It’s getting towards the time when Christmas gifts are springing to mind. What to buy, who to buy for. The more important the person and the requirement, the more pressure and need to get the gift purchased and organised as soon as possible.
In an age when everyone seems to have the material items they need or want, gifts that provide a special experience are becoming more and more popular.
Gift vouchers for hotels are the perfect solution. Despite the hotel being chosen by the person buying the gift, when the voucher is used, the people or person can please themselves.
An exciting and uber luxurious voucher proposition is on offer from the boutique Lake District hotel, Brimstone on the Langdale Estate. The hotel is beyond luxury and beyond unique making sure a voucher from this hotel will beyond wow the recipient.
The vouchers can be purchased in the form of monetary values or specific rooms on a bed and breakfast basis for example a one night bed and breakfast stay in a Plush Room for £300 or a one night bed and breakfast stay in a Suite for £400. Alongside these options is the chance to purchase spa experience and spa day vouchers for the soon to open, brand new Brimstone Spa, some of the best facilities in the Lake District.
Easy to purchase, easy to post with the ability to be shipped worldwide, these vouchers take away all the stress of gift purchasing and will take away all the stress of the lucky recipients.
To view all the Brimstone Lake District Hotel voucher options and to purchase visit http://brimstone.skchase.com
Come rain or shine and at any time of the year, Lake Windermere is bustling. It is busier now than with Bowness, Windermere village, Ambleside and to the south at Newby Bridge, being true 365 day a year destinations.
Record numbers of visitors have enjoyed this very special and utterly stunning part of the UK this summer. With the “staycation” being a popular choice this year as well as the 150th anniversary celebrations for Beatrix Potter and with the bonus of stage 2 of the Tour of Britain set to race by early September, Cumbria – the Lake District as THE destination of choice in 2016 is most definitely correct. The southern edge of Lake Windermere for example is just 15 minutes from the M6 great for day trips, short breaks and easily accessed holidays.
But this time of the year really is quite special in the Lake District and well worth a visit to see the wonderful autumnal into winter colours. If you like the Lake District in the summer, you’ll love it even more in the autumn.
But the time for visiting in and around Lake Windermere doesn’t finish when the summer. Autumn and winter are not just fantastic times to visit the Lake District but also to take advantage of some super offers. Newby Bridge Hotel on the southern tip of Lake Windermere has an extremely enticing late autumn/winter break for 2016. It’s only available when booking direct and from just £84 per person for 2 nights enjoy 3 course meal on your first evening, a full Cumbrian breakfast each morning and a £10 credit to be used in either our Restaurant or Bar on your second evening. Also included is full use of the private, on site leisure facilities. Call to book direct 015395 31222.
It always heartens me when I go somewhere, love the food and then I realise many others are loving it for the same reasons.
I know taste is very subjective and what one loves the other loathes but I reckon when it comes down to it, when you find a little, unpretentious gem, then you really hope they do well.
This is the case of The Cuckoo Brow. After hearing what a dog friendly place it is, we were naturally interested to see what’s what and have a recce. The other side of Windermere, Far Sawrey, quiet, great walks, 2 Border Collies in tow, dog friendly pub, ales, food, what more could you ask for.
So the first time we went to Cuckoo Brow was basically because it’s lovely for walking around there and we could take the dogs in, no expectations whatsoever. But I think these very factors are why this little spot is growing from strength to strength. Local produce is it for them completely highlighted in their menu that is called the “20 Mile Menu”. As much of the ingredients as possible have been sourced from within 20 miles of the inn. To quench the thirst, real ales from local breweries are always available from the likes of Hawshead, Cumbria Legendary Ales and Fell Brewery of Flookburgh.
But as mentioned before, don’t just take our word for it. Recently Cuckoo Brow has been selected as the best dog friendly pub in the Lake District by Haven Holidays and Dugs n’ Pubs, the online dog friendly guide to pubs, cafes, restaurants and hotels.
So that is why I felt the need to write this post as the owners of the Cuckoo Brow have put it very well in their marketing literature, “Muddy boots, wet dogs and children welcome”, long may that mantra stand. Visit http://www.cuckoobrow.co.uk/ for the full menu and information on the dog friendly accommodation.
Kendal – the gateway to The Lakes in every sense. Visit Kendal to have the best of both worlds, a highly buzzing, vibrant town and just 15 minutes from the central Lake District including Lake Windermere.
All these factors make for a dog friendly holiday heaven and the town of Kendal is extremely welcoming to dogs. Walking through the town centre you’ll see locals and visitors with their dogs. And for dog walks then even though the Lake District National Park is on the doorstep, Kendal has so many walks to offer itself.
Head up to Serpentine Woods, just 5 minutes from the centre and let dogs sniff to their hearts galore before rising from the tress to panoramic views of Kendal. Walk along the River Kent footpath, the length and breath of Kendal or look the The AA for inspiration and a fabulous 3 mile circular route, “Kendal’s Two Castles”, http://www.theaa.com/walks/kendals-two-castles-420657.
Keeping with travel and with Kendal train station the heart of the town, jump on the train and visit Staveley where the dog friendly Eagle & Child pub is and lots of walking onto Windermere and well, need we say more.
Onto eating and drinking, extremely important holiday aspects for 2 and 4 legged visitors. A new dog friendly café has opened, The Bristly Hog on Stricklandgate and Brew Brothers on Highgate. You’ll also find most pubs in Kendal are dog friendly too including The Factor Tap which has 2 outside seating areas and real ale.
Where to stay dog friendly? The Riverside Hotel Kendal is a centrally based, dog friendly hotel with private car parking, 2 minutes from the train station with walks right from the hotel door and The Tannery bar serving food daily also welcomes dogs.
August 25th the special date, the date of National Burger Day. A staple on many a Lake District restaurant menu and home dinner table, the mighty burger has been propelled to God like status in the last couple of years and its set to be the biggest burger-tastic day yet. Gourmet burgers restaurants are popping up left right and centre in every town and city and it seems we can’t get enough of them from the very far north of Scotland to us down here in Cumbria, the Lake District right down to London.
We’re not talking burgers that look like they have been in a pocket and squashed, on a synthetic bun or that say they contain “meat” but that is debatable. This new wave of burgers are 100% real meat, different and exciting offerings, in an artisan/sour dough/brioche bun etc and large enough to satisfy a rugby player’s appetite. Then moving onto the important sides. Thank goodness for the resurrection of the proper chip then a good salad is a must, maybe some slaw, pickles and in many places, a tangy homemade relish.
Where to celebrate National Burger Day? It’s a tough choice in the Lake District but the Langdale Lake District Hotel & Spa have been providing burgers lovers with super tasty patties for years. At Langdale enjoy a choice of burgers at their two eateries. Firstly at the new Stove Restaurant the Stove Burger cooked on the Josper grill for ultimate flavour and succulence. An 8oz homemade rump steak burger, Langdale’s own smokehouse cheddar, bacon, gherkins and triple cooked chips.
Onto burger heaven at Wainwright’s Inn, the perfect post walk or cycle establishment just a 2 minute walk from the main Langdale Estate. Choose from a good old 100% beef, Cumberland, smoke pulled pork or a veggie – a Portobello mushroom with blue cheese crumb. All come with house salad and chips.
What a year 2016 has been for putting the Lake District on the global map. Firstly the massive celebrations still ongoing to celebrate the author, illustrator and naturalist Beatrix Potter’s 150th anniversary and now the big screen adaptation of the Arthur Ransome’s, Swallows and Amazons.
This enchanting family film, released on August 19th nationwide, brings to life the classic novel by Arthur Ransome, telling the tale of the Walker children’s summer holiday in the Lake District, sailing, camping, fishing and much more.
Staring Kelly Macdonald, Rafe Spall, Harry Enfield and Andrew Scott, the film is due to strike a cord with so many families who do or have visited the Lake District for their family holiday enjoying exactly what the Walker children are doing in the film.
Lake District lovers will also be able to watch and point out places so many of them will have visited around various locations in Coniston and Derwentwater. Look out for Tarn Hows, the east shore of Coniston and the Steam Yacht Gondala before heading over to dramatic Keswick and stunning Derwentwater.
Visit The National Trust website for more information on the locations and things to do when visiting, click here.
The nation’s obsession with pies appears to be growing week by week with them being elevated to heights beyond what has ever been witnessed. Not so long ago these pastry casings filled with delights had fallen out of favour to some extent no doubt due to the lack of quality pies available. Every pie available in shops and stalls seemed to be 100% pure soggy pastry, no seasoning and in some cases, well just a case and practically no filling.
Thank goodness decent, in fact, truly delicious pies can now be found in farmers markets, in local stores and on restaurant and pub menus. A pie is now not a poor man’s choice but a handcrafted delight with traditional yet tasty flavours as well as some exciting twists. Above all a pie filling can follow the seasons, constantly of the moment.
This is something the Tebay Services Hotel know only too well, adhere to and worship. Every week is pie week with a different, changing “Pie of the Week” each week. It’s even more exciting for them and of course their diners as the majority of the meat used in the pies comes from their own farm, the Westmorland Family farm at Orton. Regular guests of the hotel of which there are many, especially business travellers, have the chance to sample a different pie each time they stay and for a great price too. A little birdie tells me the chips are very good too, all served with lashings of gravy. Look out for the blackboard for the current weeks’ pie. A filling that appears quite frequently due to demand is the Galloway beef shin slow cooked with local ale and root veg. Again, this is Westmorland Family’s own reared Galloway beef.
The restaurant and bar at the Tebay Services Hotel is open to non-residents as well as residents daily. Bed & breakfast starts from just £79 and look out for the seasonal special dinner, bed & breakfast rates available at various times during the year.
The Langdale Valley is most commonly associated with fell walking and a variety of other outdoor pursuits. This is surely not a surprise as this area of the Lake District has the perfect combination of dramatic crags and picture postcard scenery.
So when saying to people this area of the Lake District also has a strong connection with the arts, those who aren’t already aware may be a little bit surprised. Tucked away in a remote woodland in the heart of this valley is Merz barn. This barn was the studio and later the English and 4th Merzbau of Kurt Schwitters, a member of the Dada art movement of the early 20th century and who many people call the pop art pioneer.
The Elterwater Merz Barn remains in a state as it was when Schwitters left it in 1948 shortly before his death in January of that year. In 2006 it was purchased by Littoral Arts Trust with help of the Northern Rock Foundation. The preservation of such an important part of artistic heritage in one of the most beautiful locations in the UK is essential and fundraising is on going to restore Merz Barn along with the surrounding woodlands, part of the Cyclinders Estate.
Now the Merz Barn is bringing Kurt Schwitters admirers from all over the world to visit and the work of this artist is influencing the area in various forms. Hobson’s Bar at The Langdale Hotel has a Kurt Schwitters inspired interior and is well worth a visit to have a drink or dine in an environment so closely linked to Schwitters. So too the new Brimstone at Langdale Hotel which despite not having his prints exhibited, does echo the artistic style and colour notes he used.
The Merz barn at present is not open very often making it an even more exciting prospect to visit if possible. A great opportunity is coming up from September 11th to 26th where an exhibitions if being held at The Shippon Gallery at Merz Barn. Julie Scott is the artist and she creates college works influenced by Schwitters who was renowned for his college work. Julie Scott will be exhibiting more than 20 new pieces. The gallery will be open 10am – 5.30pm daily during the two week exhibition.
Accommodation can be found at both the Langdale and Brimstone Hotels which are right opposite the Cyclinders Estate where the Merz Barn is located.
If Cartmel hasn’t been on the news for various reasons, all good obviously but of course mainly relating to food and in particular Simon Rogan, L’Enclume etc then it has also been a hive a activity of late too.
Cartmel Races took place earlier this month so too the Cartmel Beer Festival at the Pig & Whistle. Now it is the time for the annual and much anticipated Cartmel Agricultural Show next Wednesday August 6th. Held the first Wednesday in August every year the show has everything you’d expect from a Cumbrian agricultural show. The agricultural and county shows are in full swing now throughout Cumbria with one sometimes two each week for the next couple of months culminating in the final show of the season, Wasdale Show in October.
Cartmel Show has been described as “The most comprehensive and picturesque show in the North” and as with nearly all of Cumbria’s shows, it is steeped in history with the first show over 140 years ago. The day will showcase the best of British farming from the Cartmel area, plenty of acts and entertainment (including Cuerden Birds of Prey, Jesters Children’s Circus and the Vale of Lune Hounds), dog shows, carriage driving, shepherds crooks and sticks and plenty of stalls. The stalls range from crafts to toys to local goods and naturally, food. The food hall is no doubt again going to be one of the highlights of the show with the Cartmel artisan food businesses selling their goods on show day along with Made in Cumbria. Make sure you take a big shopping bag for all the purchases!
Cartmel Village will also be buzzing on show day and being just a few minute’s walk from the show field at Cartmel Racecourse, it makes the ideal place to stay as well as enjoy dinner. Restaurants include L’Enclume and Rogan & Co and pubs which all serve excellent food too Cavendish Arms, Pig & Whistle, The Kings Arms and the Royal Oak. Let’s just say, if you’ve never been to Cartmel, you’ll not be going hungry!
For accommodation then there is still a couple of places that have availability. Lakeland Cottage Company is one and they have Ducklings Retreat Cottage in Cartmel available for a 1 week break starting Friday or 4 miles away from Cartmel they 2 cottages for hire in Lindale. All can be viewed here https://www.lakeland-cottage-company.co.uk/
Advance tickets for the show can be purchased through the Cartmel Agricultural Society website here http://www.cartmelagriculturalsociety.org.uk/
Type “Coast to Coast walk” into Google news and especially in these warmer summer months, the listings bring up countless results of people embarking on this challenge to raise money for charities
The route, the rise in popularity of walking, the rise in people wanting to take on challenges to raise money and the continuing rise of one of the most famous walkers in the UK, Alfred Wainwright has made this 192 long distance walk the one everyone knows about.
But embarking on the Coast to Coast walk, which unlike the C2C cycleway is actually an unofficial route, is also done by people simply wanting to enjoy a walking holiday and especially with those travelling from abroad. What a magnificent way in which to see the north of England and the diversity of landscape this route takes walkers through.
The tough start to this walk, over the Lake District fells, is more than made up by the views along the way and the places in which to stay although with the route taking walkers across the Yorkshire Dales, North York Moors and parts of the Cleveland way, the whole route is a pleasure to admire.
Almost half way when doing the Coast to Coast in 15 days is the village of Orton and this is a very popular place to stopover. Orton signals the end of Cumbria and the beginning of the Yorkshire Dales as it was before the boundaries were changed. The typography though is evident in the change in counties. Orton being a village which offers a variety of facilities is another reason this location is so popular with C2C walkers. A short distance away is the Westmorland Hotel that welcome C2C walkers and this hotel has a bar and restaurant for refuelling as well as Tebay Services where the ultimate next day packed lunch can be purchased. Hit Orton on the second Saturday of any month and walkers can amble around the farmers market if their legs will allow with over 35 local farmers, growers, producers having stalls.
So for whatever reason a long distance walk is being done for, the Coast to Coast sees the best of two completely different regions and sides of the UK with the thought that walkers are retracing the footsteps of the extraordinary AW.
In my previous post it was all about West Cumbria and what is happening during the Bank Holiday weekend and through half term. This post I am going deep, deep, down into the south of the county.
These next two weekends it’s all about Cartmel in South Cumbria, well Cartmel and Cark-in-Cartmel to be exact. Firstly Saturday sees the first day and first racing of the season at the absolutely stunning Cartmel Race Course. Building year on year and attracting huge name jockeys, trainers and horses, there is racing to be enjoyed on Saturday 24th, Monday 26th and Wednesday 28th. Each day has a different theme and vibe but the main feeling is that there is something at Cartmel Races for everyone, young and old and no matter how much you’re in to horse racing, enthusiast to complete novice.
The following weekend it is the annual Holker Garden Festival. With the Chelsea Flower Show in full bloom, gardening enthusiasts are surely to be in apoplexy. In its 22nd year, the Holker Garden Festival is renowned as being one of the most highly regarded garden festivals in the UK and this year Christine Walkden, the resident gardener on BBC’s The One Show will be attending and taking part in Q & A sessions on the Saturday (31st May). As with Cartmel Races, Holker Garden festival is well worth a visit even if you’re not into gardening. I’ve not got green fingers (apart from growing the odd tomato and carrot) but having been on a couple of occasions, the buzz and particularly the food stalls and crafts are enough of a reason to go for me. The food producers stalls have grown as you’d imagine at such festivals and it’s all about local produce to Cumbria and North Lancashire. For the gardener then there are plenty of trade stands for the purchasing of plants etc. If you haven’t been to Holker Hall then the estate, gardens and house are just a lovely way to spend an afternoon walking around.
Each festival brings visitors from far and wide with places to stay booking up weeks if not months in advance. There are however still a few b&b’s, hotels and self catering accommodation providers with the odd bit of availability. There are a couple of self catering cottages available still in the Cartmel area and then in Grange-over-Sands Bay Villa B&B have 2 rooms available for the Holker Garden Festival Sunday. Any lucky peeps of you that have managed to get the whole week off then you could actually attend both events, jealous, me no……….not!
Half term is looking like an event fest in Cumbria this year with so much going on from the far north to the far south of the county and lets not forget the far west to the far east of the county.
I don’t want to harp on about “West is Best” and all that but with so much going on, I have to focus on one area which happens to be the region I reside in, West Cumbria.
There really is something going on for everyone this weekend out west and into the half term week, let’s just hope the weather behaves itself but let’s not worry about that just now.
Starting off on a musical vibe and Friday, Saturday and Sunday sees the “Mighty Boof At The Stadium” festival at Copeland Stadium in Whitehaven. This the 4th festival and the biggest so far has the fantastic Reverend & The makers headlining Saturday along with Goldie Looking Chain, Space and my personal favourite, John Power of Cast. What makes this festival special is the mix of local bands, new and upcoming as well as tribute and those main headline acts.
Keeping with the arts but a very different genre is the Eskdale Art Show running from Saturday until Monday. This is the 21st Eskdale Art Show showcasing artwork available to purchase from local artists and further afield in many different mediums and from bags ans scarves to pottery and jewellery. Open daily 10am – 4pm with refreshments and located near Irton Road railway station means it can be tied in with a trip on La’al Ratty.
A complete change here and something for the those seeking to enjoy outdoor activities. West Lakes Adventure have a number of different sessions enabling people to have a taster of everything from canoeing toe rocking climbing and ghyll scrambling. With morning and afternoon sessions throughout next week you can experience any of those activities for 3 hours in the hands of professional instructors around the Eskdale and Wasdale areas for just £25 per person. Visit their events calendar for booking and availability details by clicking here.
Finally, starting on Sunday and running until Thursday 29th is the Muncaster Festival. Something for the whole family here in the grounds of the historic and haunted Muncaster Castle. Outdoor games, activities and food court, crafts, archery, stalls and more culminating in the International Jesters Tournament and the chance to become the Fool of Muncaster 2014.
So surely you’ll agree, every base is covered this Bank Holiday and half term in West Cumbria and the Western Lake District.
The weekend of May, 9th, 10th and 11th sees two very different events happening in Cumbria, one in the north and one in the south west. The programme of events in Cumbria and the Lake District is really beginning to take off heading into May with everything from the arts, the music and entertainment and outdoor pursuits.
Kicking off in the north on Thursday 8th and running until Sunday 11th is the Jennings Keswick Jazz Festival, now in its 23rd year. Encompassing traditional and mainstream jazz, this event is highly regarded in the jazz music industry and the Theatre by the Lake is the perfect venue. Musicians will be coming from all over the world including the Netherlands, Germany and the USA. For all the details on admission prices, tickets and the line up, click here where tickets and passes can also be purchased online.
Moving down to the south west and Saturday and Sunday Millom Rugby Club at Haverigg will be home to the Western Lake District Kite Fest. During the weekend there will be displays, workshops and even kite making demonstrations with free entry and parking. Haverigg is right at the very southern end of the west coast of Cumbria leading out into the Duddon Channel. Kite festivals are very popular along the Cumbrian coast with July seeing the annual Silloth Kite Fest right in the far northern end of the Cumbrian coast. As most visitors that have been along the Cumbrian coast, wind is almost always a factor so no better place to hold such events! More information can be found by visit the South Copeland Tourism website here.
The Lakeland Cottage Company have holiday cottages that are available for short breaks in these two areas. For the Jazz Festival at Theatre By The Lake at Keswick, their Wrens and Beehive Barn are between 4.5 and 16 miles from the venue. For the Western Lake District Kite Fest, Rose Cottage at Lowick and Kiln Cottage at Bouth are just half an hour drive from the event site.
So they really are two very different events in two very different locations of Cumbria, this very diverse and exciting county.
Well, heralding from Nottingham, I couldn’t let this little bit of news slip through the net.
Lake Windermere has been voted in a survey as the favourite countryside view of people from Nottingham.
The same survey, which was carried out by Directblinds.co.uk, revealed 82% of the those surveyed were unhappy with the view from their window. Now I’ll stick up for Nottingham here as I’m sure if this survey was carried out in many other cities, the percentage would be around the same mark.
The honour for Lake Windermere to have this accolade is raised even higher by the news that it beat Nottingham’s very own Sherwood Forest as best view. Sorry Robin!
Nicolas Swift, joint managing director of Directblinds.co.uk, said “Unfortunately waking up to a view of Lake Windermere every morning remains a distant dream for millions of us.” Yes, this is very true even amongst many Cumbria residents too but what a great place to be able to visit and even from as far as Nottingham. In fact, with Windermere’s railway station all it takes is a change at Manchester to be able to travel by train from Nottingham (a journey I did on many occasions when working in Ambleside).
Stay in Windermere, it’s handy for bus services, the train and is more peaceful than Bowness. Yet Bowness is just a short walk away and of course, Lake Windermere simply to admire and take a boat trip on.
Nottingham to Windermere from £70 per person return through National Rail. Applegarth Hotel in Windermere rooms from £100 bed and breakfast.
It will come as no surprise to hear electric bikes haven’t taken off in the UK as they have done in other countries such as China and Germany. Is it because the UK, especially at the moment, is in the grips of a conventional cycling addiction? Is it that there is quite possibly a bit of a stigmar towards a bike you don’t always need to pedal?
Despite the above, the sales and use of electric bikes is steadily increasing. The word is perhaps getting out about them and the national addiction to cycling could be rubbing off on non cyclists. These bikes are also excellent for people with for example a knee injury. The battery is there to assist whenever required so people can still enjoy the experience of being on a bike.
Electric bikes are few and far between in the Lake District but there are places to hire them which is a great chance to try one out. In West Cumbria Muncaster Cycles at Ravenglass hire them out and are part of the West Cumbrian Electric Bicycle Network where there are plenty of places to top up batteries including Eskdale and Wasdale. Over the other side of the county and next week Appleby Manor Hotel are offering free hire of electric bikes to their guests to mark English Tourism Week, 30th March until 3rd April inclusive.
Cycling is such a fantastic way to see the Lake District and even though there is a battery, electric bikes still need to be pedaled to start the motor so exercise is involved. Also as Rob Spedding, Editor of Cycling Plus, says “encouraging more people onto bikes of whatever kind reduces pollution and congestion on the roads.”
So with the nights getting lighter and the weather getting warmer, it could be the perfect time to try out the electric bike experience by doing some no strings hiring.
Yes, I know, I probably should of or just could of called this blog westcumbriablog.co.uk but there are a few posts lets face it relating to other areas of the county!
As you may have gathered fro the blog title, this particular post is in fact relating to the Western side of this county!
As with many of my posts about West Cumbria and the Western Lake District, I am championing what is on offer over here from food producers to events and accommodation. But with the amazing, rugged and varied landscape, the outdoor activities and pursuits on offer here are second to none.
Most people will know this part of the lake District for Scafell Pike, Englands highest mountain but there is much much more to this region than that one big hill. With lakes, rivers, ghylls, valleys and endless footpaths and mountain biking routes, West Cumbria has it all for the adventure tourist.
The valleys of Wasdale and Eskdale are rich with all of the above and to be able to do pursuits such as Lake District rock climbing, ghyll scrambling, canoeing and mountain biking surrounded by the scenery is something extra special. A local firm West Lakes Adventure are doing all they can to promote this region as the destination of choice to do these activities in the Lake District which is of course the Adventure Capital of the UK. They are a family business based in the Eskdale Valley and cater for corporate, groups, couples, individuals and families. In fact, they even have a choice of guided outdoor activities that can include your 4 legged friend.
So if the Cumbria, the Lake District is the Adventure Capital of the UK then surely West Cumbria is the major suburb!
Motorway services in the UK have very little to be desired. Expensive, unimaginative, mostly completely and utterly depressing and smelly are my personal adjectives relating to these venues.
Imagine actually looking forward to stopping at a motorway services compared with dreading it and only stopping off due to absolute necessity? Cast you minds back to the worst offender of them all, the old Bolton West Services. It was that horrific I began avoiding the M61 at all costs!
So why can’t every services be like Cumbria’s very own Tebay Services? A breath of fresh air in more ways than one. It is a services that motorists can’t wait to stop at and many even make a detour to visit. It is somewhere you can have a really good meal, can buy nice produce and gifts and even give your dog a good old leg stretch on a long journey. It’s not rocket science yet Tebay Services is the only one of it’s kind in the UK (thankfully they are developing a services on the M5 so at least they’ll be 2 when completed).
The past week has seen service stations in the news. JD Wetherspoon opened its first motorway pub last week, unsurprisingly there has been a huge amount of discussion about it. It is always going to be a contentious subject despite JD Wetherspoon saying it will also serve “the surrounding community from the local road network.” The hotel at Tebay Services, the Westmorland Hotel, of course serves alcohol but the bar is within the hotel so all customers stay overnight. The hotel really is worth a stay, very reasonable rates, friendly and excellent, locally sourced food. Dog friendly too.
The fairy tale for a small hotel in Grasmere, Oak Bank on Broadgate, began on a quiet Monday, November 18th when a Mr Collie was booked in for lunch. Mr Collie turned out to be Mr Rayner, as in THE Mr Jay Rayner, he of Observer restaurant critic fame and published novelist. I’d hazard a guess that it came as quite a shock on the winter Monday afternoon.
It must be quite hard to gauge whether a critic has enjoyed the food and experience in a restaurant or not well except if it was completely awful and surely then squirms and the leaving of food give the game away. It is usually when the words are circulated in nationwide print the restaurant knows how they have been received.
However, the chef and proprietor of Oak Bank had an inkling that Mr Rayner enjoyed the food from the note left on the menu “Thank you for a bloody fabulous meal”. Excitement enough but when the full review was published in The Observer on December 8th, excitement went into overload so did social media. The review was glowing and possibly one of his most complimentary and all summed up very nicely “Grasmere’s modest Oak Bank Hotel boasts a remarkable secret: the brilliant cooking of Darren Comish”.
Darren only joined Oak Bank in May 2013 but I’ve known a couple of people who have eaten there since he joined who raved about it, the photos of his food certainly qualify this. Yes, The Dining Room at Oak Bank has 2 AA rosettes so it has been acknowledged for its quality but what I think is far more exciting is that this independent, small hotel in Grasmere in the Lake District is producing food of this quality making use of the wonderful Lake District larder.
Just reading the review and Jay writes that he went into the kitchen and met Darren. Being a quiet Monday, it was just Darren in the kitchen and just he that prepared and cooked all the food Jay ate that day, very impressive. Although I gather Monday’s won’t be quiet anymore with bookings being taken right left and centre as a result of the “Jay Rayner Effect”!
Cycling is once more in the Cumbria and Lake District news.
There is only a short while left to put views and opinions across to Cumbria County Council on changes to the rights of way around Rydal and Grasmere with the consultation closing on November 28th. These changes will enable safer travelling by bicycle between Amble and Grasmere, an ever increasingly busy cycle route. Put your views across here in support http://www.opinionsuite.com/cumbria/cumbria-county-council/chief-executives-office/pelter-bridge-grasmere-cycle-scheme-survey/consult_view
Grasmere is a stunning village in the heart of the Lake District being in a great location on the main road to Keswick yet far quieter than bustling Ambleside. Cycling is and around the area is plentiful with many routes starting from the village as well as many passing through it. Another extremely successful Cumbrian Cracker cycle ride took place this month, November 17th, starting from Grasmere with 1000 riders taking part in the 60 mile Lakeland route. Red Bank is tackled at the start of the Cracker as are many cycling routes around Grasmere due to it’s gradient. It is also the way in which to get to Langdale and the infamous Wrynose and Hardknott.
But next year is really going to be Grasmere on the cycling map. Next year the biggest and toughest sportive in the UK will be commencing from Grasmere, the Fred Whitton. For the past 13 years this sportive has started from Coniston but a change is to take place for the 2014 race. Taking in many of the prominent climbs in the Lake District, this 112 mile route tests even the most hardened of sportive cyclists and that is without the unpredicted weather conditions to contend with. Grasmere will be an absolute hive of activity throughout that whole weekend and even days leading up to it and all for such good causes Macmillan and the Dave Rayner Fund.
As with the Cumbria Cracker, the whole village including residents and businesses get together, join forces and support. The Dale Lodge Hotel in Grasmere village is a great supported of Lake District cycling and have rooms available for Fred Whitton weekend and they are cyclist friendly at all other times during the year too. And surely some world famous Grasmere Gingerbread could be the right sweet treat to boost cyclist up those 30% gradient climbs!
Last week saw the official opening of a 3.7-mile stretch of cycleway between Maryport and Allonby. The section is classed as the “missing link” within the 174 mile route that starts in Ravenglass, West Cumbria and runs through to Tynemouth in the North East.
Despite only having been given its official route status in July 2006, it is quickly becoming a popular route to cycle as an alternative to the Coast to Coast or as a new challenge for those who have already done the C2C. As the with Coast to Coast, it can be cycled in either direction but the most popular is West to East.
Ravenglass is such a fantastic place to start the ride, yes call me biased because it is just down the road from me but should you be visiting from away to do this route, it is well worth including a couple of extras days before you start to enjoy the area where you can visit Muncaster Castle and take the La’al Ratty to Eskdale. There are 3 excellent places to eat, drink and stay in Ravenglass to so it’s really worth taking advantage of a bit of R&R before embarking on the 174 mile route.
I also happen to have a real soft spot for Tynemouth too so this cycleway is really quite attractive is my eyes. The architecture is stunning and close your eyes and you are transported back to it’s Victorian hey day. It is now a very popular place to live with the stunning scenery, great independent shops and restaurants.
Back onto the main reason of this post and the opening of the opening of the new part of cycleway. Previously cyclists had to B5300 on this section. As with all official cycle routes, use of roads is kept to a minimum both for enjoyment of the rider and for safety. This new route is said to offer cyclists even better scenery on this already super cycling route and even links to the C2C national cycle route
Mickledore Travel (http://www.mickledore.co.uk/cycling-holidays/hadrians_cycleway) are providers of cycling holidays and based in Keswick know the Hadrian’s Wall Cycleway extremely well. Their organised yet self guided cycling holidays are well worth checking out and this route can be done in 3, 4 and 5 day durations depending on ability or timescale.
We’ve always known how beautiful the Lyth Valley is but now even one of the world’s largest travel guide book publisher agrees, Lonely Planet.
If you’re not familiar with the Lyth Valley, if you’ve happened to stumble on this blog from a far away land, this area is located in South Cumbria tucked away between Kendal and Windermere. South Cumbria and the Southern Lake District being one of the busiest areas of this region yet the Lyth Valley has managed to keep its unspoiltness (yes, it is actually a real word) and tranquillity.
So back to the Lonely Planet and the reason for writing this post. The Lyth Valley has been included in the “Lonely Planet’s Beautiful World” book. The book has been published to showcase beautiful locations across the globe and the following is down in print within it regarding The Lyth Valley The unspoilt Lyth Valley is tucked in a hidden corner of Cumbria, where trees are laden with fruit and rolling hills are the most magnificent green.”
For such a large travel guide publisher to be recognising real hidden gems and acknowledging areas such as The Lyth Valley is really quite encouraging for the promotion of Cumbria and the Lake District.
Looking for somewhere to stay when visiting from afar then the Lakeland Cottage Company have a selection of luxurious holiday cottages to hire in and around The Lyth Valley and The Punchbowl Inn at Crosthwaite is real delight for lunch and/or dinner.
It is an exciting time for green tourism in the Lake District. A combination of tourism businesses and operators implementing environmental and corporate social responsibility policies to initiatives such as the new Nurture Lakeland Low Carbon Cottages project. Each working towards making Cumbria and the Lake District a more sustainable destination for all to enjoy for years and years to come.
The Low Carbon Cottages project from Nurture Lakeland is a very exciting one. There are approximately 3500 holiday cottages in the Lake District. They make up quite a large percentage of the accommodation market and more often than not are traditional properties which of course produce larger carbon emissions than a new build structure. It is the owners of these properties the Low Carbon Cottages is aiming to help through advising on energy efficiency and the lowering of carbon emissions without compromising the aesthetics or character of the building.
The last two years has seen a significant rise in biomass boiler installations in the Lake District. From large hotels and resorts to bed and breakfasts and self catering properties, biomass is proving a very worthwhile investment for the sustainability of the surrounding environment to the quite considerable savings on energy bills helping the sustainability of the business as well. Hotels such as the Langdale Hotel are reporting annual savings of 350 tonnes of carbon through a biomass system compared with an LPG system.
Electric car usage and hire are also on the increase in the Lake District. From hotels offering electric car hire to bed and breakfast and holiday cottage owners taking advantage of the free electric car charging points from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles, it is now becoming easier to travel more sustainably. Electric vehicles such as the Renault Twizy can be hired which are proving a big hit. Fun, quiet and small these practical little cars are one of the best ways to see the Lake District.
But making the Lake District more sustainable and lowering its carbon footprint cannot be achieved through tourism businesses alone, guests and visitors to the Lake District play an integral part. For example informing guests of recycling points and reminding them to recycle as it is just as important to do so when on holiday. Reminding them to turn off lights and other electrical gadgets when the property is empty or not in use. Educating visitors on more sustainable travel options when in the Lake District to the advising of the possible use of local independent businesses for supplies and services whilst on holiday.
As one of the biggest events in the farming and general events calendar in Cumbria, North Lancashire and North Yorkshire, the Westmorland County Agricultural Society annual show is very much anticipated by all
The Show grows year on year with more exhibitors, more promotion and more people through the gate. This years’ show on Thursday 12 September is set to be another bumper one.
Having lived in Kendal for some years, show day was big and getting about on that Thursday was interesting! The roads packed with thousands of visitors but which I didn’t mind, it was always great to see such support of farming, food and agriculture in Cumbria.
Whilst in Kendal, I also happened to work for the printers who dealt with all the printing from the entrance tickets to schedules to posters and promotional leaflets. “The Show” as it was referred to was huge for the company I worked for as well, late nights, stress, deadlines, madness. Stramongate Press Printers in case you’re wondering, a great printers!
There’s a bit of a special guest this year in the form of the Her Royal Highness the Countess of Wessex GCVO. She will be making a visit along with lots of newness to the show. Firstly, WCAS will be hosting the Northern Branch Show in the Zwartbles sheep section and in the cattle section, Beef Shorthorn classes will be included for the first time. In the ever growing Food umbrella, Phil Vickery will be demonstrating in the food theatre and the Food Hall will be bigger and better than ever and even separate from the theatre this year the popularity has grown so.
Cycling there is an excellent and practical way of getting to the show field at Crooklands and this year there is a dedicated cycle park for safe and secure storage.
The song “love is in the air” couldn’t be more appropriate to describe what happened earlier this month in Windermere. So much so that I couldn’t not write about it.
Monday morning August 5th, my phone went at work, it was friends of ours who own and run a hotel in Windermere. Talking away about how what kind of weekend they’d had in the hotel, Suzanne happened to slip into conversation they had had 6 proposals. “6 proposals” I exclaimed, “as in marriage?” in equally as shocked a voice. Yes, that was really what had happened.
During the weekend of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of August 2013, one hotel compromising of just 14 bedrooms produced 6 engaged couples. Well, to get the facts absolutely correct, 5 proposals occurred in the hotel and one on the hotels’ luxury boat whilst sailing on Lake Windermere but it is still one business and still quite frankly, astonishing and also, nowhere near Valentines day!
Many will know of the Romantic Movement, the phrase coined by the such famous Lake District poets, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, his sister Dorothy Wordsworth and Robert Southey well, Windermere can surely be called now the romantic capital of the Lake District! I makes me wonder, if there were 6 proposals in just one hotel there, how many others took place after all, there are a fair few hotels in Windermere to say the least.
As jaw dropping as Suzanne’s news on these engagements was and still is (6 proposals…..one hotel……one weekend for heavens sake!), there aren’t too many better places to pop the question than the Lake District really is there and especially when this summer has been glorious in terms of weather too.
And before I go, I may as well give my friends a little plug and their stunning hotel, the Applegarth Villa Hotel & Restaurant. Obviously not just a lovely, welcoming family run hotel but THE hotel for asking for your loved ones hand in marriage in Windermere! Each room individually decorated and you won’t find many better hotel bathrooms anywhere. Announcing this news on Facebook, umptine people posted comments about how they had proposed whilst staying there, spent their honeymoon there or celebrated anniversaries there and hopefully these newly engaged couples will return there too.
Cartmel, tucked away out of site but most definitely not out of mind. Within easy reach of the M6, Kendal and Grange Over Sands yet secluded, peaceful and quiet.
This weekend however, it will be far from peaceful and quiet but in a very good way. One of the reasons Cartmel, despite it’s diminutive size and quaintness, is the famous Cartmel Racecourse. Cartmel races are on this weekend Saturday 20 July and Monday 22nd July and it is tipped to be a sell out being the first week of the summer holidays and with quite frankly, stunning weather forecast throughout the whole weekend. Cartmel Races has grown in popularity over the years attracting some big name riders and spectators now. Pimms and champagne a regulation!
But in even more recent years, Cartmel has become famous for another reason. The reason being food and most notably, Simon Rogan and the 2 Michelin star L’Enclume restaurant. Within the village Simon also owns Rogan & Co and the latest attribute The Pig & Whistle. Each venue offers a different cooking and menu style as well as ambiance. In the Cartmel Valley he also owns a farm where produce is grown for the restaurants.
But food doesn’t stop with Simon Rogan. Cartmel is home to the world famous Cartmel Sticky Toffee pudding. Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding is revered by chefs, by the biggest STP aficionados and can be found worldwide! A few years ago, who would have thought making puddings in the back kitchen of a village shop could result in worldwide recognitions and success, a true testament to a fantastic product.
Other excellent places to visit when in Cartmel are Cartmel Coffee and Cartmel Cheeses. As with all the businesses in the village, these two offer the highest quality produce and service and really make the most of the area and sourcing locally. Cartmel Coffee has been awarded 4 Cup ‘Exceptional’ by BSA and serves home baked cakes and Cartmel Cheeses is a proper cheese retailer being cheesemakers themselves. Having only opened 3 years ago, Cartmel Cheeses range has now grown to a cheese-tastic 50 cheese.
And all these businesses wouldn’t be as popular if it wasn’t for the setting of the village, the architecture and the surrounding landscape hence why property in Cartmel village has long been very sought after to purchase, desirability of the highest order.
In terms of places to stay when visiting Cartmel then a self catering cottage is a top choice in my eyes. Just think of the great choice of places to eat and the great food and produce outlets. A cottage in Cartmel means you can enjoy the freedom of dining where and when you wish as well as having a fridge to jam pack full of sticky toffee pud and cheese! The Lakeland Cottage Company offer a great range of Cartmel cottages with some being 5 star gold award properties but that isn’t any surprise in a village such as this.
In the words of the Carlsberg adverts, “If Carlsberg made Monday’s, they’d be spent at Brimstone”. Last Monday evening we had the incredible opportunity and experience of staying over at the brand, brand new Brimstone Hotel on the Langdale Estate. The newest of all new hotels, not open officially yet (this happens on July 1st), this “Beyond Boutique” hotel is quite outstanding.
The Langdale Estate as a whole is quite a unique concept so their new venture had to live up to and be in keeping with it of which it has done so in terms of aesthetics and sustainability. Brimstones green credential range from the use of local natural materials to local contractors, recyclable materials, high level insulation, LED lighting, low water use fittings and clever heating and cooling systems linked to the windows. There are oodles more but it gives you an idea of the commitment they have made to the environment.
Aesthetically, driving up to Brimstone and you’d think the structure had been on the estate for years. The exterior is modern and neat yet it doesn’t at all stand out like you’d expect a hot off the press new building to sit in an already established setting. The landscaping has most definitely aided this and with the rhododendrons in full bloom, it was a stunning welcome.
Everything about Brimstone is unique and even though neither Mike nor I have been to masses of 5 star hotels, we’d still bet this would still be a unique experience even for frequent 5 star travellers. I won’t go into huge detail about everything as there is too much but I’ll just highlight a few. No reception, quite strange at first but the moment you walk in, your host meets you with a huge, non stuffy, completely relaxed, warm, welcoming smile. Then the interior grabs you. Slate, wood, frosted glass, muted tones all of which make you instantly calm.
Being guided to our room our heads were going around 360 degrees the whole time. The light fittings, sofas, black & white photography on the walls were all so striking. We were first shown the Rest Room where cakes we laid out, tea, coffee, wine etc all of which were complimentary. The interior of Rest Room furnished individual with chairs and sofas and coffee tables made from tree trunks.
Despite all this, the room was still the absolute, jaw dropping pinnacle. Again the muted tones but from the natural materials and due to this, texture in abundance. A gigantuous bed, corner sofa and a roll top bath…..in the bedroom! The bathroom, again huge, with a double shower, closed of WC and double sinks. The room was really spacious but each and every part of the space was used to its upmost even down to the bespoke wardrobe with perfectly spaced alcoves for ironing board, iron, hairdryer and even GHD’s. This too was true for the mini bar fridge, tea and coffee making facilities.
All this and to be in the stetting of the Langdale Valley, the heart of the Lake District with walks right from the hotel door (there’s also a boot/drying room by the way) also Langdale’s luxury spa, Purdey’s Restaurant and Hobson’s bar within touching distance.
County and agricultural show season kicks off this weekend the 1st and 2nd June in Cumbria with Country Fest organised by the Westmorland County Agricultural Society Westmorlandshow.co.uk/page/country_fest.html. This will be fifth year of Country Fest held on the show field at Crooklands and is topped to be bigger and better than ever before.
New for 2013 is a display from the Lakeland Historic Car Club a vintage marquee and open sheepdog trials. For foodies there will be a plethora of local food producers and suppliers bringing together the best the county has to offer along with a food theatre holding demonstrations throughout the day.
The following week, Saturday 8th June, is the giant Cumberland Show at the Carlisle Racecourse Cumberlandshow.co.uk. At just £10 entrance fee for the whole day and free for children under 16 accompanied by a paying adult, I’d say it’s very good value for a full, family day out. This vast event showcases all the very best in countryside activities, agriculture, farming and food. There are horse, cattle, sheep and goat competitions as well as crop, industrial, rabbit, dog, terrier and poultry! As with Country Fest there’s food stall, demonstrations and plenty of activities for kids to join in on.
There are plenty of places to stay should you be visiting from out of the county or simply wishing to make a weekend out of attending any of the upcoming shows. With all the great Cumbrian food producers, it is almost inevitable you’re going to purchase quite substantial amounts! The temptation is too great when such diverse, different and quality food and produce is available. This is why staying a in a self catering cottage or property is a great idea, having both space and a fridge to store foodie goodies in.
Throughout Cumbria and the Lake District the Lakeland Cottage Company have a choice of excellent Lake District holiday cottages ranging from small retreats to properties suitable for larger parties with many making ideal bases for either of these two shows. To view all of their properties visit http://www.lakeland-cottage-company.co.uk/
In time for the start of the tourist season, the transport minister Norman Baker has visited the Lake District to check out and promote green travel within the Lake District National Park.
Long has the railway been a convenient, green and handy way to travel to the Lake District but now getting around the county and the National Park has never been easier, greener or quieter.
Introducing electric car hire. A form of transport that couldn’t fit anywhere more perfectly than in the Lake District. It is true, and many people are voicing this, there aren’t a plethora of charging points yet but the number is growing and with a little planning, guidance from where you hire it from and common sense, you’ll be seeing the best the Lake District has to offer in the most greenest of ways.
The electric car in question is a Renault Twizzy, a funky two seater and fully electric. It can be hired out on an hourly basis from two locations, Langdale and Coniston. At just £10 per hour it is an affordable way of sightseeing and even more, great fun. Electric cars are of course silent so taking in the scenery of the Lake District in all its peacefulness in a peaceful car couldn’t be better suited.
It is only by offering alternatives to visitors that greener travel within the region is going to take off. By starting off with greener car hire, it will in turn encourage more charging points to be installed which will then hopefully encourage more visitors with electric cars to visit the Lake District. With the backing of the government for programmes such as Golakes Travel and help and support from local tourism operators, the message and choice should start to get out there and take off.
As the adventure capital of the UK, Cumbria – the Lake District holds its fair share of events and sportives for those more active types especially cyclists. From now until September there is a steady stream of cycle sportives to suit a variety of abilities but many learn towards the hardcore cyclist out there. It’s quite obvious when you think about it due to the nature of the roads.
The biggest most popular and most famous of the Lake District cycling races is the Fred Whitton Challenge, challenge being the operative word. I have the pleasure this year, as I did last, of being head of the support team for my husband taking on this challenge. My car will be a travelling bike spares unit as well as catering facility. The only thing I need to do is to actually spot him this year unlike last! No one has let me live that down!
The Fred Whitton is a gruelling 112 mile race. Starting and finishing in Coniston taking in nearly every Lake District pass with the utterly ridiculous Hardknott Pass with its 30% gradient thrown in towards the end. Scenic it is so for spectators and support teams there are far worse places to be stood around, the scenery however is not a factor for the riders! At the finish, plenty of wobbly legs and hugs from friends and relatives, everyone with a look of joy that it had finally come to an end with many saying “I never want to see that bike again”. Despite this, most people don’t just do it once and it is one of the most entered and oversubscribed events in the country!
There are many of these lunatics that are local to Cumbria and the Lake District but a massive amount come from all over the UK which require somewhere to stay. For self catering accommodation then the Lakeland Cottage Company have a huge choice of Lake District cottages with many being in Coniston itself. B&B accommodation can be found in Coniston as well as peaceful retreats like the Cuckoo Brow Inn B&B Lake District which happens to be dog friendly for anyone bringing the whole family (!) and is also a pub that serves food and local real ales, just what is needed after a ride and a half!
The Fred Whitton Challenge will be taking place on May 12 2013 and all the proceeds go to charity each and every year with the two main recipients being The Dave Rayner Fund and Macmillan Cancer Support. The last few years have also seen donations to the North West Air Ambulance and the Duddon & Furness Mountain Rescue Team who give invaluable support to the event each year. “The Fred” has raised over half a million pounds in the 13 years it has been held.
Any Cumbria business in any way connected to the tourism industry will be hoping for a bumper Easter. An early Easter can often mean a quieter one in terms of trade yet with the length and breadth of the country experiencing a truly horrid winter, it will hopefully mean people will choose to getaway for a holiday or just a weekend break.
Of course, the trend the tourism industry has been experiencing in recent years has been that of last minute and late bookings. It’s a fact of life now for this industry with all forms of travel from a night away to full holidays being booked in this way. Guests want the very best prices and feel last minute bookings are the best way to achieve this. The unpredictability of the weather has also contributed to the late booking trend.
For anyone in two minds as to whether or not to make their way up to “The Lakes” then JUST DO IT! The place is looking stunning with snow still on the some of the tops, exceedingly dry underfoot due to the amazing weather we’ve had here in the past three weeks and daffodils to be seen at every glance.
There are some amazing deals being offered by hotels, b&b’s and self catering accommodation providers in the county so it really is a great time to visit. The following tourism operators all have super deals for Easter: