The best pubs in Ambleside, The Lake District

Ambleside is such a charming town, in the heart of The Lake District. At the very head of Windermere lake and encased by dramatic hills, many base themselves here. There are many things to do in Ambleside, and after a long day, many want to unwind in a local pub. For such a small town, there are plenty of amazing pubs in Ambleside! You will find old traditional pubs with fireplaces, newer cocktail bars, and everything in between. Most pubs allow dogs, and don’t mind muddy boots after taking in some of the amazing walks around Ambleside.

The Golden Rule

Best for: Experiencing a real, traditional Lake District pub

Location: Smithy Brow, just up the hill from the mini roundabout

Beer garden?: A few tables on the patio out the back, no sun really but heaters for chilly evenings!

Dogs allowed?: Yes

If low ceilings, traditional ales and a warm atmosphere are what you are after, then The Golden Rule is for you. This pub is popular with locals and tourists alike. Walking through the door is a little like stepping back into a simpler time. There is no music, no gimmicks, just a good, old fashioned pub. The Golden Rule has a decent collection of local ales, and some more well known beers too. This is the kind of place you can go alone, stand at the bar, and soak up the atmosphere. Most likely, you will end up making friends with some one and listening to tales of Ambleside of old! This really is one of the best pubs in Ambleside!


The Lily Bar

Best for: Friendly staff and relaxed food and drink

Location: Lake Road, very close to the Bus Station

Beer garden?: No, no outside area

Dogs allowed?: Yes

Not strictly a pub, but a great bar in Ambleside. The Lily is small and low key, with friendly, local staff. They also do great food. The Lily generally has a relaxed atmosphere and is quite quiet. The bar does however come alive at the weekend if there is live music on! Really recommend checking it out if you are looking for a a fun time and to have a boogie! The pub quiz that runs every Wednesday is also fantastic fun. Local teams can get competitive among themselves, but everyone is welcome!

The Royal Oak

Best for: Cheap food and drink in a central location

Location: The corner of Lake Road and Church St.

Beer garden?: A few tables out the front, many people congregate on the wall outside in summer!

Dogs allowed?: Yes

The Royal Oak used to be a central meeting place for locals. Previously independently owned, they would host meetings for events like the Grand National. Unfortunately, it has now been taken over by a chain. This means the atmosphere is lost a little from what it was. Gone are the local staff who knew everyone’s name and the summer BBQs to celebrate local events. It does mean though that there are cheap food and drink deals. You wont find a quintessentially Lake District pub, but you will find your bog standard pub grub at acceptable prices. It is also very conveniently located.

The Unicorn

Best for: Live music and friendly atmosphere in the oldest pub in Ambleside

Location: North Road, just 2 minutes walk from the Tourist Information centre

Beer garden?: No

Dogs allowed?: Yes

If you are looking for that traditional Lake District pub, then The Unicorn is the place to  be. The kind of place where the floor is uneven, the fire is roaring, and everyone talks to everyone. It is very small, and gets very busy when they host live music, but the atmosphere is great fun. Food here also has a good reputation for being hearty and home cooked. You will find a selection of traditional ales on draft all served with a smile, and most likely the owner will be milling around somewhere, happy for a chat!


The White Lion

Best for: Soaking up the sun and being in the heart of the town

Location: Lake Road, very central Ambleside opposite Tesco

Beer garden?: Yes – the biggest in Ambleside town centre

Dogs allowed?: Yes

There is only one reason The White Lion makes it onto this list – the beer garden. Right in the heart of the town, it has a prime location. On a sunny day, this garden is always packed. The atmosphere is friendly, with locals, tourists and dogs all jostling for a table and often perching on the wall. Everything else about this pub is below average at best. Food is uninspiring and service is surly. I suggest just going for a drink outside and then heading elsewhere!

The white lion Ambleside

Zefferelli’s Jazz Bar

Best for: A romantic and sophisticated evening with live Jazz music

Location: Attached to the main cinema building, Compston Road

Beer garden?: A lovely balcony overlooking the streets

Dogs allowed?: No

Not a pub by a long shot, but the Jazz Bar deserves a mention. This bar is part of Zefferelli’s, which also boasts 5 cinema screens in 3 different buildings, plus 2 restaurants. Right in the heart of Ambleside, the Jazz bar adds a touch of sophistication to the nightlife scene in Ambleside. The Jazz bar is the perfect place for a post cinema cocktail, an evening of live music, or a quieter drink with friends. Decor is modern and smart, staff are attentive, and they do food too. Cocktails and premium beers are to be found here. It is worth booking on the weekend.

The Wateredge Hotel

Best for: Unrivaled views of Windermere Lake in sunny surroundings

Location: Waterhead, on the shores of Windermere

Beer garden?: Beautiful, large grassy garden on the shores of the lake

Dogs allowed?: Yes

A short walk out of the town centre,  Wateredge Hotel is a great little hotel. Waterhead itself is a popular place for visitors, so you are sure to stop here at some point. Right at the head of England’s biggest lake, The Wateredge has some magnificent views. This place is best for a lunchtime or early evening stop, when you still have some daylight. This way, you can enjoy the view of the lake and fells. Food is decent enough too, but it is the beer garden that is the real show stopper.

Ambleside pub

Bar Es

Best for: Craft beers and relaxed food

Location: St Mary’s Lane, a small side street off Church St

Beer garden?: 1 or 2 tables on a decking area out back

Dogs allowed?: Yes

Not technically a pub, but a great relaxed bar. Hidden down St Mary’s Lane (check google maps!), this is a small and friendly bar. Bar Es has a distinct Mexican theme, in both decor and food. Think sharing plates and tapas. They pride themselves on craft beers, and have some guest ales too. They have a few tables out the back too with heaters for those cold Lake District nights.

Pubs just outside of Ambleside…

There are some brilliant pubs just outside of Ambleside Town too. A lot of these fit nicely with some beautiful walks in the area. If you are passing, or planning a hike, it is worth knowing about the following! They may just be a welcome escape from the rain!

The Badger Bar

Best for: A mid walk pint in a traditional pub

Location: Rydal, outside of Ambleside on the A591

Beer garden?: Yes, decent sized and gets some sun

Dogs allowed?: Yes

I have included the Badger Bar, as most visitors to Ambleside will pass this place either on walks or drives. The car itself is attached to the Glen Rothay hotel. The name Badger bar comes from a long held tradition. Every evening, the kitchen staff feed some scraps to badgers in the car park! Get there at the right time and you may see them! There’s a nice beer garden, and it is very popular with passing walkers, (it isn’t far from Rydal Cave).  Inside, you will find low ceilings and a roaring fire in winter. There is a great selection of ales and whisky, as well as board games if you are waiting for a rain shower to pass!

The Britannia

Best for: Trying local Cumbrian Ales in a blissfully scenic village

Location: Elterwater, 10 minute drive out of Ambleside

Beer garden?: Yes

Dogs allowed?: Yes

Another pub that isn’t quite in the town itself. Out towards Langdale, the Britannia Inn is too quaint to leave off this least! The scenery around this area is unbelievably picturesque. The Britannia has a sun trap of a beer garden and some brilliant local ales on tap. Food here is traditional and no fuss, and the service is friendly. It is a great pitstop for lunch if you are enjoying one of the many walks in the area.

The Kirkstone Inn

Best for: Impressive sweeping views!

Location: Top of Kirkstone pass, a steep pass above Ambleside

Beer garden?: No, but some tables outside the front

Dogs allowed?: Yes

Certainly not a pub you can walk to, the Kirkstone Inn is at the top of the winding Kirkstone Pass, high above Ambleside. By no means a must visit, but a nice place to stop and enjoy the view. This is the highest pub in Cumbria. It is also on the way from Ambleside to places like Glenridding and Ullswater, so if you are passing it is worth a stop!

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Hi! Thanks for stopping by. I am a 20 something writer from the UK. As a PADI Dive Instructor, if I am not exploring life underwater, I am getting on a plane to find adventure on land. I love to share my travels with my readers – with a big focus on solo female travel, budget saving tricks, and of course Scuba Diving. I love to connect, so feel free to reach out on social media! I am always open to ideas and collaborations – just drop me and email!

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