Cartmel is one of Cumbria's best and unique villages. Set on the Cartmel Peninsular, surrounded by rolling hills that tumble down to the coast, it lies only seven miles south of Lake Windermere. Picture perfect, Cartmel has grown into a chic destination, wrapped up in the most delightful architecture of traditional lime washed and stone built houses, shops and pubs. It has a growing reputation for its accommodation, inns and restaurants, notably Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume, voted the UK top dining experience which, along with having the smallest National Hunt Race course in the UK, has made the village a place of pilgramage for foodies and celebrities.
Centered on a delightful square, overlooked by the huge Norman priory, Cartmel is a maze of lanes and bridges crossing the sweet little river, cruised 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 see the architecture and, if so inclined, attend one of the daily services.
There are good local walks, lanes to cycle and plenty to explore. Notable is Hampsfell and Eggerslack wood, a limestone fell and ancient woodland where the summit gives panoramic views of the Morecambe Bay and the Lake District Mountains and come spring the woodland is carpeted in bluebells.
Shopping - Dining - Entertainment
There are plenty of shops, both in the village and in nearby Grange Over Sands. The Cartmel Village Store is part deli, part grocer with an excellent café and is famous for producing the Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding.
In Unsworth Yard you have Cartmel Cheeses and The Bread Shed, along with 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 where their food is yum, great for an easy night in.
For even more shops pop over the fell to Grange Over Sands where you will find a Spar, the Co-Op, two bakers, a veg shack and Stuart Higginson’s famous butchers, along with banks, a post office, two chemists, two ironmongers, a few boutiques, The Fishing Tackle Shop, another chocolatier and our wonderful Vet Tim, to name but a few.
Along with the foodie outlets in Cartmel there is The Larch Tree, selling quality gifts and clothing. Chamberlain’s offer a range of delightful gifts and is supplier of life size sheep and other animals for Cartmel-Sheepy Village. Perfect English is a stylish shop in the square, selling designer high-end gifts, home furnishings and luxurious toiletries.
For dining you really are spoiled for choice. There 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 Cumbrias finest restaurants. Another good option is Rogan's wine bar, set by the river it is very relaxed and with excellent cuisine. Both are popular and reservation is advised.
Local Shows & Events
There are a host of events held throughout the year on the Peninsular. To be sure not to miss out check out on Google for dates, times and entry fees.
Come bank holidays the village buzzes with arrival of race day. Owned by The Holker Hall Estate, the course is on the edge of the village, where along with the racing there is a carnival and fair with many attractions, stalls and pop up food, beer and wine tents.
The Cartmel show is a grand and well attended affair, attracting many local artisans offering products and produce. Along side this is show jumping, livestock and horticultural shows, where at the days end is a great sell off some fantastic flowers and plants. Live music, competitions, food and beer tents make up the entertainment, where you can have a go at Cumberland Wrestling or try your hand at archery.
Holker Garden Festival
In May is the Holker Garden Festival. Some of the most accomplished plants men and women display in the grand marquee. Around this are tents and stalls selling everything from tractors to sheds along with designer boots and jackets. Beer tents and food halls offer local delights and the show is a grand day out. Again, at the end of the fesival you can pick up some fine specimines for your garden.
The Holker Winter Market is a nice precursor to the big event. Stock up on local produce, warm yourself around braziers and sample some fine foods and local ales.
The Cumbria Steam Gathering, held in July, is a feast 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, Segways along with live music and demonstrations.
Grange Prom Art is held on the promenade in Grage 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 the Morecambe Bay.
Country Houses - Gardens & Historic Buildings
If you like a historic pile then the peninsula offers quite a clutch of fine county houses along with the priory. Check online for opening times and any restrictions such as dogs.
Cartmel Priory was founded in 1190 by William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke, 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, of particular note, a beautiful Renaissance screen.
Holker Hall, known locally as Hooker Hall, along with its gardens, is a couple of miles from the village at Cark and makes for good half days outing. The House is open to the public along with grounds and a deer park which are a delight to explore, finishing with lunch at the food hall. Throughout the year there are shows and market fairs so it is worth checking Holker's website.
Levens Hall is a fine example of the grand country house. What is that bit extra special are the topiary gardens, a huge collection of the weird and the wonderful, sculptured from box and yew and will facinate adults and children alike. There are secret 'garden rooms', wooded walkways and a fine ornamental pond, which for those that followed the BBC's bodice busting, head rolling, Henry VIII, will recognise it as one of the locations used in the series.
Sizergh Castle is a beautiful medieval house with wonderful gardens and estate grounds. An imposing building, it stands sentinel at the gateway to the Lake District, where The National Trust maintains its upkeep. The gardens include a national collection of hardy ferns and a fine limestone rock garden along with a pond and lake. You can savour local, seasonal food in the contemporary licensed café or buy a picnic to enjoy in the gardens and estate grounds. There is a pub, yes a pub, the Sizergh Arms, and a farm tea room and shop over at Sizergh Barn where, through a glass wall, you overlook the milking shed. Recently the farm has been selling 'Raw Milk', milk straight from the cow. To me it tastes just like milk used to and I can highly recommend this simple but tasty local product.
Out And About - Local Walks - Activities
There are plenty of easy walks from the village taking you through meadows and woodland and the surrounding lanes are perfect for cycling, with not too many challenging hills to climb.
A great day out is to take a Segway off road tour. The offices are by the car park and the reviews so far from our guests make this a must for a bit of fun.
Tracey & Rynardt Venter, specialising in breeding and raising magnificent Fresians, runs the Black Horses stable. You can hire a carriage ride through the landscape of the peninsula, which would make the perfect setting for romantic gestures and proposals.
A favourite is to climb high up onto Hampsfell, with its panoramic views across the Morecambe Bay, then descend down to Grange Over Sands or explore the tracks running through Eggerslack Woods. At the summit is a small, quite ornate, stone hut, built to shelter travellers. On top is a huge compass showing the fells that form your view and is the perfect spot for a picnic.
The fell also has a notable geological feature in the form of huge limestone pavements. These great sheets of stone are riddled with deep, wide fissures, which are quite wonderful to witness. If you want to explore them do be careful, as a slip could result in a sprained ankle.
A little further afield you have the coast where you can explore the edges of the bay. For me one of the finest walks in the Lake District is to set out along the shore from Arnside, on the south side of the bay. Ahead of you stretch miles of silver sand, and as the tide comes in the view is spectacular. It must be noted that the sands are hazardous, but providing you keep to the shoreline the walk is fine.
On the Grange side of the bay is Humphrey Head, a huge limestone ridge that juts out into the bay and where you can explore the rock pools for shrimp and crabs.
For golfers there are two clubs over in Grange. Grange Fell Golf Club is a nine-hole course set on the slopes above the town. The par 70 card will provide you with interesting and unique features to ensure you enjoy your visit.
The Grange-over-Sands Golf Club is a challenging parkland 18-hole golf course. It is a very pretty looking affair and welcomes visitors where you can book your time online.
About eight miles north of the village, clustered at the foot of lake Windermere, is Newby Bridge, Lakeside and Fell Foot, the National Trusts Parkland. Here you will find a couple of good inns, the Swan at Newby Bridge and, a mile further on, the Lakeside Hotel. From the here you can hop on a steamer for a trip on the lake, which winds its way for ten miles into the central fells, passing on the way Bowness, Sawrey and finishing at the Waterhead terminus near Ambleside.
Also at Lakeside is the Aquarium of the Lakes and, at nearby Backbarrow, the Lakeland Motor Museum, a vast collection of vintage and specialist cars including a replica of Donald Campbell’s Blue Bird.
At Fell Foot you can moor boats and hire row and sailing craft or simply swim and picnic by the shore. Finally, one of the best easy walks starts from Finsthwaite leading up to High Dam, a beautiful little tarn nestled in woodland and rolling fells. The perfect circular route it makes for a delightful half day, with time to include a picnic by the waters edge and for those that like wild swimming this the perfect spot.
Lake District Cottages In And Around The Cartmel Area
For more information on our collection of fine Lake District Cottages and Lake District Self Catering Holiday Homes use our Availability Search or Lake District Cottage Browsers.