Cartmel – a hidden gem on the edge of the Lake District

Beautiful Cartmel

Cartmel is a beautiful village on the southern edge of the Lake District. We visited Cartmel last year when staying in Coniston. This year we decided to make it our base for our annual visit to the Lakes.

Cartmel is situated in what is known as the Lake District Peninsulars which is the area that juts out in to Morecambe Bay south of Windermere and Coniston.  The scenery may not be as dramatic as the Lake District National Park but it is still a beautiful part of the country with some stunning coastal views.

What we particularly loved about Cartmel is that the Lake District is on your doorstep without the crowds you get in places like Windermere and Bowness.


We stayed in a cosy one bedroomed cottage in the centre of Cartmel just behind the magnificent Cartmel Priory, for info on the cottage click here. It was ideal for 2 adults and it also allowed dogs. Odie our Patterdale Terrier got his annual holiday too!


The majority of accommodation available in the village is in self catering cottages. There are also a couple of small hotels, Aynsome Manor and the Priory. A couple of the village pubs offer accommodation, the Royal Oak and the Cavendish Arms. If you are eating at L’Enclume the village’s 2 Michelin starred restaurant they also offer rooms in the village.

Food and Drink

For it’s size Cartmel offers a great deal of choice when it comes to food and drink.

Many visitors come to Cartmel to sample the delights of L’Enclume, for a review of our meal at this amazing restaurant click here.

Other places we ate include the Cavendish Arms, the Royal Oak and the Kings Head, who all offered good pub food. Our best meal apart from L’Enclume was the Priory Hotel in the centre of the village. Its owned by local people who were so friendly and welcoming. The steak pie was historic! They also offered some superb wines at bargain basement prices! Unfortunately we didn’t try the Priory until our final night, we so wish we’d found it earlier in our stay!

One of the many Cartmel pubs

There is one other pub in the village, the Pig and Whistle, who offer tapas style food. Rogan and Co, the more informal sister restaurant to L’Enclume,  is another option for a full meal. For a lighter bite to eat or a coffee there are also 3 cafes in the village.

Our favourite drinking spot was undoubtedly Unsworth’s Yard. This consists of a microbrewery, wine and gin bar, the famous Cartmel Cheese shop (who supply L’Enclume) and an artisan food shop selling locally made bread, savouries (including Higginson’s Pork Pies) and other delicious goodies. You can buy food and drink from all the establishments (or the Mallard Tea Rooms just down the road) and eat or drink in the courtyard or in the Wine Snug. We visited every day and tried some delicious wines and sampled a gin and tonic or two! At weekends they serve delicious home made pizzas, to eat in the courtyard or to takeaway.


Just nearby in the village of Allithwaite is the Pheasant. A friendly family run pub serving great pub food in huge portions, definitely worth trying.

As it was Odie’s holiday too, it was great to find that most pubs and cafes in Cartmel welcomed dogs. The only exception from the places we ate in was L’Enclume.


For a small village Cartmel has a wide assortment of quality shops.

Our favourite was the Cartmel Village Shop, the home of the famous Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding. This is a food lover’s delight offering a great selection of local food and drink including delicious Morecombe Bay Shrimps and Cumberland Sausage. They also have a cafe upstairs where you can sample the sticky toffee pudding!

sticky toffee pudding
Cavendish Arms Sticky Toffee Pudding

We were lucky to arrive in Cartmel on the 3rd Friday in the month when they have the monthly food market. This gave us the chance to stock up with some lovely local fresh produce.

What to see and do in and around Cartmel

In the village

Bang in the centre of the village is Cartmel Racecourse with race meetings held throughout the summer. Also in the village centre is the magnificent Cartmel Priory, well worth a visit.


There are plenty of walks in and around Cartmel. You can buy a guide on local walks at the Cartmel Village Shop. Our favourite was a walk from the centre of the village over the racecourse to Holker Hall. It’s a fairly easy walk through woodland and low lying fells. The day we did this walk we were fortunate that the annual Spring Country Fayre was being held at Holker Hall. The fair had some great stalls selling local produce and crafts.


Close by

A trip to the coast is a must with some lovely traditional seaside resorts overlooking Morecambe Bay. Grange-over-Sands is a traditional British seaside resort with a beautiful promenade and gardens and is only a couple of miles away and easily walkable. Slightly further afield are Arnside and Silverdale which offer beautiful coastal walks with great views.


Obviously you have the Lake District National Park on your doorstep so you don’t have to travel far for beautiful lake and mountain scenery. Only fifteen minutes away from Cartmel are the Winster and Lyth valleys situated between the southern end of  Windermere and Kendal. This is a stunning part of the Lakes with incredible scenery and yet few tourists seem to know about it, a bit like Cartmel!

Windermere from Fellfoot Brow

Ulverston is worth a visit. A small thriving market town with some excellent independent shops and the Laurel and Hardy museum (it was the birthplace of Stan Laurel)! If you are peckish the Bay Horse on the waterfront at Ulverston is a lovely lunch stop.

Further afield

If you go on from Ulverston and follow the A595 towards Whitehaven you get some fabulous coastal and mountain veiws. The road twists and turns between the narrow coastal plain and the highest mountains in England including Scafell. A few miles inalnd from Ravenglass you have Wastwater. Wastwater is the deepest and in my opinion the most spectacaular lake to be found in the Lake District.

On the coast just beyond Sellafield nuclear power station you have the seaside resort of St Bees. St Bees was the home of Jane’s maternal family so its a special place for her. This was my first visit and I was blown away by the spectacular beach and the views of the Isle of Man. It is a stunning place that is definitely worth a visit. If you want a challenge St Bees is the starting point for the famous Coast to Coast walk from the West Coast to the East Coast of England.


The Guestbook Comment: “It you want a base to see the Lake District away from the busy tourist hot spots but with easy access definitely consider Cartmel.”

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