Cartmel is one of Cumbria's most unique villages. Set on the Cartmel Peninsular, surrounded by rolling hills that tumble down to the coast, it is situated seven miles south of Lake Windermere.
Picture perfect, Cartmel has grown into a chic destination characterised by the most delightful architecture of traditional lime washed and stone-built houses, shops and pubs. It has a growing reputation for its inns and restaurants, notably Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume, voted the UK’s top dining experience which has almost single-handedly transformed the village into a pilgrimage destination for foodies and celebrities.
The Norman Priory
Centred around a delightful square and overlooked by a huge Norman priory, Cartmel is a maze of lanes and bridges crossing a sweet little river, patrolled by fleets of ducks and swans. The Priory, a magnificent building, rises up above the village like a great ship and is well worth a visit to savour its architecture.
There are several good local walks, lanes to cycle and plenty more to explore. Most notable is Hampsfell and Eggerslack Wood, a limestone fell and ancient woodland where the summit gives way to panoramic views of Morecambe Bay and the Lake District Mountains. Coincide your visit with the coming of spring when the woodland is carpeted in bluebells.
There are plenty of shops, both in Cartmel and in nearby Grange-over-Sands. The Cartmel Village Store is one-part deli, one-part grocer with an excellent café that is famous for producing the Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding - a local ‘must-try!’, this is the home of sticky toffee in case you didn’t know.
In Unsworth Yard, you will find Cartmel Cheeses and The Bread Shed, alongside The Red Pepper & Hot Wines shop and Cartmel’s own micro-brewery. By the priory, entrance is Hales Home-Made Chocolates. Here also, once a month, the village holds a food market with many local producers setting up their stalls. Look out for the Indian takeaway tent, a real treat if you love exotic dishes.
Toys and gifts
In addition to the foodie outlets in Cartmel stop by The Larch Tree, selling quality toys, gifts and clothing. There are several good spots for stocking up on supplies too. For a slightly wider choice, head into Grange-over-Sands.
For dining, you really are spoiled for choice. There are four good pubs, The Cavendish Arms, The Royal Oak, Pig & Whistle, and The Kings Arms. For something a little special, you must try Simon Rogan's Michelin awarded L'Enclume, one of Cumbria’s finest restaurants. Another good option is Rogan's Bistro, situated by the river, it is very relaxed and with an excellent choice of fine cuisine.
The Cumbria Steam Gathering, held in July, is a cornucopia of wonderful old steam engines, tractors, mechanical wonders and vintage cars. Held over the fell at the Flookbrough Airdrome, there are plenty of stalls, shows and activities including go-carts and Segways, along with live music and demonstrations.
Grange Prom Art is held on the promenade in Grange-over-Sands on the last Sunday of each month during summer. Local artists, entertainers and food tents make for a great day against a stunning backdrop of Morecambe Bay.
Country Houses - Gardens & Historic Buildings
There are a number of fantastic places of historical interest in and around Cartmel including fine country houses and Cartmel Priory. Founded in 1190 by William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke, it was intended for the Augustinian Canons and dedicated to Saint Mary the Virgin and Saint Michael. Although much was destroyed during the Dissolution, the church itself was saved. The building is magnificent with fine windows, massive arches over polished pews and a beautiful Renaissance-period screen.
Holker Hall and Gardens is a couple of miles from Cark and makes for a very pleasant outing. The house, grounds and a deer park are all open to the public and a complete delight to lose yourself in - the estate arranges an annual programme of events.
Levens Hall is a fine example of the archetypal English grand country house. Make sure you spend time enjoying the box and yew sculpted topiary gardens. Let yourself be beguiled by the succession of secret 'garden rooms', wooded walkways and the fine ornamental pond used recently in the BBC series Henry VIII.
Finally, a trip to the National Trust managed Sizergh Castle is a real treat. It is a beautiful medieval house with wonderful gardens and estate grounds. An imposing building, it stands sentinel-like at the gateway to the Lake District.
Out and about
A great day out is to take a Segway off-road tour. You can hire these curious vehicles from a hire shop located in Cartmel’s main car park. Alternatively, you could enjoy a horse and carriage ride across the Peninsula from Black Horses, who specialise in breeding Friesian horses.
See the sea
A favourite pursuit with active visitors is to climb high up onto Hampsfell with its panoramic views across the Morecambe Bay - the trail descends to Grange-over-Sands. At the summit, look out for an ornate, stone hut/bothy, built to shelter travellers. There is also a huge compass showing the fells that form your view and it is the perfect spot for a picnic.
Along the shore
A little further afield you have the coast where you can explore the fringes of the bay. One of the finest walks in the Lake District is along the shore at Arnside, on the south side of the bay. Ahead of it is a stretch of silver sand, and as the tide comes in the view is spectacular. Make a bee-line to Humphrey Head, a huge limestone ridge that juts out into the bay – here you can explore the rock pools for shrimp and crabs.
Full steam ahead
From Newby Bridge, you can hop on a steamer for a trip on the lake, which winds its way ten miles into the central fells passing Bowness and Sawrey before terminating at the Waterhead terminus near Ambleside.
From the deep
Add the Aquarium of the Lakes at nearby Backbarrow to your itinerary to see a fine collection of creatures from the deep from domestic and international waters.
If you are a petrol head, stop in at the Lakeland Motor Museum, a vast collection of vintage and specialist cars including a replica of Donald Campbell’s awesome Bluebird K7.
Stay in Cartmel
Explore Cartmel for yourself with our selection of holiday cottages in Cartmel. Further afield we have a whole host of Lake District cottages to choose from.