Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published February 1st 2014
A Medieval Village Full of Character
Cartmel Village Shop
I like the name Cartmel; it reminds me of caramel. A day shopping through Cartmel village it probably make you think about it even more - plus a lot of other delicious food. Cartmel might only have a small number of shops but those shops deliver just as much - if not more - than you find on a busy high street.
Dare you enter Sweeney Bob's?
If you want to look your best before setting off, then why not risk a visit to Mrs. Lovett's and Sweeney Bob's Hairdresser? Come out with your ears lowered, but head intact or you get your money back.
Once looking presentable, the first place you'll come across looks like a gift shop. Outside are a stack of wicker baskets and humorous plaques that are bought more out of a wish to amuse people than because you think it has a place to hang.
Inside, however, the shop seems to change into a kitchenware store. There is all sorts of useful equipment, such as a blow torch and olive oil spray bottle. These are items I see recommended on cooking programmes, but have no idea where to find.
The Red Pepper
Step through to the next room, and you are actually entering a different shop. The Red Pepper sells wine and spirits. Their sloe and cherry vodka/whisky/brandy sounds delicious.
The Red Pepper also sells beer and ale, which you can buy in the store or from the brewery around the corner.
Opposite The Red Pepper is Cartmel Cheeses & Bakehouse. It was closed the day I went there, but I could still look at the impressive courtyard.
A short walk on brings you to Hand Crafted Gifts. I was stopped in my tracks before even entering, because on the door was a set of postcards with local recipes. These are useful for making your own bakes, and then sending them on to others. Inside the shop itself, you'll come across paintings, knitwear, and wooden sculptures.
Described as an 'unexpected discovery', The Larch Tree is literally just that. It is like stepping inside a Tardis. The front room is filled with a mix of different gifts, such as scented soaps, stylish crockery, sweets, and an amazing funfair display, snuggled inside what used to be a fireplace.
It is only at this point that I discovered a back room hidden away. Here, The Larch Tree manage a mini miracle: They make socks exciting. Now I've always liked socks, but to say that I get excited by them is pushing it. The inexhaustible range that The Larch Tree supply, however, could make you as enthusiastic as if you were buying a new pair of shoes or dress.
Everything was made from eco-friendly material, such as bamboo and hemp. There was a range of non-elastic socks for improved circulation, thermal socks to keep your feet warm, and ones with aloe vera. I must not forget the funky socks, designed to look like trainers, converses, and skeleton feet.
It would be a bit odd if all they did were socks but, down the hall, another room appears out of nowhere. Here you'll find a range of coats, trousers, and tops. These are mainly for outdoor activities like hiking, but there are some lighter garments too.
Mingled amongst the clothing are more quirky gifts, including greetings cards, tea towels, wind chimes, and mechanical wooden displays.
At this stage I was already aware of a flight of stairs. I can imagine the sheer glee on any child's face when the reach the top. A nursery of toys ranging from soft and cuddly to loud and dynamic.
While the kids make their pitstop here, it is a good time to venture into yet another room and - believe it or not - a third floor. This is where the more fragile items are, so a child must be accompanied at all times.
The homeware is amazing, and the perfect thing if you are looking for something that little bit different. My favourites were the bottle holders that were being clasped by metal men and vans, and the hot air balloons, which will send your spirit soaring.
If you have an open fire, it is probably difficult to buy equipment for it. The Larch Tree will satisfy all your needs. There is a coal/log holder, fire guard, shovel, and a poker.
A small walk along the river will take you to a number of eateries, including Rogan restaurant, award-winning Cartmel Cafe, and the King's Arms Pub. These surround the corners of the village square, and are joined by an antiques bookshop, and The Perfect English gift shop.
In the centre of the square is an old pump and obelisk leading on to the Cartmel Village Shop. Apparently Cartmel is the home of sticky toffee pudding (see, I told you I had a good reason to think about caramel), and inside they had it in abundance, along with fudge, chocolate, cookies, coffee syrup, preserves (I was very tempted by the passionfruit curd), and traditional sweetshop sweets. They also have fresh local produce, including bacon, organic free range eggs, cheese, and hot food to take away.
If you have kids with you, why not pick up a free bag to feed the birds? I would recommend pigeons rather than ducks, like they suggest, as bread bad for ducks.
Want to make a statement? How about a cow in your living room? You can get your very own from Chamberlains' Gifts.
If you didn't lunch at one of the previously mentioned places, then then go all out at L'Enclume. With a skip out the front, it does not look like all that of a prestigious place to eat, but the internationally acclaimed Michelin Star restaurant is owned by Simon Rogan, one of the most accomplished and well respected chefs in the UK. Be warned; you'll need to take out a second mortgage to eat there.
By the car park, is a playground for the kids to use up any remaining energy before the drive home. With any luck they'll be too knackered to make a noise in the car.