Named one of the world’s prettiest villages by the New York Times, Cartmel could have walked right out of a storybook. It is picture perfect and well worth a visit. But very, very small! Off-hand, I’d say there are under 15 businesses in the village centre- that would include shops, restaurants, hotels and, oh yes, a spa. But don’t be deceived into thinking there’s not much to do- I actually went back on 2 consecutive days because I didn’t plan well!
It’s difficult to find a photo that does Cartmel justice, as it’s really seeing all the buildings together that makes it so gorgeous. So I’ve chickened out of the challenge and am just using a signpost photo 😛
Cartmel is full of beautiful houses like this one!
Cartmel is very, very quaint- Cartmel Coffee, for example, was closed by 4 pm!- so a spot of planning is needed before you go to make the most of your day- vital if you don’t have a car! Here’s my recommended itinerary- I’m assuming you’re based in the Grange and setting off on a Wednesday but feel free to substitute your own starting point.
830 am: set off for a nice country walk. It’s an easy walk although it can be strenuous in parts as you’ll be going up and down hills. However, bear in mind that a person who has such a terrible head for heights that she can’t get out of some tube stops (me 🙁 ) did the walk with no problem so it really isn’t too steep!
Helpful signposts along the way
If you’re a lazy bum :), old, or if it’s raining, you can catch the bus which leaves Grange around 9 am (depending on which stop you’re taking it from). You’ll arrive in Cartmel around 930 to 10 am depending on
1. walking speed
2. how many wrong fields you enter. It can be difficult to tell whether there is an exit from a field when you’re on the other side!
You’ll be sharing the fields with the cows- some fields are helpfully signposted so you know you’re on the right track!
After all that walking, you’re probably starving so don’t forget to try the sticky toffee pudding- it was invented right in Cartmel Village Shop. You can also buy some home- I enjoyed it but personally found it a trifle sweet.
Perusing the menu- I ordered some tea, and a +++ is that they use tea leaves, not bags!
11 am: During April- October, there’s a tour of the priory every Wednesday at 11 am or 2 pm. If you miss it, there’s a leaflet at the entrance that tells you a bit about the priory and its history. The founder, William Marshal, stars in a trilogy by Elizabeth Chadwick and you can pick up the books in the priory shop.
View of Priory from the outside
12 pm: After all that you’re probably starving. Luckily, there are plenty of options for a delicious meal. Cartmel is home to a 2-Michelin star restaurant, L’Enclume. There are 2 options for lunch- 6 courses at £49 or 17 at £130. I HIGHLY recommend at least trying the 6-course meal but if you’re feeling poor, L’Enclume has a sister restaurant called Rogan and Company which has lunch starting from £12. (They close at 2 pm FYI)
Sat in the conservatory- it was full, which I find impressive given L’Enclume is in a small town and on a weekday.
1 of my wonderful 6 courses, yum!
2.30 pm: I took over 2 hours for the 6 courses so you’ll probably need even more time if you’re doing the 17 plates! (Review in separate post)
Explore the shops in the village. The only boutique really worth visiting, in my opinion, is Perfect English, which is owned by the Cavendish Arms. Maybe pick up a coffee from Cartmel Coffee- I was told it’s the best but I’m not a caffeine addict so didn’t try 🙂
If you’re a beer drinker- and not too full- don’t forget to check out Cartmel’s own microbrewery!
3.30 pm: Lakeland Segway by the Racecourse carpark- #1 on Tripadvisor and 1 h 15 minutes- 1 h 30 minutes of pure fun!
5 pm: Tricky period as most shops are closed. You can either go for a walk around the countryside or enjoy a treatment at the spa. Your legs might need some relaxation after that morning hike 🙂
630 pm: Assuming lunch wasn’t at Rogan and Company, and it’s not a Sunday, here’s your chance to assess what Michelin stars actually mean. Rogan and L’Enclume were founded by the same chef, and are supplied by the same farm- but 1 has 2 stars and the other none. Do the stars actually mean anything? Try both and assess for yourself! 🙂
If Rogan was your lunch option, Cavendish Arms was recommended to me by a chef 🙂 (Note I didn’t have enough time to try it sadly)
8 pm: Pre-book a cab to take you home- don’t leave it to the last minute as there are very few cab companies in the area and many don’t like to work at night! Or if it’s summer, you can hike back. (The countryside isn’t very well lit so don’t forget to check what time the sunsets!)
Need cash? There’s a cashpoint in Premier which is slightly outside the village centre- down the road from Pig & Whistle- but it’s often broken down!
Make sure there isn’t a race going on before you plan to go as the village will be SWARMED.
Can’t make it on a Wednesday? The Priory has free concerts on some Mondays during the summer and there’s a food fair every 3rd Friday of the month, 10 am- 4pm. (I was there for the food market- it was OK but not worth scheduling your trip around.)
As you can see, it’s not the most happening of food fairs
Last but not least, take loads of photos and enjoy 🙂