FIREFIGHTERS are waiting to be given the all-clear to begin investigating the blaze which tore through a listed Windermere hotel.

Fire crews at the Queen's Head hotel, Troutbeck, say they believe the blaze was started by an electrical fault in the laundry room of the hotel - and will re-enter the building as soon as it has been declared safe to begin investigations.

"I've been here all night and now we're waiting to be told we can go back inside," explained Sean Hevey, station manager at Kendal.

"The bar area is still intact but everything else is totally destroyed.

"It's a mess inside."

Crews were called out at around 9.30pm yesterday and were still 'damping down' at around 7am this morning.

Firefighters attended from Kendal, Windermere, Ambleside, Coniston, Milnthorpe, Staveley, Patterdale, Ulverston, Penrith and Barrow.

A total of 57 men were fighting the fire at its peak, while 11 engines were in attendance including a water bowser and aerial appliance.

By this morning attendance had reduced to two fire engines from Ambleside and Windermere.

The 17th century hotel is a listed building.

District councillor, Coun Ben Berry, said 'you wouldn't wish it on anyone'.

"It's not good at all," he said.

"The whole place is a goner, and it's been there for 100 years or more.

"It's so sad."

All staff and guests were evacuated from the property, totalling around 50 people.

It is believed they were given beds at neighbouring hotels, including The Mortal Man.

"We provided them with rooms for nothing," explained landlady, Kate Barkes.

"There were five couples in total and it was just awful.

"One guy had no socks, no shoes, he was just hugging a cushion and he looked terrified. They were all very spaced out.

"Obviously they followed evacuation procedures like they should, but it meant they'd all left their keys and wallets and everything behind."

She added: "We've got our beer festival on today but there's a very sombre mood."

She explained that the community rallied round to help, with one Troutbeck family carrying fire crews to the river on quad bikes, to get more water.

Last night local people took to Twitter to express their sadness.

Joanne Allen wrote: "Just seen my fave pub, Queens Head, burn down. Such a massive shame. Such a wonderful place with so many memories."

Windermere Town Coun Bill Smith said: "Dreadful news about the fire at The Queens Head Hotel in Troutbeck, hoping all safe."

Nobody was injured.

The A592 to Ullswater was closed for several hours but police have now confirmed it has re-opened.