I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for a traditional, no frills northern pub. I’m not a fan of themes, nor of tarted-up-to-within-an-inch-of-their-lives places that offer dining “experiences”, courtesy of artistic chefs on pretension overload.

No, give me slate flagged floors, a hotch potch of furniture and a menu that features recognisable grub – and I’ll give you a happy punter.

Such a place that ticks many boxes for me is the Derby Arms at Witherslack, a totally traditional former coaching inn – it’s on the old main road that runs alongside the A590 – heavy on the rustic charm and mercifully light on the pretentious twaddle.

With stone floors and open fires, a disparate collection of furniture and décor, and some pleasingly dark and cosy corners, the Derby Arms gives the impression of a place that has barely changed in decades. Once across the porticoed threshold, you could almost be anywhere from 1930 to now.

I called in one lunchtime recently with a friend, on our way back from Kendal. Dog-owning drinkers were in the bar, enjoying an afternoon pint, while diners were dotted among the pub’s two main dining rooms.

We settled in the farthest reaches of the pub, a pleasingly atmospheric room painted a rich Georgian red, with oak furniture, candles and sporting prints.

Lunchtimes at the Derby Arms feature a two course for £11.95 deal (full mains and snacks are also available), which turned out to be excellent value for what we got.

The portions are slightly smaller than those on the main menu, although you’d be hard pushed to notice; and in the event, neither of us was able to finish our main courses – so they’re hardly skimping.

Grilled goats cheese tartlet with a red onion marmalade for my pal, while I went for creamy garlic mushrooms with parmesan shavings on “artisan” bread. The artisan bread looked a bit like a slice of toasted ciabatta, which it probably was and which was fine with me. Masses of creamy mushrooms were piled on top; and there was easily enough for this to have done me for my lunch.

My friend agreed – the goats cheese tartlet, although light, being amply satisfying with its generous dressed salad on the side.

For mains, I’d chosen fish and chips, my fellow partaker of lunch choosing a duo of sausages (one Cumberland, one pork, mango and stilton), with gravy, mash and veg.

Both arrived piping hot and plentiful. My haddock was nicely white and flaky but the chips lying underneath the fish were somewhat greasy by the time I dug into them. A case of presentation over experience; and I wish pubs would stop putting greasy stuff like battered fish on top of the chips – too much scope for that grease to impregnate the spuds below. While I’m in niggling mode, the mushy peas were on the cold side, too. Far from the best pub fish and chips I’ve tucked into – but nowhere near the worst.

The sausage dish was more comprehensively successful, with two delicious bangers smothered in gravy and accompanied by a creamy mash, and fresh (if ever so slightly dull) veg: courgettes, cauliflower and carrots.

One sausage made its way home with me in my handbag for my dogs – but such is the depth and, indeed, overloaded disarray of my handbag that I promptly forgot about it, carried it to work and back for the next two days and kept wondering why dogs were following me down the street. One of my own dogs finally unearthed it on day three and wolfed it down.

The Derby Arms is something of a delight. It’s dog-friendly (as is its food – even after three days), it’s timeless and it’s traditional. The food is good on the whole (my greasy chips aside) and the staff are very pleasant. It’s a lovely old coaching inn that more than merits a small detour from the main road.


Food 3.5

Service 3.5

Value 4

Atmosphere 4


Traditional and timeless

Good value

Dog friendly

Lots of parking


Exterior is a little austere