The Black Bull in Sedbergh, Cumbria

Stuart Forster travels to Cumbria and stays at The Black Bull in Sedbergh.

The Black Bull is a gastropub with boutique 18 guestrooms, including one suite. The premises on Sedbergh’s Main Street first welcomed guests as a coaching inn during the 17th century.

Entrance of The Black Bull at Sedbergh in Cumbria, England.
Entrance of The Black Bull at Sedbergh in Cumbria, England.

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James Ratcliffe and Nina Matsunaga, the husband and wife team who head up the business, oversaw 18 months of extensive renovations before opening The Black Bull as a gastropub with rooms in 2018. Their effort has been rewarded with an entry in The Good Hotel Guide.

At the time of my visit, in June 2021, Nina was shortlisted for The Caterer’s Pub and Bar Award in the hospitality industry’s prestigious annual Catey awards. The Black Bull was also nominated in GQ Food and Drink Awards’ Best Pub category.

The Black Bull at Sedbergh in Cumbria, England. The former coaching inn is a gastropub with 18 guestrooms.
The former coaching inn is a gastropub with 18 guestrooms.

Accommodation at The Black Bull

I was allocated a bedroom whose sash windows opened above Sedbergh’s single-track Main Street. The clomping footsteps of walkers’ boots and occasional whirring of bicycle wheels were reminders of the small town’s location near the western edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Footpath above the Cumbrian town of Sedbergh. The gastropub is an ideal base for walking in the Yorkshire Dales or Lake District National Park.
Footpath above the Cumbrian town of Sedbergh. The gastropub is an ideal base for walking in the Yorkshire Dales or Lake District National Park.

Yes, you did read that I travelled to Cumbria to stay at The Black Bull. But prior to county boundary changes in 1974 the town was in Yorkshire. Dotted with book shops, it is England’s official book town.

Meandering stream on a hillside above Sedbergh in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
Meandering stream on a hillside above Sedbergh in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

The pub is well-placed as a base for people who appreciate outdoor activities. The rolling Howgill Fells rise above Sedbergh. Windermere, in the Lake District National Park, is less than 40 minutes’ drive away.



Comfortable and spacious, the carpeted bedroom featured framed photographic prints of nearby landscapes on its walls.

Hill shaped much like a sleeping elephant in the Howgill Fells near Sedbergh, Cumbria.
Hill shaped much like a sleeping elephant in the Howgill Fells near Sedbergh.

Another local touch was the throw on the foot of the bed. Woven by a Sedbergh-based company it was made from the wool of Herdwick sheep and matched the room’s neutral colour scheme.

Bedroom with a neutral colour scheme at The Black Bull in Sedbergh.
Bedroom with a neutral colour scheme at The Black Bull in Sedbergh.

The Black Bull certainly seems to pull its weight in promoting local businesses. Labels on the pleasantly aromatic toiletries in the roomy bathroom revealed they were custom-made by the Sedbergh Soap Company.

Freestanding bathtub at the Black Bull Sedbergh
Freestanding bathtub at the Black Bull Sedbergh.

The white-tiled bathroom featured both a walk-in shower and a deep freestanding bathtub. Soaking in a warm bath proved a lovely way of easing muscle aches after a day of fell walking.



Food at The Black Bull

The flavours and presentation of the food served in the gastropub’s restaurant impressed.

Apache potato, yeast, watercress and lentil served as a starter in The Black Bull's restaurant
Vegetarian and vegan options featured on the menu. During my stay they included a starter of Apache potato, yeast, watercress and lentil.

Nina, the head chef, has a reputation for fusing European and Asian elements in dishes served at The Black Bull. Locally sourced ingredients feature. A server explained that the menu evolves so that animals are used in their entirety.

Window of the dining room at The Black Bull, the gastropub in Cumbria
The restaurant at The Black Bull looks out onto Sedbergh’s Main Street.

Dining on a Sunday evening meant choosing from a menu whose mains were dominated by traditional British options. Roast beef, roast pork and beef pie counted among the choices.

Maple pea hummus served with crackers from the nibbles section of The Black Bull's menu.
Maple pea hummus served with crackers from the nibbles section of The Black Bull’s menu.

Mulling what to choose, I nibbled from a bowl of maple pea hummus and crackers while sipping a gin and tonic. The wine menu included a selection of Central European choices, tempting me to choose a bottle of Trica Plavac Mali from Croatia.

Wild Lakeland venison tartar with rye, mustard, cured egg yolk and kohlrabi
Wild Lakeland venison tartar with rye, mustard, cured egg yolk and kohlrabi.

It paired well with both my starter, a tartar made from wild Lakeland venison, and main course of succulent roast lamb. The local Herdwick lamb was served with beetroot and asparagus with a hint of anchovy.

Howgill Herdwick lamb, beetroot, anchovy and mint served at The Black Bull in Sedbergh.
Howgill Herdwick lamb, beetroot, anchovy and mint served at The Black Bull in Sedbergh.

The texture and level of sweetness of the sticky toffee pudding proved spot on and paired well with a glass of Changyu icewine from China.

Sticky toffee pudding served with ice cream and caramel sauce.
Sticky toffee pudding served with ice cream and caramel sauce.



Ambiance of The Black Bull

I found The Black Bull welcoming and enjoyed sipping a drink in the cosy bar, which has a wood burning stove. Framed photos of local landscapes are interspersed between Japanese prints above the bar’s red banquettes.

Similar prints are displayed in the adjacent casual dining area where breakfast is served.

The Black Bull's English breakfast.
The Black Bull’s English breakfast.

Tables in the restaurant are well spaced. Exposed floorboards and ceiling beams form part of the rustic chic decor. So too do twisted driftwood and neat displays of flowers. Unintrusive music played at a low volume during dinner.

Overall, The Black Bull proved a lovely place to stay and dine.

Sign hanging outside of Sedbergh's Black Bull.
Sign hanging outside of Sedbergh’s Black Bull.

Video about staying at the Cumbria gastropub

View this YouTube video for impressions of The Black Bull in Sedbergh.

Short video about my stay at The Black Bull in Sedbergh, Cumbria
 

The Black Bull, Sedbergh

Visit The Black Bull (44 Main Street, Sedbergh, LA10 5BL) website for more information about the rooms and food at the gastropub. Opening times of the restaurant (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, except for bank holidays) are shown there too.

Dogs are allowed into the bar and casual dining area but not into the restaurant. Up to two dogs are welcome to stay overnight in three of the bedrooms (see The Black Bull website for information about the related charge).

Car parking at The Black Bull is at the back of the property. The entrance to the car park is narrow.

The rear of the property also has a sizable beer garden. Several tables are under awnings. Food is prepared on a grill and in a pizza oven in the kitchen within the converted stable block. Dishes are listed on a chalkboard menu.

The Google Map below shows the location of The Black Bull on Sedbergh’s Main Street:

Map of Sedbergh showing the location of the gastropub.

Further information

Planning on walking near Sedbergh? Ordnance Survey Map OL 19 charts the Howgill Fells and Eden Valley:

Need inspiration for walks around Sedbergh? You may find it in Cicerone’s The Lune Valley and Howgills: 40 scenic fell, river and woodland walks:

Photos illustrating this post are by Why Eye Photography, a photography company based in North East England.

Stuart Forster, the author of this post, is an award-winning travel writer based in the north of England. He is available for freelance commissions.

Thanks for visiting Go Eat Do and reading this post about The Black Bull in Sedbergh, Cumbria. Considering a short break in the north of England? You may gain inspiration in this post about things to do in Alnwick, Northumberland

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