In a bid to learn the secrets of smoking food Moira Hunt discovers a gourmet’s delight – and so much more – at The Wild Boar

I'VE always preferred hot running water to babbling brooks and a comfy bed to a sleeping bag in a tent (no matter what the view), but ever since Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall first ventured onto our screens, I've been hooked on what I'd always considered the preserve of 'country folk'.

I haven't yet foraged for mushrooms or set up a trap in the Skerne in the hopes of catching American signal crayfish, but I have churned out miles of homemade sausages, grown mushrooms, dried a variety of foods including beef to make biltong, and produced some more-than-passable bacon.

In the hopes of fulfilling my long-held desire to smoke everything from the fresh-caught salmon kindly provided by a friend to garlic grown in our garden, I've finally nagged Geoff into helping me build my own cold-smoker.

A weekend break to The Wild Boar seemed like the perfect place to pick up a few useful tips as it not only has a smokehouse of its own, but holds smoking classes throughout the year.

Sadly, we couldn't time our trip to coincide with one of these... but that didn't mean we didn't enjoy eating our way through the many smoked treats on offer or picking up a few helpful hints. That the inn has a microbrewery on site only added to the pleasure of the weekend.

One of the joys of a weekend in The Lakes is that the trip there is so scenic, you start to relax long before you reach your destination. The location of The Wild Boar only added to that sense of calm and beauty, situated both close enough to Bowness to reach in minutes, but beyond the hustle and bustle of tourist-packed attractions. In fact, without our trusty satnav we might not have found it yet. Set in the Gilpin Valley, this inn takes its name from the local legend of Sir Richard de Gilpin, who bravely fought and killed a particularly ferocious wild boar.

In stunning contrast to the warm and welcoming traditional open log fires, wooden floorboards, leather sofas and beamed ceilings in the public spaces of this 19th-century building, our bedroom was a sparkling homage to all things silver, from the furniture, lamps and fabrics to the freestanding, roll-top bath in the corner of the bedroom. The height of luxury, it included everything you would expect in a five-star hotel. It set the tone for our stay, and we can say, hand on heart, that nothing in The Wild Boar disappointed.

After settling in we headed for Bowness, a drive of less than 10 minutes, but as it was a beautiful sunny day and tourists were out in full force, we continued on to Windermere Village where we enjoyed a leisurely stroll and browsed the local shops before heading for something to eat. Setting out only to have a quick bite for lunch we ended up in Sugar & Spice Cafe & Bistro, sharing afternoon tea piled high with home-made cakes, sandwiches, salads.

A walk around the lake was beckoning, so we headed back to Bowness where we did a bit more browsing and shopping. Don't miss the chance to pick up a bottle or two of Lakes Distillery Damson Gin Liqueur or Salted Caramel Vodka Liqueur, both of which are perfect over ice cream as well as just to sip.

With no children to entertain it's easy to relax to the point of vegetating, but we resisted, and headed to Blackwell, the historic Arts and Crafts House overlooking Windermere. By no means a stuffy 'historic stately home', visitors are invited to wander around and enjoy the marvels of the property's design, which includes examples of the finest workmanship of the era. The terraced gardens are well worth a visit too.

Despite it being a fairly warm day, the log fire was burning brightly back at The Wild Boar – as it is for much of the year manager Adam Bujok later explained, as much to provide a welcoming atmosphere as to keep patrons toasty.

As well as an extensive wine list, the bar stocks a huge selection of whiskies, guest beers and a choice of three offerings made in its own on-site microbrewery - Mad Pig Ale, Hogs 54, a pale ale which became a firm favourite over the weekend, and Smoked Porter.

Dinner that night was at the inn’s renowned Grill & Smokehouse. The restaurant was full and it wasn’t long before we discovered why. The menu includes a whole range of items smoked by the creative chefs in the inn’s smokehouse: from smoked butter on the artisan bread and olive sharing board to hot smoked pigs in blankets, in-house cured and smoked salmon, hot smoked peppered wild boar, smoked cheese and the speciality – a choice of smoked steaks. It is rather cliched these days to see ‘locally-sourced’ and ‘hand-made’ on a menu, but in the case of The Wild Boar they really do mean it – the chefs seem to spend as much time curing, smoking and preparing food as cooking it, and take great pride in being able to offer something unique.

We asked our waiter if we could visit the smokehouse the following day. The response was much as we found from all the staff during our stay – no trouble at all...

The following morning Adam took a two-hour break from his managerial duties to give us a tour of both the smokehouse and the microbrewery, telling us about them, the ethos of the inn and answering our many questions. He told us that engaged couples planning to celebrate their big day at The Wild Boar can work with the brewer to create their own special beer for the occasion.

While everything at the Wild Boar is created around guest satisfaction, this philosophy runs far deeper than the fantastic food, great facilities and attention to even the smallest of details – it positively shines through in the staff, for whom absolutely nothing is too much trouble.

Having eaten more than we should there was only one thing on the cards – a brisk walk to work it off. We didn’t have to head far, because The Wild Boar has its own 72-acre woodland – and a rack of wellies you can borrow to explore it.

Talk about a multi-use site. Not only is the wood home to 40 different species of birds, more varieties of trees than you could shake a stick at and foxes, badgers, squirrels, otters, lizards, adders and deer, but also a gym trail for the more energetic visitor, a children’s trail with a special map and clues provided to help while away an hour or so, a clay pigeon shooting site, a hide and some scenic spots where you can just sit and take in the stunning surroundings. It’s also home to some fascinating military references and even works of art.

Time to leave The Wild Boar and head for home – but not before a brief stop at Hill Top, Beatrix Potter's 17th-century farmhouse, which might have been in the wrong direction but was well worth the detour. I’m ashamed to say we’ve never visited before, and we weren’t disappointed. From the charming house which really does, as it says in the guidebooks, “look as though Beatrix Potter has just stepped out for a walk” to the lovely cottage garden, it’s easy to see the inspiration for the tales that have charmed us all. It was a fitting end to a wonderful weekend.

The Wild Boar has 34 en-suite bedrooms. Classic, feature and luxury rooms, they range in price from £121 per night for bed and breakfast in a classic room (two adults sharing) to £202 for bed and breakfast in a luxury room. Family rooms and a variety of packages – including dinner, bed and breakfast – are available. The price includes free use of The Health Club at Low Wood Bay.

  • The Wild Boar can be found at Crook Road, Windermere, Cumbria, LA23 3NF or contacted on 015394 45225, or 0333 2203 180 for room reservation.