around 7:30-8:00pm but when we ate an hour or so beforehand there was plenty of room (though bear in mind some tables might already have ‘reserved’ notices on them indoors). To give some indication of the quality of the food on offer we started with a garlic, mushroom bruschetta with salad leaves at £4.95 each. It wasn’t particularly strongly flavoured with garlic but it was very nicely presented and certainly generous. I then chose the whole trout from the specials board (i.e. it comes complete, with head and tail) for £11.95. It was served with new potatoes and veggies consisting of carrot and shredded cabbage. It was tasty but a little inconsistent as parts of the fish were really moist while others were a little on the dry side. Probably not something I would order again. My wife chose game pie for £9.95 which cane with veggies and chips, describing it as very flavoursome and well prepared. Rather than choose from the desert menu opted to share a vegetarian main – the Chef’s Platter – with lettuce topped by a dressing, 4-5 pieces of nice bread (with 3 small packs of butter), a small pot of very tasty chutney, a sample of three types of cheese (a goat’s cheese, a brie and a smoked cheese) and a very artistically cut apple. This was more than enough at this point and was one of three vegetarian options for a main dish at £8.95. We chose to eat outside because it was a sunny evening and had no problems switching after booking a table indoors on arrival (we had booked a table by phone the night before but it hadn’t been recorded).
The tables outside are mainly of the large heavy wooden style with attached benches familiar from many picnic areas. These were spread around the outside but I would recommend that you consider one a bit closer to the building if the ground is dry. The reason is that and driver who heads into the car park quickly and without much consideration for those eating raises a good deal of dust. This can leave those eating doing so with dust blowing across them – not a pleasant thought if it’s settling on your mains too though some people didn’t seem to mind. Service was pretty speedy and attentive due mainly to the hard work of the one young woman who was dealing with most of the tables outside when we were there.
For breakfast the following morning we headed down at about 8:45am. There were two types of fruit juice, grapefruit and a range of boxed cereals available on a table at one end of the room . My wife had some grapefruit but said it seemed a little ‘fizzy’ and may not have been as fresh as it should be. On entering the room we were quickly asked if we would also like a cooked breakfast. We asked if there was a vegetarian option and were told that it would be the same breakfast but without bacon and with vegetarian sausage. One the day this meant sausage, two eggs (they were served fried and we were not asked if we wanted them any other way), beans and fried bread. We heard some talk behind us as someone asked for the key to the shed followed by the news that there were no vegetarian sausages left. That said, what we did have was enjoyable. There was toast available on the table and small packs of what turned out to be spread rather than butter along with small packs of strawberry and raspberry jam.
The bar area, just inside the entrance is fairly small and rather dimly lit but as well as the usual suspects there were some interesting beers, among them a ‘Thirst Celebration’ India pale ale that I found particularly nice, but there is no real room for seating here and only limited room to stand. Heading right and going straight ahead, past the door you will see on your right that leads up to the rooms, you will reach the ‘Refuge Bar’. As noted above, this is billed as a themed bar aimed at the hiking community. It has another bar, the seating consists of stools, there was a pool table and the walls and ceiling sported a number of items such as old ice axes and skis. The aim was clearly to give it the feel of a retreat for those who enjoy the hills and outdoor pursuits after full day. With a good crowd it could be a place to have some fun, but with few people there as we found it, it just seemed a little tired and not as welcoming as the main areas.
All things considered we liked our stay at the Swinside Inn and thought it was a good choice. There were small things that could have been done better but it’s in a good location and on settling our bill before leaving we felt it was good value for the area that it’s in (remembering that we used a booking website). We would definitely think about staying there again if we were in the area.
Ask for the side of the building overlooking the car parking for the best views and to avoid any coo...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.