GLW1707 : Whisky and Pheasant

Monday 17th & Tuesday 18th July 2017

Back in December, some very kind BOOTboy friends presented me with a voucher for two people to visit the Lakes Distillery near Bassenthwaite for a tour, a tasting and afternoon tea.

At Christmas, a very kind hubby presented his wife with a voucher for two people to stay at the Pheasant Inn near Bassenthwaite for dinner, bed and breakfast.

At 11:30 on Monday 16th July, it was just a normal day except that Margaret hadn't gone to play bridge as she was having hearing problems.

By 12:30 a completely different sort of day presented itself.  In the last hour, we had booked for the Whisky tour, for the afternoon tea at the distillery and for the night at the Pheasant.  All we had to do was pack a bag and jump in the car.

It was with some trepidation that I parked the car at the distillery.  Would I be in a fit enough state to drive to the Pheasant afterwards?  Had we managed to set off early we might have managed to check-in and leave the car to walk to the distillery but we just hadn't got quite enough time.

The Lakes Distillery is a very impressive set-up.  Much better than the proposition in Staveley that some of us had been asked to consider backing several years ago. Incidentally, I think Staveley is a much better venue for the brewery so all has worked out for the best.

The National Park authorities had insisted that the derelict farm buildings be restored to their original condition externally and Lakes Distillery has performed a magnificent job in ensuring that this is the case.

Inside, the reception area / shop is extremely well refurbished in a clean modern style.  The tour first takes you into a small room where you are given a short talk, and shown a superb video that takes you flying down the full length of the River Derwent from Sprinkling Tarn to the sea at Workington.  Then there is a hologram of an 18th century bootlegger telling his tale following which it is off to the vats.

I don't pretend that I took in all the technicalities of the various stages of manufacture but it ended up with three large copper vats.  Two for whisky and one for gin or vodka.

I suspect it is the fashion for gin that has transformed the economics of developing a new distillery.  Production time to selling bottles is about a month compared with 7 years or more for a decent single malt whisky.

After the tour we had a fun tasting session followed by afternoon tea, sat outside.

Although produced in very modern facilities, the food presentation was a throwback to the 1950s with its three tier stand of scones, sandwiches and fancy cakes.  Delicious.

After all this we needed a walk.  We crossed the bridge and followed a footpath as far as the Buckdale Lonning where turned right, passing zebras and other exotic animals with Skiddaw as their backdrop.

After Armathwaite Hall we turned right, down towards the lake and on to the car. It was a lovely early evening.

Back at the Pheasant, we were too stuffed to indulge too heartily at dinner. Instead we indulged at breakfast.  It proved to be a very friendly, comfortable and welcoming Inn.  A happy place to stay.

Day two featured a stroll along part of the Allerdale Ramble- a rare section where you can actually get down to the lake where I reverted to childhood by skimming.

We continued on to St Bega's romantically set church by the lake then up to Mire House.

In the café we only wanted a light snack and were rather overwhelmed by the quantities put before us.  The car was reached via a pleasant undulating path through the woods alongside the road.

Our final target was Hutton in the Forest- a stately home with gardens allegedly worth a visit.  They were but so was the drive which took us along the edge of the Skiddaw range then through several nice old villages.

It was nearly 4 p.m. when we entered the gardens and there were only two other people there.  One was an artiste and the other the gardener.  We were a bit in between seasons so probably didn't see the garden at its best but it was still very impressive.

What a trip!  To think that 30 hours earlier we had no idea we were going away!

Don, 20th July 2017



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