7 reasons to visit Cartmel

PUBLISHED: 00:00 17 March 2020

Cartmel (c) Sandy Kitching

Cartmel (c) Sandy Kitching

Sandy Kitching

For a village of fewer than 5,000 people, Cartmel has more than its fair share of premium attractions.

Place of wonder

At the heart of the village is Cartmel Priory, founded in 1188 by William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, and England's greatest knight. The priory survived a sacking by Robert the Bruce in 1322 and was spared at the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1537 because it doubled as the local parish church, even though four monks and 10 laymen were hanged, drawn and quartered at Lancaster for treason.

The priory retains much of its 14th century architecture and some late 12th century and 13th century features, including beautiful stained glass windows. It is also known for its modern sculptures and ancient choir stalls.

This year the priory is celebrating the 600th anniversary of the installation of the Great East Window, described as the priory's 'greatest architectural glory'.

'For 600 years this marvel of workmanship, engineering and piety has been flooding the high altar with light. Much of the original glass has gone but the drama of one of Cumbria's man-made wonders endures,' says Mike Gibbons, a Cartmel resident who has a stunning view of the east window from his house.

Raise a glass

Directly opposite the priory is Unsworth's Yard, opened in January 2012 by brothers Peter and David Unsworth, on the site of their family's haulage and garage business which had operated continuously since 1922.

Peter runs Unsworth's Yard Brewery which operates an all-stainless steel plant which produces enough beer to supply casks, as permanent house beers, to a number of Cartmel Peninsula pubs and restaurants. The brewery also welcomes visitors to its small tap room bar where beer can be bought or sampled in full view of the brewing vessels and process.

David runs Cartmel Drinkshop & Snug for those who prefer wines and cocktails and the yard is also home to Cartmel Cheeses and its associated bakery shop, owned and run by Ian Robinson.

From March to October Cartmel Cheeses serves stone-baked pizzas every Friday and Saturday.

World's best

At the end of last year Simon Rogan's L'Enclume restaurant was one of only two restaurants in Britain named in the best 20 in the world by website, Trip Advisor.

L'Enclume also holds two Michelin stars, five AA Rosettes and was named the number one restaurant in the UK by The Good Food Guide 2020.

Rogan has really taken to the village, adding other outlets to his empire and setting up a farm for his signature fresh vegetables on the outskirts. 'Ingredients that change with the seasons inspire my menu development and ensure a truly traceable dining experience reflecting my farm to table philosophy,' he says.

Opened in 2002, the name of the restaurant, meaning 'anvil', is homage to the former blacksmith's workshop it is located within.

Just desserts

There were sticky toffee puddings before - notably at Ullswater's Sharrow Bay and Windermere's Miller Howe hotels - but it is Cartmel's variety that has taken over the world.

It was developed by Howard and Jean Johns, who first came to Cartmel in 1971 to run the King's Arms in the square. They took over a struggling Cartmel Village Shop in 1989. Howard was the postmaster and Jean started making food for the self-catering market, but it wasn't long before up-market grocers came knocking.

The couple made just 25 a week to start with. They now employ 20 people who make a million a year that sell all over the globe and use 70 gallons of cream, 300 kilos of butter and 250 kilos of eggs every day. The couple have now retired but daughter Sarah and her husband David still run the shop, with a cafe upstairs and a roaring business in freshly baked delicatessen type food, and son Simon who studied catering at Kendal College, runs the company.

The company has expanded its product range with ginger, chocolate and banana puddings, apple crumble and Festive Sticky Figgy Pudding, and others, but 90% of sales are still of the sticky toffee pudding variety.

A neat segway

Run by Wayne and Ann Riches, both Bolton born-and-bred, Lakeland Segway was winner of the Cumbria Tourism Visitor Experience of the Year award just two years after they moved the business from Hawkshead to Cartmel.

Segways are battery powered and can reach speeds of 12-and-a-half miles an hour. After initial training, customers go on a guided tour of the Cartmel peninsula, on a scenic route through the Holker Estate to Cark-in-Cartmel, which can mean negotiating bumpy paths and grasslands.

More experienced users can go on an adventure challenge through the woods.

The firm has already branched out into electric bicycles and archery, and soon will be running high-tech treasure hunts, involving solving puzzles through augmented reality on i-pads.

Hall star home

Although technically in the neighbouring settlement of Cark in Cartmel, Holker Hall and Gardens, the long-standing home of the Cavendish family, extends right to Cartmel's edge and its links are stamped onto numerous establishments, like the Cavendish Arms.

Holker is currently the home of Lucy Cavendish and her husband Tor McLaren, who welcome visitors during the season which this year kicks off on March 20th and remains open until November 8th.

The earliest records of a house on the present site date back to the beginning of the 16th century. Built in red sandstone, it was described by Pevsner as the best Elizabethan Gothic in the north of England.

Visitors enjoy the spectacular Elizabethan architecture, a library containing a collection of 3,500 books, and classic furniture. The gardens include trees surviving from as early as the 1750s.

At the races

Cartmel Racecourse is often dubbed the prettiest small racecourse in Britain. Racing at Cartmel was started by the monks from Cartmel Priory in the 12th century.

Cartmel only stages National Hunt (jump) racing. There are nine fixtures in the calendar, commencing on the Whit Holiday weekend in May and running through the August Bank Holiday weekend. Cartmel's most valuable race, the Cumbria Crystal Cup is staged during the July meeting.

The course is a sharp and narrow left-handed oval, with the home straight unusually veering off to dissect the main oval. The main circuit measures just over one mile and one furlong with the run-in (from the last fence to the finish line) the longest in the country at just over four furlongs.

The June meeting also features a concert and on June 26th, award-winning singer-songwriter David Gray will perform following a full day of racing.

Comments have been disabled on this article.

Latest from the Lancashire Life