Short break - Hare and Hounds, Levens, near Kendal

A warm glow from the new Hare and Hounds restaurant

A warm glow from the new Hare and Hounds restaurant - Credit: Archant

An 18th century with a brand new restaurant.

The recently finished dining room was once a barn

The recently finished dining room was once a barn - Credit: Archant

The Hare and Hounds at Levens (not to be confused with the Hare & Hounds in nearby Bowland Bridge – yes, I did try to book into the wrong place) is every inch an historic country inn. Just how old is confirmed by a framed document listing the licensees back to the 1700s. The last names are the current owners, Ash and Becky Dewar, a couple who cut their teeth in London’s frenetic hospitality industry before heading five years ago to the more tranquil Lake District.

Having said that, you suspect running their own show is far from being a quiet life. They are fortunate, therefore, to have help from a group of happy, smiley people who provide a warm welcome plus some talented staff in the kitchen.

This is a real community pub with a nice, friendly atmosphere where locals rub shoulders with weekenders and guests like me, enjoying a short break in one of the four letting rooms.

While the downstairs has everything you’d expect to find in a hostelry of this vintage, negotiate the skull-cracking low ceilings and you’ll reach the recently created bedrooms, each named after a family with historic connections to the pub. They are stylish and contemporary with beautiful, upmarket bathrooms. Here are all the comforts you need after a day slogging across the fells or exploring the nearby Levens Hall, famous for its topiary.

The star of the show is the new restaurant. Once a disused barn, this is now an impressive space with flagged floors and big windows giving glorious views. The menu is targeted at people who want unpretentious, straightforward and tasty food. They specialise in home-made pizzas. A Lancashire cheese and sausage version might not sound like mamma made back in Naples, but it gets my vote. They even have a charity pizza to help local Girlguides on charitable missions overseas.

Small country pubs may be struggling, but the popularity of the Hare and Hounds makes you think that the list of licensees will have to wait some time before any new names appear.

Hare and Hounds, Levens, near Kendal, LA8 8PN. Web: Tel: 015395 60004