A day in Cartmel


Last Thursday, was a special birthday for J . After most of May had been cold and wet, we woke up to a warm sunny morning and a blue sky. Someone was smiling on her!

We’d planned to go out for the day with a special family dinner time (midday up here!) meal booked in Rogan’s bistro in Cartmel. So after J had opened her presents everyone got ready and we set off up the M6.

It was a beautiful day in Cartmel and as we had 30 minutes or so before our booking, we had a short stroll around the village. There were quite a few people around enjoying the sunshine and it seemed that some had arrived a couple of days early before the traditional Whit race meeting which started on Saturday. Spectators were allowed this year.

The village shop
Cartmel Priory church

Then on to the bistro

Rogan and Co. is branded as the “relaxed neighbourhood restaurant in the magical village of Cartmel“and is part of the culinary empire of Simon Rogan which includes L’Enclume, which is just round the corner, and which featured in second episode of series one of The Trip which starred Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon.  L’Enclume would have been pushing the budget a bit, but Rogan and Co., with it’s Michelin Star, was still a special birthday experience.

All the courses were nicely presented and were very tasty. These were my choices

Non-alcoholic G & T
Freshly baked bread
Roasted lamb, pickled jasmine, pea & mint – chunks of lamb shoulder immersed in a pea based sauce (veloute?)
Roasted skate wing, asparagus, turnip & mussel cream
Mascarpone sponge, gooseberry, yoghurt & woodruff
Fudge, accompanying the after dinner coffee
J’ pud – Dark chocolate fondant, celery milk & maldon sea salt

After I settled the bill, feeling full, but not over stuffed (the sign of a well balanced meal) we went for another wander around the viallge, across the racecourse and through the woods, making the most of the start of summer – especially as we’d been rather starved of sunshine during May this year.

The former Priory gate house
The old village lock up

Grange to Cartmel and Cark

After several weeks of grey and damp conditions we finally have had a few days of sunny, but cold (!) weather. I had to take advantage of it to get in at least one walk.

I decided to avoid driving so took the train over to Grange over Sands for a walk I’d planned that would take me to Cark via Cartmel, where we’d stopped earlier in the year. From the train station in Grange I set off up the hill towards Eggerslack woods.


In the past, these old decidious woodlands – with Ash, Hazel, Sycamore, Birch, Larch and Yew – were coppiced to provide bobbins for the textile mills and wood for charcoal burning.

“Eggerslack” comes from the Norse word ‘eiger’ (which means ‘bore’, or incoming tide) and ‘slack’ highest point reached by the tide  – and this was the case before the railway embankment was built in 1857, when Grange became developed as a seaside resort.

I carried on through the woods and then passed through the stile onto Hampsfell


with it’s stretches of limestone pavement.


I soon approached the Hospice – a folly that the Pastor of Cartmel had built in 1846 “for the shelter and entertainment of travellers”.


On a clear day like today there were extensive views in every direction – over to the Coniston Fells


(here’s a close up)


The Eastern fells of the Lake District


Over to the howgill Fells, across Morecambe Bay (there’s Ingleborough in the distance)


I stopped for a brew and a bite to eat and then carried on along the fell. Looking back towards the Hospice


and then started to make my way down the hill to Cartmel


I walked through the pleasant, small village passing the Priory


through the main square


and across the Race Course.


Walking through the fields – the ground in the shadows was still frosty


There’s my next objective, the modest hill of Howbarrow


Reaching the summit


more magnificent views over very attractive countryside to the Lakeland Fells


and Morecambe Bay


After a rest to soak up the views I set of down the hill.

Looking back


Then I took the path through the woods


Looking over the fields to the Bay


There’s Hampsfell


I followed the path and the minor roads until I reached the small village of Cark


passing Cark Hall


I made my way through the village towards the train station. There was a little time before the train was due, so I walked a little further along the road to Flookburgh


then back to the train station. There’s a direct train from Barrow to Manchester airport every couple of hours which stops at Wigan North Western, so I didn’t need to change at Lancaster. That was handy on a cold day as there was no need to wait on a cold platform for the connection.


I grabbed a few shots from the train over Morecambe Bay as the sun started to set

Holker Hall


For our last full day in Cartmel we decided to visit Holker Hall, the local stateley home. We’d had a long day the day before so had a little lie in and so only set out after 11 o’clock. We could have driven to the Hall but it was another fine day and it was only a couple of miles away so we decided to go on foot – a little less carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere!


The building dates from the 16th century, and so originally Jacobean in style, but there have been substantial alterations and additions over the years, especially during the 18th and 19th centuries. There was a major fire in 1871 which destroyed the west wing and most of it’s contents, in 1871. It was rebuilt in an “Jacobean revival” style.

The land on which the house stands was originally owned by Cartmel Priory but following the dissolution of the monasteries during the reign of Henry VIII it was bought by the Preston family, who were local landowners. Through marriage the estate passed to the Lowther family and then to the Cavendish, the same family as the Dukes of Devonshire. Today the older part of the house is occupied by Lucy Carrington, the daughter of Lord Cavendish, the Tory peer.Like Chatsworth, the home of their relatives, the rest of the house and most of the grounds are open to the public – for a fee, of course!

We started by exploring the house. The west wing, although still used by the family, is open to the public. Lucy Cavendish lives in the older part of the house which is “out of bounds”.

This is the Library on the ground floor – a large display of books being de-rigueur for all grand houses. I wonder how many were actually read? I bet many f them were just on display to show how cultured the owners were!


One particularly fascinating exhibit here, for me, were the microscope that had been owned and used by the brilliant, but eccentric, scientist, Henry Cavendish (I’m sure he was on the autistic spectrum). Couldn’t avoid reflections, unfortunately.


The Drawing Room


The dining room – the painting over the fireplace is a self portrait by Van Dyke


The main staircase. All the carvings in the rebuilt wing were created by local craftsmen.


Upstairs – the Long Gallery, a recreation of a typical feature of grand Elizabethan and Jacobean houses


The Wedgewood Bedroom


Named after the collection of blue and white Wedgwood Jasper ware in the Dressing Room.


One of the grand bedrooms


“Queen Mary’s bedroom” – where the wife of King George VI stayed when she visited in 1937


Then we explored the gardens. They are very extensive – 23 acres with a series of formal gardens set within a more informal landscape and woodland – and we really didn’t have enough time to see everything. But on a sunny Spring day, with flowers and blossom coming into bloom, we enjoyed wandering around.


We stayed almost to closing time and then headed back towards Cartmel through the pleasant countryside, with a good view towards Hampsfell


A walk around Cartmel

Our first full day staying in Cartmel, we decided to get out for a walk. Our cottage was at the foot of the limestone ridge of Hampsfell, so we set out on the path which ran right past our front door and which would take us across the fields and up the hill.


As we climbed, looking back, we could see the group of buildings where we were staying


It didn’t take too long before we started to approach the top of the ridge which is covered by an expanse of limestone pavement


It was windy on top of the ridge and given the ways the trees had grown, it clearly usually is!


Walking along the ridge Hampsfell Hospice came into view


The building of the folly was commissioned by the pastor of Cartmel “for the shelter and entertainment of travellers” in 1846.


It commands 360 degree views over to the high Lakeland fells to the north and Morecambe Bay to the south, particularly from the roof, which can be accessed by climbing some rather precarious stone steps.


We stopped for a while, sheltering from the wind while we had a bite to eat and taking in the views. Long range visibility wasn’t too good but we could still make out the fells in the distance.


and over the Bay – although the tide was out revealing the extensive sands and mudflats


Looking down to Cartmel


After our break we set off again walking along the ridge. Passing other walkers, as is usual, we exchanged greetings with other walkers and a couple of fell runners. Then I heard a shout a short distance away. Someone wanted to speak to us so we waited and were joined by an elderly lady. She asked where we were heading and as we were taking the same path she asked whether we minded if she joined us and if we might help her to climb a difficult stile on the descent. Of course we agreed. As we walked we chatted and it transpired that this sprightly lady was 86 years old. She had always been a keen walker and was still getting out and about, today having walked up from Kents Bank, a good few miles away. When we reached the stile she got over without any assistance but we were there to provide reassurance and help to arrest a fall in case she slipped.

Here she is on the left of the photo


We continued down hill with her, enjoying her company, chatting and exchanging experiences. Reaching the bottom of the hill we continued in the direction of Cartmel and parted company when we reached a cemetery where her husband, who had died only 2 years before, was buried. She was going to visit his grave. We said our goodbyes and continued on. A chance encounter on the hills which had been a rather lovely experience. I hope I’m as efit and energetic as this lovely lady and able to get out on the fells when I’m 86 (no! I’ve a few more years to go!)


Another mile or so along a quiet road and we reached Cartmel in the early afternoon and we decided it was a good time to stop and have a brew! Refreshed, we decided to continue our walk, heading across the racecourse and along the tracks through the woods and fields towards another hill, Howbarrow to the west of the small town.


After a stiff climb we reached the summit of Howbarrow


It’s a modest hill, only 558 feet high, but we were again greeted by extensive views over the Bay (the tide now in) and over to the Fells


Looking over the Leven estuary


My photos across the bay didn’t come out so good as the light had turned flat and grey and we were looking into the sun.


We had several options to return to Cartmel, all a little convoluted, which tested my rusty map reading skills. Our route took us through pleasant countryside of green fields and woodland


and small groups of farms and other buildings


Eventually returning to, and crossing, the racecourse


(not sure I’d have been able to clear the fences!)


We returned to the village to pick up a few supplies from the small, but well stocked, convenience store, before heading back to our accommodation.

A good “figure of 8” walk, about 10 miles in length but not too taxing.

Spring Break


It’s been a long haul from Christmas this year with Easter being so late – I wish they’d fix the date! So I was glad to be able to take a week off work last week to go away for a few days. We found ourselves a cottage for 4 nights just outside Cartmel at the foot of Hampsfell.

Cartmel is a small, attractive village to the north of the treacherous sands of Morecambe Bay, which is something of a “honeypot” with an old Priory church, old houses and other buildings, a number of touristy shops, a Michelin 2 star restaurant, four pubs and the smallest racecourse in the UK. The village is just to the south of the Lake District National Park, although our cottage, one of a small group of properties, was just inside the National Park boundary. Historically the Cartmel peninsula, together with nearby Furness, the other side of the Leven estuary, were part of Lancashire. Cut off from the rest of the county the area was often known as “Lancashire over the sands”. Following local government reorganisation in 1974 it was absorbed by the newly created county of Cumbria.

This old map shows the pre-1974 county boundaries and includes the area north of Morecambe Bay which is now incorporated into Cumbria.

Image result for old map of lancashire

Although seemingly cut off from the rest of the county the area was accessed via routes over the sands of Morecambe Bay. The tide recedes from the bay leaving behind a vast area of sand and mudflats criss-crossed by a number of river channels and notorious for it’s quicksands. Until the Furness railway was opened in 1857, crossing the sands was a major route of communication. It was a dangerous crossing, though, and many people were trapped by quicksands and a rapidly rising tide, losing their lives. According to Wikipedia Cartmel apparently means “sandbank by rocky ground“, from the Old Norse kartr (rocky ground) and melr, reflecting it’s location a few miles north of the bay.

We were lucky to have some decent weather – cool, but sunny – so managed to have a good break taking in some walks, a visit to a stately home and even some art! So, lots to write up, but for a starter here’s a few photos we took in and around the village and our cottage.



Cartmel Priory


It was a rather grim day as we left Portiscale at the end of our holiday, but rather than drive straight home we decided to extent our break stopping off at Blackwell to take a look at the latest exhibition showing there and then driving down to Cartmel. I’d been there during a recent walk, but wanted to have a proper look around.

Cartmel is a small, attractive village on the Furness peninsula which is something of a “honeypot” with a number of touristy shops (although good quality ones) a Michelin 2 star restaurant, three pubs and is also renowned for sticky toffee pudding. Despite the weather, it was very busy with visitors.

We parked up at the Racecourse and made our way towards the centre of the village. We wanted to take a look around the old Priory church which dominates the village which was originally part of a monastery. Like many old churches it evolved over many years and although mainly Gothic in style there are some Norman / Romanesque features.

The tower is particularly interesting – the top half having been constructed diagonally across the original tower.  There’s not another one like this in the UK.


(I took this photo during my previous visit when it was hot and sunny and the light was much better for photography)

The priory was founded in 1190 with extensive work curing the next couple of centuries. The oldest parts of the building are the chancel, transepts, the south doorway, and part of the north wall of the nave.

After the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536 the church survived as it was used as the village Parish church. Little else of the monastery remains other than the gatehouse in the village square which is now owned by the National Trust.

We entered via the south door which is inside a much later porch


The semi-circular arch with its decorations is very typical of Norman/Romanesque architecture.

Looking down the Choir from the nave. Classic Gothic pointed arches


in the north aisle


and supporting that eccentric tower


but round Norman style arches with dog-tooth decoration in the Choir


The choir stalls look like they could be Elizabethan or Jacobean


The old font, dating from 1640


A monument to the “Cartmel martyrs” who resisted the destruction of the church during the Dissolution of the monasteries.


Monuments by the sculptor Josefina de Vasconcellos, an English sculptor with a Brazilian father and British mother, who lived in Cumbria much of her working life.



The Cavendish memorial. The tomb of Lord Frederick Cavendish, son of the 7th Duke of Devonshire, who was Chief Secretary to Ireland in Gladstone’s government, and who was assassinated by Fenians in Phoenix Park in Dublin in 1882.


The Cavendishes, a branch of the Duke of Devonshire’s family, are the local big wigs. Nearby Holker Hall is their ancestral home and they own property around Cartmel including the racecourse.


Browsing on the web after the visit, I came across this interesting clip on the BBC website where Nicholas Pevsner visits the Priory and discusses its architecture.