The Cumbrian Dialect

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There are so many amazing things about the Lake District – the beautiful scenery, endless places to walk and explore, as well as the fascinating cultural history. But did you know that it is also home to the unique Cumbrian dialect? ‘Tis, aye!*

*Translation: Yep, that’s right!

Cumbrian sign with dialectThe Cumbrian dialect is admired all over the world and is the subject of years of historical research. In fact, it's estimated to date as far back as the 10th century from the early Norwegian settlers who settled in the area from Ireland and the Isle of Man. Did you know that many well-known Lake District place names are of Norse origin? For example, Ambleside literally translates as 'river-sandbank-summer-pasture', Wasdale refers to the 'valley of the water', and Bassenthwaite means 'baston’s clearing' in Norse. Historians also believe that the dialect was influenced by the Celts, which is evidenced by places such as Borrowdale (valley with a fort), and fells such as Hellvellyn (yellow moorland) and Blencathra (chair-shaped bare hill).

Blencathra in the Lake DistrictDon’t worry, though – you don’t need to be fluent in Cumbrian to navigate your way around the Lakes! Nowadays, the dialect is in decline, but you might catch the odd word here and there on your visit. Words such as 'larl' (little) and 'yam' (home) are still commonly used, as well as an occasional 'eh' to emphasise a point!

Top tip –you've made a friend if you're addressed to as 'marra' - a local term of endearment similar to 'mate'. As for the accent, this can vary from north to south, but listen out for dropped vowels and extra stress on some consonants.

Just for fun, we've given you some handy tips if you fancy having a go at the native tongue!

Eating/Drinking

The Dog and Gun in KeswickThe Lake District is home to lots of pubs, including traditional pubs, bars and restaurants to suit any taste. If you're feeling a bit full after a generous plate of Cumberland sausage, you may describe yourself as 'brossen' – fit to burst!

Example: "As fair brossen after all that scran!"*

*Translation: "I'm really quite full after that meal."

If a good pub is your thing, you can search for a cottage near a pub using our handy cottage search!

Casks at the Lake District Distillery in BassenthwaiteWhen it comes to local ales, you're spoiled for choice! The Lake District has many local breweries, so you'll have plenty of opportunity to sample a few tipples. The Jennings Brewery in Cockermouth is a local gem, and you can find many Cumbrian inspired ales across Lake District pubs, such as Summit Else, Cumberland Ale (fondly referred to as a 'pint of sausage'!), or the ever-popular Sneck Lifter. If you'd prefer a refreshing spirit after a good walk, try a 'sup' of gin or vodka from the award-winning Lakes Distillery near Bassenthwaite.

Check out Sally's Review of Lakeland's Breweries

Walking in the Countryside

Herdwick sheep in the Lake DistrictIf you've already been lucky enough to go walking in the Lake District, then you may have noticed a sheep or two! The most recognisable is the lovely grey Herdwick breed, whose name is taken from the Norse 'herdvyck', meaning 'sheep pasture.' But did you know that farmers have their own Cumbrian numerals to count their sheep? Below are the numbers up to ten:

  1. Yan
  2. Tan
  3. Tethera
  4. Methera
  5. Pimp
  6. Sethera
  7. Lethera
  8. Hothera
  9. Dothera
  10. Dick

Herdwick sheep in LangdaleSo, next time you're up the fells and see a group of Herdys grazing, you can impress your fellow walkers with your knowledge of Cumbrian numerals!

Like the sound of staying amongst the fresh air of the Lake District countryside? Check out our authentic farm cottages!

Shopping

Kendal shopsThe Lakes is a great place to do a spot of shopping and spend a bit of ‘loor’ (cash)!

There's plenty to choose from, including high-street shops as well as small independent shops for that unique gift.

It's no secret that the Lake District is partial to a bit of rain now and then, but you'll have no need to be unprepared when it starts hoying it doon!* There's an abundance of outdoor shops in the Lakes to prepare you for any weather – Keswick and Ambleside in particular have a very good range of outdoor wear.

*Translation: Raining rather a lot!

Rain over WindermereOnce you've got your walking byuts (boots) sorted, you'll need to stock up on the Lake's staple delicacy for energy. We are, of course, talking about Kendal Mint Cake – or Kendul Mint Cyack, to use the old dialect! It's a favourite among fell walkers and climbers for an energy boost, so is kept in high supply in most of the Lake District towns.

Check out our guide to shopping in the Lake District

The Cumbrian dialect is just one part of the cultural history of the Lakes and another thing that makes it so unique. There's no need to hire a translator though, all our friendly staff speak the Queen's English here at Sally's Cottages!

To find your perfect holiday cottage in the Lake District, take a look at our cottage search!

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Thanks to Ellen Mattinson of Cumbria Arts for this great blog!