5 things to love about Cartmel
- Credit: Kirsty Thompson
The enchanting village on the southern edge of the Lake District is packed with good things
Don’t expect to find chain or department stores in Cartmel. The retail experience is very much centred on the independently owned shops, located in and around the charming town square.
People have been shopping here for centuries – the original fish slabs would once have been surrounded by medieval villagers eyeing up the catch of the day. Fish is no longer sold on the slabs but there is plenty to satisfy today’s discerning shopper: after all, there aren’t many places where a quail egg top cutter can be found, but Cartmel is one of them.
Lifestyle, vintage and interior design shops sell a delightful selection of everything decorative from candelabra and scarves to jewellery and wooden toys. There’s also a stylish gallery and a quaint antiquarian bookstore, as well as an eclectic craft centre.
Cartmel has established itself as a destination for foodies, helped along by the fact that, for 20 years, it has been home to a much-celebrated restaurant: Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume. Awarded an exceptional three Michelin stars, much of the food comes from Simon’s own farm. A short distance away is Simon’s second restaurant, Rogan & Co, a neighbourhood restaurant offering a more relaxed dining experience.
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The village has historic pubs that make great places to enjoy a bite to eat – real fires burn on chilly days – as well a choice of coffee shops. Unsworth’s Yard, a collection of artisan producers, is a gourmet’s dream. Sit in the pretty landscaped courtyard and enjoy your purchases including a pint from Unsworth Yard Brewery, wine from The Drink Shop or cheese from Cartmel Cheeses. Cartmel Cheeses also provides handmade pizza on Friday and Saturday evenings from March to October, sometimes with a side of musical entertainment.
Don’t leave without a trip to The Village Shop, in order to pick up a famous Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding. They began making them in the shop’s kitchen 20 years ago and it’s still handmade.
According to the earliest written account, races have been taking place in this gorgeous setting since 1856, although tradition suggests that it has been going on for a lot longer than that: since monks raced their mules here centuries ago.
Today, only National Hunt racing is held, from the end of May to the end of August, when the Cartmel Cup takes place. There is always a jolly atmosphere – funfairs and eatables – although visitors are welcome to bring their own hamper or even a barbeque. It’s dog and family friendly too.
There will be racing on July 16 and 18, the Cartmel Cup will be held on August 27 and the season finale will be staged on August 29.
Situated in the middle of the village, this important building – described by Simon Jenkins as, ‘The most beautiful church in the North West’ – is hard to miss. Founded in 1189, it has a turbulent history involving upheaval and bloodshed at the hands of Robert the Bruce and Henry VIII.
There are highlights, myths and legends to discover: explore by yourself or take a guided tour when Covid restrictions allow. Musical and dramatic events take place here too, so it’s always worth checking the events diary.
Whether you prefer to stroll around in kitten heels or to pull on walking boots, there will be a route to suit. There is plenty to see around the village: pretty cottages, Georgian buildings and the streams that meander through it. Explore the Priory, spot the rare 1920s advertising sign, pass through the Priory Gatehouse and inspect the fish slabs and market cross.
Several long-distance walks pass through the area such as The Cistercian Way and The Furness Way or maybe walk to nearby Holker Hall or Grange-Over-Sands. Hampsfell is the highest point on the Cartmel Peninsula – look out for Hampsfell Hospice. It’s a shelter for sojourners, built in 1846, with poetry inscribed on its walls and tremendous views over Morecambe Bay.