Dales Way Pubs: The Sportsman’s Inn, Cowgill, Cumbria
Before embarking on The Dales Way (foreshortened and in reverse) I had done a fair amount of research into the pubs along the route. I was quite disappointed to read some mixed to negative reviews of two pubs, either directly on or close to the walk, that I had considered either visiting or staying at: The Station Inn at Ribblehead and The George Inn at Hubberholme.
I tend to take negative online reviews with a pinch of salt (there is an art to reading and interpreting Trip Advisor comments), but what was most worrying was that many of the comments regarding The George Inn in particular were about incidents of poor customer service. Because pubs or inns on a walk like this should be a welcoming place to relax and recuperate after a hard day walking, we avoided both rather than taking the risk. Which brings us on to The Sportsman’s Inn.
Our second day was one of the longest and most arduous of the five days walking, starting at Millthrop and heading up and over the hill before walking along the Dee for the length of Dentdale, climbing steeply on the road to Dent Head then across moorland to Gearstones, crossing from Cumbria into North Yorkshire on the way. Dentdale was a lovely place to walk but unfortunately we didn’t have time to dally in Dent or enjoy beers from the local brewery.
Instead we walked on to Cowgill and had planned to stop off at The Sportsman’s, both for a soft drink to boost our energy levels and to call Kate’s father to tell him when we expected to have finished the walk for him to pick us up, before we tackled the steep walk up the road out of the valley.
We were pleased to find the Sportsman’s open and that it seemed to be a nice pub, with a couple of Dent beers on and a Spring 2009 CAMRA Westmorland Pub Of The Season certificate on show. I did think there might have been little tension in the air in the quiet pub when we walked in, but decided to ignore it.
After we had already bought three drinks, two packets of crisps and a packet of nuts, Kate went to call her father on the pub payphone, there being no mobile reception in the valley. After she had finished the call, she was told off by an indignant member of staff for using the payphone, which was apparently “for residents only”. Kate said she hadn’t seen anything to indicate that and was directed to a sign behind a door.
So a remote pub in a valley with no mobile reception refuses to allow paying customers to pay to use a payphone unless they’ve booked a room for the night. I might well be judging too quickly, but if this incident is in any way representative, that begrudging attitude to new customers has no place in a public house with a CAMRA gong (and, I now note, a gushing review in the current Good Beer Guide about it welcoming “both locals and visitors who are often enjoying the great surrounding walking country”). Whatever the case, I won’t be putting them to the inconvenience of taking my money again.