The Lake District is understandably popular with tourists, but as they head to the crowded honeypot towns and villages, many of them don’t realise the treasures they’re missing in Lancashire North of the Sands.

Welcome to Lancashire North of the Sands

You won’t find a sign that points neatly to Lancashire North of the Sands but, generally speaking, it’s the areas around the Furness and Cartmel peninsulas. As spring sees the usual rush to the tourist-packed towns and villages of Lakeland, many are choosing instead to visit this less-explored corner which includes the towns of Cartmel, Grange-over-Sands, Ulverston, Barrow and Dalton.

Great British Life: Cartmel Priory. Cartmel Priory. (Image: Getty Images)

If your taste is for elegant prettiness, then Grange-over-Sands with its genteel parks, tea rooms and summer bandstand concerts ticks all the boxes. A little further along, Cartmel with its historic priory and chocolate box cottages, is perfect for luxury shopping. Take a champagne picnic along to the Cartmel races – maybe pack some of the famous Cartmel sticky toffee pudding – whether your horse wins or not, you’ll have a thoroughly good time. In July, pop along to the nearby fishing village of Flookborough for the legendary steam gathering and in August, return to Cartmel for its fantastic annual show.

If you like gatherings and festivals, then check out Ulverston: with at least a dozen each year, it’s nicknamed England’s Festival Town. The Ulverston WalkFest runs from April 27 to May 6, followed by the International Music Festival in June and a Carnival Gala in July. They like to celebrate their most famous son, too: Stan Laurel. Visit the Laurel and Hardy Museum or enjoy Another Fine Fest, a multi arts festival in June.

The Royal Society of Arts and Heritage listed Barrow as England’s number one borough for natural assets and anyone who explores its 60km of coastline will agree: there are heaps of cycle and walking trails. The sandy dunes of Sandscale Haws and Roanhead beach are teeming with wildlife and Artic and Little Tern breed on Foulney Island. Piel Island – with its castle and ‘king’, aka landlord of The Ship Inn – is reachable by ferry.

Great British Life: Dalton-in-Furness. Dalton-in-Furness. (Image: John Cocks)

Dalton also has a castle which is now owned by the National Trust. The square tower holds intriguing items, including armour and information about the painter George Romney, who is buried in the neighbouring churchyard.

A few miles away is South Lakes Wild Animal Park, one of Europe’s leading conservation zoos and well worth a visit.


Great British Life: John Atkinson, Maria Benjamin and Honeysuckle. John Atkinson, Maria Benjamin and Honeysuckle. (Image: Kirsty Thompson)

Milking it

Based in a beautifully restored cow shed on their Nibthwaite farm, The Soap Dairy uses milk from Maria’s pet Jersey cow, Honeysuckle, to craft small batch soaps; as well as using pasteurised milk for other products, such as shampoo bars for people and dogs.

‘John is my partner and his family have farmed here for centuries and farmers have always diversifie,’ Maria says. ‘We didn’t want to be reliant on farm subsidies and this was a sustainable way to make use of Honeysuckle’s extra milk.

Maria had no training when she began. ‘I am a good baker though and I figured it was similar. I learned by trial and error but mostly, it worked well and then I went on a soap making course.’

She often chooses fragrances relevant to the area such as Bog Myrtle and Greenodd Fig – inspired by a fig tree growing in the nearby village of Greenodd – although the Dawn soap has no fragrance at all, making it suitable for babies.

Great British Life: Soaps made on Nibthwaite Farm from milk produced by Honeysuckle. Soaps made on Nibthwaite Farm from milk produced by Honeysuckle. (Image: Kirsty Thompson)

‘I like to say they have been tested on farmers because if it can deal with farmers’ skin, it can help most people. John was the first brave guinea pig and now he constantly uses it.’

Later this year, Maria will be making a new range of soaps for a Grasmere business, inspired by the valleys of the Lake District: inspiration that Maria also uses for her range of throws, blankets and wools that are stocked in The Soap Dairy.

Does Honeysuckle approve of the soaps made from her milk?

‘I haven’t shown them to her, as she would eat them but I’ve told her all about it and I think she does!’


Great British Life: Tea sommelier Dorothy Stubley. Tea sommelier Dorothy Stubley. (Image: Kirsty Thompson)

Time for tea 

Dorothy Stubley, of Dorothy’s Teas, is a qualified tea sommelier.

‘It’s the same as a wine sommelier but with tea and it did involve a lot of study,’ says Dorothy who has travelled the world tasting tea and building personal relationships with growers; as well as providing advice to restaurateurs, including Simon Rogan of L’Enclume which holds three Michelin stars.

Her commitment to tea and its accessories is such that she even risked getting into trouble with the Georgian authorities.

‘I had bought a beautiful antique tea samovar in Georgia but the customs people there were, let’s say, not easy about letting it through.’

But Dorothy is not one to back down where tea is concerned and the samovar now sits in her sumptuous tea emporium, in Grange-over-Sands. Here, hundreds of loose teas – all presented in gorgeous caddies – are available to take home: from the rare Japanese Ceremonial Gyokuro to Silver Needles, the 2023 Leafies Gold Award Winner.

Later this year, Dorothy is opening a tea studio where small groups can have guided tea sessions.

‘I love sharing my knowledge,’ she adds/ ‘Tea is now a gourmet area, it’s sustainable, good for you and preparing it is a form of mindfulness.’

Dorothy also runs a tea subscription service: a pretty box containing three teas – enough for 35 cups – with tasting and preparation notes.

‘People fill in a fun quiz and I create a bespoke box for them. I’ve sent them all over the UK,’ says Dorothy who will never be found chucking a teabag into a chipped mug.


Great British Life: Chris and Donna Flowers-DorningChris and Donna Flowers-Dorning (Image: Kirsty Thompson)

The full picture

Artists, Chris and Donna “Flowers” Dorning fell in love when they both attended an art market in Preston and they now own the charming Still Life Gallery in Ulverston.

There’s a good chance you might have already seen Chris’s work. He is often commissioned to paint advertising murals in Manchester, London and Liverpool: clients have included Sony, Warner Brothers and Calvin Klein. Recently, he appeared on Sky Landscape Artist of the Year and was asked to display his work in their gallery. At the moment, his Icelandic landscapes are causing a bit of a stir in the art world.

‘Best of all though is when my art is bought, not just for investment but because clients really enjoy it,’ says Chris.

‘That’s true,’ agrees Flowers, who currently has a solo exhibition running for the next few months at the Heart Gallery in Hebden Bridge. ‘My work is smaller than Chris’s. I’m often influenced by pattern and nostalgia.’

As well as selling their work, the gallery lends itself to other uses. ‘We stock our own Still Life ethical label clothing range. It’s exciting when we see someone wearing it,’ says Chris, who also prints images of his and Flowers’ work onto throws and cushions for customers.

The gallery also accommodates life drawing classes and a group regularly meets to draw and paint, while eating pizza and having a glass of something nice.

‘Art shouldn’t be off-putting,’ says Flowers. ‘It’s enjoyable whether you’re making it, buying it or simply looking at it,’


Great British Life: Holker HallHolker Hall (Image: Getty)

Holker Hall and Gardens, Grange-over-Sands

This stunning stately home, which re-opened on March 20, has magnificent interiors and unmissable gardens. It will hold a family Easter weekend, with a production of Malice in Wonderland and, for those who like their chocolate bitter, there’s an After Dark Murder Mystery.

South Walney Nature Reserve, Walney Island

South Walney Nature Reserve, managed by Cumbria Wildlife Trust. is super for walking and bird watching: this time of year is perfect for seeing courting eider ducks. It’s famously home to a grey seal colony too but if you just can’t wait, you can watch them now on the live webcam.

The Buddhist Centre at Conishead Priory

Located within the magnificent surroundings of Conishead Priory, day visitors – and their dogs – can explore the enchanting 70 acres of grounds. The Temple is open to visitors, to either explore or to join in a guided meditation. The vegetarian café serves light meals and cakes.

The Dock Museum, Barrow

A finalist in the Small Visitor Attraction Cumbrian Tourist Awards and built in a historic dock, there is plenty to see here. It tells the history of the area and explores its long association with ship building. A café is on site and, for little ones, a sea-themed playground. Their model of the ocean liner TSS Oriana was one of the items featured in our History of Lancashire in 70 Objects.


Great British Life: Stone Cross MansionStone Cross Mansion (Image: Stone Cross Mansion)

Stone Cross Mansion, Ulverston

A recently-converted Victorian mansion, surrounded by attractive grounds, housing 19 large holiday apartments. Retaining many original features, they have all been individually designed, with each one named after a family member of the original owners. Dogs are welcome in selected apartments.

Great British Life: Clare HouseClare House (Image: Carl Sukonik)

Clare House, Grange-over-Sands

A family-run hotel, with an acre of pretty gardens and uninterrupted views over Morecambe Bay. It has won many accolades, including the rare AA Inspector’s Choice Two Red Star Award and the AA Rosette Award for its food.

Great British Life: The Netherwood Hotel and SpaThe Netherwood Hotel and Spa (Image: The Netherwood Hotel)

Netherwood Hotel and Spa, Grange-over-Sands

A Victorian manor with 28 rooms and some standalone self-catering properties. The rooms have a choice of views: Brown Robin Nature reserve or Morecambe Bay. The luxurious spa offers a range of treatments, including a thermal spa.