The Ferry Boat in Washingborough, near Lincoln, is a charming old pub that has been a focal point of life in the village for centuries. With a homely, beamed-ceiling interior and sizeable beer garden, it is a welcoming place to eat and drink whether on cold winter evenings, sunny summer afternoons or anything in between. We checked it out one Sunday to try some of its renowned hearty traditional English food.
The origins of the Ferry Boat in Washingborough
Built in 1625, the Ferry Boat has been a part of the community in Washingborough for nearly four centuries, making it one of the oldest pubs in the area. As far as we know, it dates back further than any pub in Lincoln.
In the pub’s younger days the River Witham was about a quarter of a mile across at Washingborough, and at that time the building stood alongside its banks. The landlord owned the ferry rights to the river and operated a crossing service, which is where the name originated.
The geography of the area altered over the years and the river receded. Today the Ferry Boat no longer stands on the river, but in the very heart of the village. Its brilliant-white painted exterior stands out strikingly on Washingborough High Street.
Stepping inside, the pub has all the hallmarks of a building of its age. The low-beamed ceilings, stone walls and real fireplace combine to create an amiable atmosphere, and the original features have been carefully maintained and restored over the years.
An Ever So Sensible pub
These days, the Ferry Boat in Washingborough is part of the Ever So Sensible group, which runs a handful of pubs and restaurants across the East Midlands. This includes three in Lincoln city centre: the Horse & Groom, the Duke William Hotel and the Royal William IV.
The food menus are quite similar across all of these pubs. As we had eaten in the others before and been impressed, we had a good idea what to expect at the Ferry Boat.
How to get to the Ferry Boat, Washingborough
Washingborough is located about three miles to the east of Lincoln. It is very easy to reach by road from the city via the B1190 or Heighington Road, and there is an ample car park when you arrive.
Another option is to walk or cycle to the pub from Lincoln via the Water Rail Way route on the River Witham. The Lincoln to Washingborough walk is the first section of this trail that eventually leads all the way to Boston alongside the riverbank.
This scenic stroll to the pub takes about an hour from Lincoln city centre. We took the dog with us on a Sunday with the sun flying high, and the satisfaction of a beer garden meal to anticipate afterwards. Perfect!
Ordering via app
When we arrived at the Ferry Boat it was less than a week since it had been able to reopen its beer garden following the easing of restrictions. The tables were nicely spaced outdoors, with an extra seating area set up in a marquee to accommodate more tables.
We were welcomed with a smile by the staff member on duty – he was wearing a mask but you could tell he was smiling! – and went through the straightforward process of checking in before being shown to our seats.
Regan, our dog, was very welcome too – it’s a dog-friendly pub outside and in the bar area (but not in the restaurant). Soon we were also joined by Lisa’s sister Sara, her fiancé Ben and our one-year-old nephew Alfie. The Ferry Boat is well equipped as a family-friendly pub and brought a high chair over straight away.
All of Ever So Sensible’s pubs use a mobile app ordering system that was introduced as a Covid safety measure in summer 2020. It’s easy and efficient, as we had found when using it in their other pubs. You simply scan a QR code which takes you to a web page with the menu, place your order and pay with your card details. Our first drinks arrived in seconds.
Decent pub grub
We all ordered roast dinners (obligatory on a summer Sunday, no?) except for Ben, who opted for the fish and chips. Is there such a thing as fish and chips envy? If so, that’s what I had when it arrived, with an ale-battered fish so big it barely fit on the plate.
The roast trimmings were excellent, portioned just right and complete with braised red cabbage, which you don’t often get with pub meals.
(I should add here that I would have ordered the slow-roasted pork belly if I hadn’t already tried it at the Duke William Hotel before. It’s one of the most expensive things on the menu, but justifiably so… really delicious.)
We had just enough room left for dessert. Lisa had the brownie with ice cream, Ben went for apple crumble with custard, and I chose the New York cheesecake with raspberry compote.
None of us were disappointed. Each dish was well presented, and, more importantly, tasted great.
The Ferry Boat Washingborough menu
Aside from roasts dinners and fish and chips, you will find many more classic English pub dishes on the Ferry Boat Washingborough menu. Next time I’ll be trying the steak and ale pie – another case of food envy when we saw it served to a neighbouring table! There are also steaks, burgers, salads, chilli and the like.
The starters feature some more exotic options, such as grilled halloumi, salt and pepper squid, and Mexican chicken goujons. Check out the Ferry Boat’s website to read a sample food menu.
Starters range from £6–£8, mains from £10–£17, and desserts are £6. There are also various baguettes and sides to choose from.
As real ale lovers, the drink offerings were the only slight drawback for us, with the beer limited to mostly mainstream options. That’s not a big deal for a weekend lunch out though, and thankfully there are plenty of brilliant real ale pubs in Lincoln to try another time.
Have you tried the Ferry Boat in Washingborough? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.