Cartmel is a tiny village located at the bottom of the Lake District in the NorthWest of the UK, famous for two things- a racecourse that brings in punters nationally perhaps once a year, and L’Enclume, a Michelin-stared restaurant now dubbed the best restaurant in the uk. Also there are plenty of ruins…
This past weekend I went up to Cartmel with my wife SY, firstly to attend my brother’s wedding (congratulations Joe and Vicky!) as best man, which was an excellent experience, and secondly to take a mini-holiday in the middle of nature. Cartmel stood out to us because we’d been hearing about L’Enclume for years, from various media sources (Steve Coogan in The Trip) and now seemed the time to do it. .
After the hectic pace of the wedding, for which I did some help setting things up, helped steer things somewhat while they were underway, and of course gave a speech, on top of driving up from London and all around Bolton when I haven’t driven for years and was never a very confident driver anyway- it was awesome to head into the country and go stay at a B & B surrounded by green, hills, and stars in the night sky.
We arrived at the B & B, Broughton Hotel on Sunday afternoon, which featured a wooden-frame Yurt in the grounds as well as 36 solar panels, and one of the most comfy beds ever, and I just vegged out. Eating the owner’s brownies and sugar cookies knocked me even further for 6. Here I am, out of it completely in the lounge-
Fallen down. Roaring fire only sped my descent into Land of Nod.
Tea, brownies, sugar cookies. I couldn’t eat dinner til after 9 I was that filled up and sleepy.
That night we went out for a pub dinner. Driving on night country roads is tricky, and I dreaded coming up against an oncoming car. The roads in most spots were far too narrow to go past each other, which would necessitated one of us backing up a good long stretch to find a passing place. Happily, in all our night jaunts, it never happened.
The next day dawned bright and cheery, not even that cold, and after a gently staggered start, with a stunning fresh full English breakfast hand-prepared by the B & B owner, we headed out on our day’s hike. We had a goal to circle the area for 3 or 4 hours, see some sights, and work up our appetite.
First though, we started with Cartmel priory, which is an 800 year old church in the center of the tiny village. It is a living ruin, in excellent condition still, that apparently takes 500 pounds a day to maintain, heat, and light (about $800). We bought a few postcards and left a moderate donation toward that end. It’s hard to imagine how amazing a structure like the priory would have appeared when it was first built 800 years ago. Enough to make you believe in god, probably.
Gorgeous day, beautiful building.
Exterior stained glass windows. The building is probably sandstone.
By the by, this church is probably a lot like what the church in my book Ignifer’s Rise looks like. That one’s a bit bigger, and of a whiter stone but basically the same deal.
Gravestones built into the wall. Some of those remembered here were surprisingly old for their era- we saw several 80+ year olds, who died in the 1800s.
Poppies like these commemorate Remembrance Day (Nov 11) in the UK- symbolizing all the lives lost since WW1.
After musing around the exterior for some time, we went inside. To our surprise, our co-guests at the Broughton Hotel were in the priory as well, and we had a little chat about how impressive the building was. And it is very beautiful. Take a look.
Biblical scenes in ancient stained glass.
More long-lived souls, with their gravestones laid to rest tiling the church’s inner floor.
In a corner, more stained glass alongside the livery of various local houses.
With a memorial for the Duke or Earl of something, I forget where.
It’s me. People were a lot shorter back then. I’m only 5’10”.
View across the Nave from the Transept.
Stained glass and pennants fly.
Inside the chancel choir, looking out.
I had rather be a doore keeper in the house of my god, then to dwell in the tabernacles of wickednese.
Chancel looking in.
Popping out and onwards.
The King’s Arms, a pub where we ate Sunday night, right on the square in the village center. At left you can see the priory.
After the priory was done, we headed out across the racecourse, seeking our hike from a book that followed largely unmarked public bridleways (public rights of way, often across fields and climbing over stiles and gates). Early on, we stumbled upon this abandoned farmhouse, which I of course had to go take a look at.
It wasn’t in too bad shape from outside, but choked with overgrown brambles in the central yard, and the roof fallen through on the buildings on the right.
Couldn’t get into this building it had all been shuttered up, but I did dip into the barn on the left.
Clambering over brambles, I ducked in through a half-open split-level door, and peered left and right.
Right. In the middle there is a cool-looking wood-saw thing. I wish I’d got a closer look at it, but I was in a rush to get back to the hike.
Glass still in this one.
The central corridor in the barn, actually very dark. Would pigs have lived in here? Or are these divisions used for storing hay or some such?
The half-open split door I ducked in through.
Some light shone in through a hole in the ceiling, so I climbed up on this big tractor tyre scattered with hay, took a final shot down the middle way, then climbed up through the ceiling.
There’s my tyre down below. I was very cautious to not step on a rotten bit- sticking to edges and central underlying beams.
The upper level of the barn.
That was that for the explore. If I’d had more time, I might have tried to get into the farmhouse. It would have required climbing myself up through some kind of coal-scuttle into the second floor, which I didn’t fancy doing- it looked very tight and time-consuming.
I’m sure there’ll be more ruined farmhouses in the future though.
So, after that we got o with our walk. Early on we came up against this sign-
Adders are of course snakes. We don’t have many in the UK, but this is one. We saw none though.
A view from the top, looking back on the hike we made. This was part of the Cambrian Coastal Way.
We worked our way through boggy fields back to Cartmel in time for dark fall, had a cream tea (tea and cream and jam scones, utterly delicious), then waited until our reservation at L’Enclume. Though this is far from a food blog, I think I’ll give it its own post, it was that impressive. Until then (in a few days maybe).
In the meantime, if you know any great or weird ruins in the uk, please let me know in the comments below or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’m keen to visit more.