All you need to know about Grange over Sands
PUBLISHED: 00:00 10 October 2014 | UPDATED: 09:35 10 October 2014
Like a good cabbie who knows his way around town, Paul Mackenzie takes us on a tour of Grange over Sands, an ever popular resort at the top end of Morecambe Bay.
History in brief
Grange or Graunge is a French word meaning granary and the monks of nearby Cartmel Priory stored their grain here until Henry VIII dissolved England’s monasteries in 1536. Until the coastal railway arrived in 1857 Grange was a quiet and undeveloped fishing village. The coming of the railway brought wealthy industrialists from Lancashire and Yorkshire, keen to breathe in the bracing coastal air. They built fine houses, hotels and grand terraces many of which are still standing.
Three things to do:
1. Stroll along the famous mile-long prom prom prom which has ever-changing views across Morecambe Bay and while you enjoy the scenery you can take the edge off the autumnal sea breeze with a warming portion of fish and chips. Relax in Grange’s beautiful ornamental gardens which date back to 1865. There’s a fountain at the centre and almost always ducks and geese to feed.
2. Explore the range of largely independent shops which are staffed by some of the friendliest shopkeepers you’ll find anywhere. Shops line a few streets of the linear town and there’s not much you won’t be able to find here – with food shops, book shops, gift shops and others selling just about everything you could need. Many of the shops around Grange have been fixtures in the town for decades while a few newer additions in recent years have ensured that the shopping areas remain vibrant.
3. Walk to Hampsfield Hospice, a shelter for travellers at the top of Hampsfell which was commissioned by the pastor of Cartmel in 1846. It’ll take about half an hour and on a clear day you’ll be able to see over the Lakeland fells, Morecambe Bay, Chapel Island, the Yorkshire Dales and even Blackpool Tower.
One thing we’re not short of in Lancashire is water and in Flookburgh, a couple of miles west of Grange, they make good use of the stuff that falls out of the sky. Cartmel Fell was once covered with forests of bush willow and when they died they created a layer of peat rich in minerals.
Rain which falls on the fell filters through the peat and limestone and has been popular with thirsty people in this area for centuries. Augustinian monks at Cartmel Priory in the 12th century drank the water from the Holy Well at Humphrey Head and now water from the same source is bottled at a factory in Flookburgh and sold under the name Willow Water.
Over hundreds of years the water developed a reputation for curing all manner of diseases but in more recent times the spring was overlooked and overgrown. Tests conducted since the company was launched just over a decade ago have shown the water contains high levels of calcium and salicin, a natural form of pain relief.
Top of the shops
Grange does shops well but few shops do as well as Higginsons butchers. Stuart and Pauline Higginson opened the shop a fortnight after the birth of their third child just over 30 years ago and have since amassed almost as many awards and plaudits as they have sold sausages. And they have sold a lot of sausages. But although the shop on Main Street sells plenty of traditional tasty treats and quality local meat, they also stock some rather more innovative lines such a celebration pies and pork pie wedding cakes. Much of the meat in the recently refurbished shop once grazed fields just a short walk from the counter but since they relaunched their website it has been easier to satisfy the demand of customers from all corner of the UK.
Around the world and back to Grange in seven simple steps
The fresh clean air and spring water at Grange were once thought to be benefit to sufferers of tuberculosis
As well as causing millions of deaths, the extremely unpleasant condition ended the football career of aspiring young Algerian goalkeeper Albert Camus
He recovered and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957 but died in a car crash on January 4, 1960
On that day a European Free Trade Association was signed (as you’ll probably recall) and REM singer Michael Stipe was born in Decatur, Georgia
The town is twinned with Boussé and Ouahigouya in Burkina Faso and Trujillo in Peru, an historic city which was largely destroyed by an earthquake in 1619
Also that year many influential families in Yorkshire and Lancashire converted to Roman Catholicism after visits from the Bendictine monk Richard Huddleston
He had been born at Farington Hall near Leyland and was sent to school at Grange, then a small fishing village where those in the know enjoyed drinking the spring water.
Where to eat
There are cafes and tearooms around the town, many of them selling scrumptious locally made produce. The most famous, the Hazlemere Café and Bakery opened in 1897 and can be found at the eastern end of Grange. It is a former winner of the Top Tea Place of the Year award and it’s not hard to see why. There is always a selection of more than 30 different cakes to choose from and even more varieties of tea. There are plenty of other options around Grange and just up the road at Strawberry Bank, the Mason’s Arms is a former winner of the Lancashire Life dining pub of the year award.
Where to drink
Lancashire North of the Sands, or the area more commonly known as the south Lakes, has no shortage of places to enjoy good beer. In Grange itself the Keg and Kitchen serves ales from the brewery at Unsworth’s Yard in Cartmel and the Commodore also has a range of real ales.
Slightly further afield, the Lindale Inn at Lindale is popular and a couple of miles away at Cartmel, the Pig and Whistle, run by Michelin-starred chef Simon Rogan, and the Rose and Crown are both worth a visit too.
Where to stay
Writer Bill Bryson listed Grange as one of his favourite short break destinations in the UK and plenty of people agree with him. There is lots of bed and breakfast accommodation and an impressive choice of hotels. We particularly like the imposing four star Grange Hotel at the eastern end of the town and the nearby Netherwood Hotel which has gorgeous gardens and spectacular views across the bay.
The history of Holker Hall goes back to the early 16th century but it has never been bought or sold. The hall has belonged to the Preston, the Lowther and the Cavendish families, all related by marriage. The Cavendish family took up residence in 1756 when Sir William Lowther died unmarried and left Holker to his first cousin Lord George Augustus Cavendish, the second son of the third Duke of Devonshire.
In 1871 the entire west wing was destroyed by fire and many wonderful paintings, portraits, pieces of furniture and valuable books were lost. It was rebuilt on the same site with a new bow window, high roof with dormer windows, square parapeted tower and a copper cupola.
The Priory Church of St Mary and St Michael, at Cartmel just a few miles away from Grange, was founded as a priory for the regular canons of St Augustine and has been a focus for Christian worship for more than 800 years.
Cartmel racecourse, owned by Lord Cavendish, holds meetings on six days a year.
Although Cartmel is only small, the village has four pubs as well as Unsworth’s Yard, the Michelin starred L’Enclume restaurant, a tearoom and plenty of beautiful places to have a picnic.
Where is it?
Grange stands on the B5277 north of Morecambe Bay. Take the M6 to j36 then follow the A590. Typing LA11 6AA should take you to the town centre. There are regular trains and the station is just a short walk from the shops, cafes and attractions.
More information: Grange-over-Sands Tourist Information Centre, 015395 34026, grangeoversandstowncouncil.gov.uk.