The best things to do in Cartmel holiday cottages

The best things to do in Cartmel

Kim 04 March 2024

Though small, the village of Cartmel has a huge amount on offer. A foodie paradise, it sits between Morecambe Bay and the edge of the Lake District, opening up all sorts of opportunities. But you may find so much to do in the village itself that you don’t even need to head further afield! 

You can wander along charming streets that are lined with traditional stone cottages, characterful pubs and independent shops, admire the architecture at Cartmel Priory, and find a stately home and a famous racecourse within easy walking distance. 

Find what you fancy in our guide to the best things to do in Cartmel and plan your next Lake District getaway to this pretty Cumbrian village.

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Things to do in Cartmel

Cartmel Races

Cartmel Racecourse surrounded by Lake District countryside

Cartmel Racecourse is iconic. Backed by the Lakeland fells, it stages only National Hunt (jump) racing on a sharp and narrow left-handed oval. Its nine annual events are something of a party, with a funfair and live music acts that have in the past included well-known names like David Gray and Tom Jones.  

Cartmel Priory

Top of Cartmel Priory behind a traditional stone cottage

Having endured raids, pestilence, and the dissolution of the monasteries, Cartmel Priory has plenty of stories to tell! This imposing building is over 800 years old and is still active today as a place of worship or somewhere to enjoy a bit of quiet contemplation. Head there to take in the unique architecture, listen out for the ringing of the bells, or attend a service.

Holker Hall and Gardens

Flowers and lawn in the foreground with Holker Hall behind them

Slightly outside of the village, you’ll find Holker Hall and Gardens where you can tour the gorgeous stately home or admire the incredible gardens, which include formal areas alongside wild meadows. The estate also hosts a number of excellent events throughout the year. Check their calendar for music festivals, a spring festival, winter markets and outdoor yoga days. 

Lakeland Segway

Group of people on a Segway course

Boasting the title of longest-running Segway tour company in the UK, Lakeland Segway is open all year round and offers an unusual way of exploring the village and surrounding countryside. Hop on your two-wheeled machine for a bit of training and balance practice before zipping down quiet country lanes and past all the sights of the village.

Park Lane Cartmel Day Spa & Beauty Salon

Go on, pamper yourself, you’re on holiday after all! Park Lane Cartmel will help you relax with a multitude of treatments to choose from. Sit back for a massage or to get your nails done, or go ahead and enjoy a full pamper package. You deserve it!

Things to do near Cartmel

Morecambe Bay

Stretch of beach backed by rocks at Morecambe Bay

Cartmel’s stunning position means you have the best of both the Lake District National Park and the sea. Morecambe Bay is an excellent place to enjoy long, sandy strolls, spectacular sunsets and exhilarating outdoor adventures. Why not pack a picnic and head to the beach for a day paddling in the water? Or walk right across the bay at certain times of the year with the aid of a King’s Guide who will help you navigate the quicksand. For even more excitement, try any one of the water and air activities available, which include windsurfing, kitesurfing and paragliding.

Quaint villages

Collage of images; Flookburgh Beach, Steam Train at Haverthwaite, Lakeland Motor Museum

The area around Cartmel is dotted with pretty, quaint villages that are a delight to wander around. Cark-in-Cartmel has picturesque cottages lining the river, while Flookburgh is an ancient community that still revolves around fishing. You can often see large tractors scraping the nearby estuary sands for shrimp and cockles! Haverthwaite is the start of the Haverthwaite & Lakeside Railway route, with steam trains puffing up to Windermere, and Backbarrow is home to the Lakeland Motor Museum.

Grange Fell Golf Club

Yellow flag marking a hole at Grange Fell Golf Club
Image credit: Grange Fell Golf Club

Nothing beats a good round of golf with fabulous views, and nearby Grange Fell Golf Club offers just that. Overlooking Morecambe Bay and the sea beyond, you might find it difficult to keep your eye on the ball! The nine-hole course has plenty to draw back your attention, though, with the landscape playing a big part in making this an enjoyable yet challenging game.

Windermere and the Lake District

View down to Lake Windermere from Gummer How

Once you’ve thoroughly explored the village, you might fancy a day out in the Lake District. Windermere is your nearest lake and its 18km length offers up plenty of attractions. Bowness and Ambleside are the bustling hubs around the lake, while quieter areas such as Stott Park Bobbin Mill offer something a bit different. Hop on a cruiser to take you around the water and to different stops that include Wray Castle and the Lakes Aquarium.

Find out more about Lake Windermere

Place to eat and drink in Cartmel

You'll be spoiled for choice when it comes to pubs and restaurants in Cartmel, where you fancy sitting down for a fine dining meal or are looking for traditional pub grub. 

Michelin restaurants

Tables at L'Enclume set up ready for service

Image credit: L'Enclume

For a small village, Cartmel is full of delicious delights including not one, but two Michelin-starred restaurants. L’Enclume, the only Cumbrian restaurant to have three stars, offers understated elegance as well as farm tours so you know exactly where your food is coming from. Rogan & Co, with the same owners, provides exquisite food in a ‘relaxed neighbourhood restaurant’.

Pubs in Cartmel

Steam engines outside The Engine Inn Restaurant in Cartmel

Image credit: The Engine Inn Restaurant

If you’re after something a little more budget friendly, there are several good pubs that serve everything from seasonal meals to a pint and a cocktail. The Cavendish Arms is an historic 450-year-old coaching inn with character to match, while the Pig & Whistle is a laid back spot serving ‘proper food in a proper pub’. A short walk away in Cark-in Cartmel you'll find The Engine Inn, a 17th-century inn that serves hearty food in cosy surroundings 

Walks in Cartmel

There are several good walking routes around Cartmel. Woodland wanders, sandy seaside strolls and heavenly hill walks… the village really does have them all!

Eggerslack Woods

Woodland trees surrounded by bluebells in bloom

Eggerslack Woods is a tranquil spot with native trees, spring bluebells, several public footpaths, and a network of informal paths. The Pilgrim’s Way long-distance footpath passes through the woodlands, and you’ll certainly feel a little spiritual wandering through this lovely area.

Park Wood and Speel Bank Farm

Couple on pathway through Park Wood

Beyond the famous Cartmel racetrack is Park Wood. Though not a long walk, it makes for a pleasant morning wander before you pick up breakfast. Just go as far as you want before turning back.

If you fancy extending this route, you can carry on towards the deer park at Speel Bank Farm, and finish off a wonderful circular walk back to the village.

Arnside & Silverdale AONB

The beach at Arnside with sea and sand backed by grass


On the far side of the Kent Estuary is a nature lover's dream. The Arnside & Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is home to numerous nature reserves, rare flora, and fascinating wildlife. You can happily spend your whole day here walking or cycling through the landscape, spotting birds and butterflies, and admiring the views. Stop off at some of the pretty villages in the AONB for refreshments, or learn about the history of the area while you’re here. There’s almost too much to do!


Promenade running next to garden at Grange-over-Sands

Grange-over-Sands is one of the smallest towns sitting on the shores of Morecambe Bay. Once a small fishing village, it grew when the Victorians discovered the benefits of its sea air thanks to the introduction of the railway. It became a popular seaside holiday destination and its appeal remains today. A mile-long promenade provides an easy, flat walk, while nearby Hampsfell provides a more challenging route with a reward of beautiful views at the top. When you’ve finished your hike, don’t forget to stop off at Higginsons of Grange, an award-winning butchers and pie maker.

Shopping in Cartmel

Fancy a bit of retail therapy? Cartmel has a delectable range of independent shops for you to browse. From accent furniture to a ‘wine snug’, you’ll be reaching for your purse with delight!

Unsworth’s Yard 

Exterior of Cartmel Drinkshop and Wine Snug lit up on an evening
Image credit: Cartmel Drinkshop and Wine Snug

You’ll find several of Cartmel’s best shops and eateries at Unsworth’s Yard, a unique shopping area with a brewery, wine snug, tea shop and independent food outlets. Take a wander around this lovely space and see what you discover.

Gifts and homeware

Greetings cards strung up between trees
Credit: Ellie Heaven Designs

Ellie Heaven Designs is a local illustrator who creates pretty handcrafted keepsakes and cards, while you can pick up the ideal gift at Perfect English. Or why not head to Yew Tree Barn and Wilson Reclamation Services where you can browse antiques or the on-site blacksmith and enjoy a tasty lunch at the in-house cafe?

Vintage and antiques shops

Open book on a table with books in the background

Seek out an item with loads of history and a story to tell. Whether that’s a second-hand book from Kerr & Sons or vintage-style furniture and fashions from Village Vintage. You’re sure to find something extra-special and unique at one of these stores.

Food and drink

Cartmel Village Shop and Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding

Lady with two dogs walking to Cartmel Village Shop

It’s worth a trip to the village just for a taste of the world-famous Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding. Created in the back room of Cartmel Village Shop, it’s a forever favourite with dessert lovers and still handmade in small batches. Nowadays there are also lots of other iterations for you to try. From sticky chocolate pudding to sticky toffee ice cream made with English Lakes ice cream, there’s something for all weathers.

Cartmel Cheeses

Board with a selection of three cheeses

If you prefer your treats savoury instead, then don’t miss a trip to Cartmel Cheeses. Stocking handpicked artisan cheeses from around the world, as well as a deli range, this place is a turophile’s dream (that’s a cheese-lover to you and me!). If you simply can’t get enough, why not sign up for a Cheese Club subscription and get your monthly fix delivered directly to your door?

Our Shop

If you loved your meal at one of the Michelin-starred restaurants in Cartmel, then pick up something to take home at Our Shop. Pick up food, kitchenware and all the items that go into making a top-quality restaurant.

Unsworth’s Yard Brewery

Three glasses of beer on a wooden tray

After all that work exploring Cartmel and the surrounding area, you’re bound to want to kick back and relax. Unsworth’s Yard Brewery is the perfect place to do that, and you can pop in for a tour and tasting at the brewery itself, or at the next-door bar. You can even take something back to your holiday cottage from the adjoining shop.

Where is Cartmel?

Countryside surrounding Cartmel with Cartmel Priory in the distance

Cartmel is on the southern peninsulas of Cumbria, north of Morecambe Bay and south of Windermere. Though not within the national park itself, it’s just a few miles outside of the Lake District.

Getting to Cartmel:

  • Cartmel is easily reached from anywhere in the country via the M6. Leave the motorway at Junction 36 and travel north-east, following the A590 and then signs to the village.
  • If you’re visiting Cartmel from elsewhere in the Lake District, in most cases you should follow a route past Windermere and then continue south past Newby Bridge until you can follow signs. 
  • From locations in the western Lake District, follow the A595 and A590 until you see signs for Cark and Cartmel. If travelling from the west, avoid the ‘quicker’ route over Ulpha as suggested by Google, as these are difficult fell roads and particularly hazardous in bad weather.
  • There is no train station in Cartmel, but the nearest is only a 5-minute taxi ride away in Grange-over-Sands.

Parking in Cartmel

Fields with sheep in front of Cartmel Priory

There is a large paid parking area at Cartmel Racecourse, and this will be your best option for parking on most occasions. A few parking bays are available outside Cartmel Priory, but otherwise street parking is limited.

On race days and during large events, vehicular access to the village is limited, so if you’re travelling on one of these days, make use of public transport wherever possible.

Places to stay in Cartmel

No. 3 Church View Cottage in a row of cottages opposite Cartmel Priory
No. 3 Church View in Cartmel

Our selection of self-catering cottages in Cartmel reflects the wonderful feel of this popular village. From rustic farmhouses to beautifully presented conversions, there’s something for every taste.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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