The Royal Oak, Keswick, Cumbria

RoyalOak 03

We set off to support the Cumbrian economy, devastated by the winter floods which left the main Keswick to Windermere road closed [the A591], necessitating a long [though picturesque and beloved of tourists] detour past Matterdale. Apparently the effect on tourism was worse than the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2001 that caused the destruction of over 10 million sheep and cattle.

Sheep still have a major effect on the landscape of the Lake District and the current hot topic is the new book and play – James Rebanks’s “A shepherd’s life“. Our pilgrimage was to see the play, played in the most part by local actors with the sheep being puppets, designed and made with help from the team who brought you War Horse. We saw War Horse many years ago at the New London, when it had just moved from its initial run at the National – magnificent. But a play about sheep puppets that was booked solid – who knew? James Rebanks has led an interesting life, growing up in the Lake District but gaining a double first in History at Oxford, allowing him to fund his farming through outside interests.

The setting for the Theatre by the Lake is stunning, right down at the water’s edge at Derwentwater, which probably explains why Keswick is just a tiny bit touristy. Lots – and we mean LOTS – of outdoor shops, as frequent as charity shops in Tonbridge, make sure you’re well equipped for that strenuous hike from the car park to the nearest tea shop and, if you’re fit enough, back again. Don’t necessarily come to the Lakes for a gastronomic treat, though there are  notable exceptions to be explored – Lake Road Kitchen in Ambleside, for example – but the picture is slowly improving. Why can’t the food/accommodation match the beauty of the scenery? Is it like Venice, the quality of food in inverse proportion to the beauty of the place? [Mind you, some great places in Venice…].

Anyway, the short visit to Keswick saw us stay at the Royal Oak – a Thwaites pub no less.. Simple but well equipped bedrooms. A shower carefully shoehorned into a tiny but functional bathroom helpfully had a notice to save water by showering with a friend – it would have to be a very, very thin friend. Handy tray outside the door on which to store those muddy Louboutins. We ate there in the evening and at breakfast. Simple and tasty good cooking. We hadn’t noticed [Sir] Ian Mckellen and party eating in the same dining room, up filming in the Lakes. We wondered why there was only room left on the Tuesday night when we tried to book…

Pub The Royal Oak Keswick

PS incidentally Sir Ian McK is a bit of a pub fan – responsible for the Grapes at Limehouse. Can’t wait to try the faggots…

James Rebanks

James Rebanks and the “cast”

Those War Horse puppets...

Those War Horse puppets…

Shepherds Life puppets...

Shepherds Life puppets…

RoyalOak 04

That shower 01...

That shower 01…

That shower 02...

That shower 02…

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