I can’t believe I’ve made it to blog post 100. So it’s quite apt the place I’m blogging
about is my favourite place in Cumbria – Cartmel.
We’ve been to Cartmel before just on day trips, however we’d
always promised ourselves to stay here.
So this year I booked Holly Cottage for late September, which is always a
tricky time weather wise.
Getting to Cartmel is straightforward from Manchester – M61,
M6 and A590. Once you turn off the A590
to Cartmel it’s just country roads, not even B roads. You do have to have your wits about you as
there are twists and turns and the roads narrow on occasion. I was nervous the first few times driving on
these roads, but once you get used to them they are easier to navigate.
Our cottage was on the edge of Cartmel near Cartmel
Priory. It’s a beautiful location and
the cottage overlooks a field. The only problem
was that it only had on-street parking and Cartmel can be really busy
especially as the Michelin starred restaurant L’Enclume was just down the
road. A couple of times we had to park
on the main road because of this situation.
The cottage itself was compact, but catered for our needs
except it didn’t have Wi-Fi. We didn’t
realise that getting a mobile phone signal for the O2 network was
impossible. According the shop assistant
in the Cartmel Village Shop you can only get Orange and Vodafone in
Cartmel. So it meant that I had to use a
payphone for the first time this century to call my Mum. We kept seeing people traipse up the hill
with mobiles in hand desperate for a signal.
Although the Royal Oak and the Kings Arms do have free Wi-Fi, so we
ended up spending every night in the pub just to connect to the virtual world. I found it quite liberating to have an
enforced digital detox, whilst Neil went through digital cold turkey.
Before you ask we didn’t go to L’Enclume restaurant. We both have a few food issues and the
restaurant doesn’t have a regular set menu.
Anyway you need to book months in advance to get a table. They do have a more accessible restaurant
called Rogan’s which is highly recommended by my best friend, but food issues
again meant we didn’t try it. However we
did make friends with L’Enclume’s resident ginger cat called Ben. On the previous occasions we had seen Ben the
cat, but we only knew him as the Cartmel cat.
We googled him and found out his name and history. Ben is getting old now and seems to have lost
some of his teeth as his tongue protrudes from his mouth. He did seem a little miserable when we were petting
him when he was curled up on the cottage door mat. However he seemed to be ‘on’ when he was sat
on the window ledge of the cottage and he was happy to be stroked there. He has a chilled out personality, but I
always think ginger cats have a more outgoing personality than the average cat.
We ate at the Kings Arms and Royal Oak pubs. Both the pubs have the same owner and they
offer 10% discount if you get a discount card from the bar. I guess it’s to ensure the locals eat here
regularly. I have to say the steak and
ale pie from the Kings Arms was the best I’ve ever had. My only complaint is that in both pubs they seemed
to have some over eager members of staff.
At times I just wanted to say ‘will you just back off!’ I did manage to annoy one of the staff by
interrupting him mid spiel to ask about the wine. This really threw him and he tried to put me
in my place by saying I will get to that.
That’s when I turned on the nuclear winter mode as I thought there was a
hint of sexism in his tone. Still the
food was fine.
The Kings Arms really trades on its food and you really
can’t drink at the tables until food service has finished. They had a general knowledge quiz one night
and surprisingly as there were no music questions we came 3rd. On
the Saturday night it had a covers band on and I’m surprised they could fit it
in, although there was a friendly bouncer on the door who seemed to be in his
60s. He was telling customers about the
times he used to do the door in Barrow.
Bouncing in Cartmel must be a walk in the park in comparison. It really is a cosy pub and it mixes
traditional pub with modern touches. The
Royal Oak is a much more traditional pub with its open fires and low beams.
However the Kings Arms edges itself into the best pub in Cartmel position.
There are two other pubs in Cartmel – the Cavendish Arms and
the Pig and Whistle. We never made it to
the Cavendish Arms as it always seemed empty.
On the other hand we made it to the Pig and Whistle several times. It’s owned by the L’Enclume and they do
food. However we never got round to
eating here. We just had drinks although
they did seem to have problems with the beer pumps as all the beer we had
tasted of cider. We ended up just having
bottled beer. This pub is dog friendly
and we met a few pooches on our visits.
One retriever got excited when I walk through the door and jumped up at
me. Thankfully I’m used to
over-exuberance from dogs as they always seem to like me, just a little too
much at times. One night there was an
open-mic night for musicians. There was
an American bloke singing early Bruce Springsteen songs sounding remarkably
like him, but looking nothing like him.
This pub attracted a much younger clientele who seemed to be on some
sort of mission, even the bar staff. One
of the bar staff was an actor and had just got a part in a Sky Arts drama. A London lady who sounded like Minnie Driver was
permanently perched at the end of the bar holding court with the young professionals.
The shops in Cartmel weren’t your average shops. The only real local shop for residents was
the Londis. Cartmel Cheeses doubled as a
bakery and I bought the most amazing Danish I’ve ever had. Although Neil couldn’t bear going near the
place as he hates the smell of cheese and believe me it smelt really
cheesey. There was a wine shop that also
doubled as a kitchenware supplier. The
Cartmel Village shop is full of food gift items and of course home of the world
famous Cartmel Sticky Toffee pudding. I
found the best brown sauce ever by Hawkshead Relish, it’s even better than HP
There was an antiques fair at the local community centre,
which we had to pay to get in. I didn’t
find anything, although I was thinking this antiques fair was a rouse by the
local pensioners to sell their bric-a-brac to top up their pensions. There were signs across Cumbria promoting it
and I was surprised they said it was just for a few days. I bet it’s on throughout the year.
There is a river running through the village and young families
would feed the ducks between Rogan’s and the Kings Arms. At times it was like a duck riot going on and
you could hear them quacking in the pub.
I think the ducks should have been nervous as Rogan’s did serve duck on
Cartmel Priory was just across from where we were staying. It’s a beautiful building and when we
wandered through it was full of old ladies preparing for Harvest festival celebrations. It’s lovely to see a community come together,
especially as they were trying to raise money to repair the roof of this lovely
church. The only problem with the church
was the fact the clock chimed every hour of the day. Neil kept waking up either at 3am or 4am
because of the bongs.
All in all Cartmel is about the loveliest place in Cumbria. Grasmere
is nice too, but overrun with tourists. Cockermouth is fab, but a pain to get
to. Whereas Cartmel is just picture
postcard perfect, handy to get to and set in a beautiful part of the world
where you can actually see the stars at night – well worth a stay!