Who could fail to be happy in Cumbria? World class scenery, wonderful lifestyle, friendly people – and so much more.
The Cumberland knows a thing or two about happiness. It has the happiest customers in banking bar none, according to Fairer Finance, beating all the rest including big national names in the UK.
So we teamed up with The Cumberland to bring you 30 great things about the county that will make you smile – and proud.
Dry stone walls
These are basically art out in the wild. Superbly crafted by hand, there are thousands of miles of them and most have lasted centuries. There are actually different designs in different parts of the county.
The highlight of Summer in Cumbria are the shows. They’re mini agricultural festivals where farming folk get to show off their animals and skills and the whole community comes together to celebrate its roots, from Cumbria’s great unsung attraction.
A key part of many shows, you might start off giggling at grown men wearing big undies over tights and wrestling in their socks, but after just a couple of minutes, you’ll be amazed at their strength and skill. More and more girls and women are taking up the sport now.
No, this isn’t a joke! We need the wet to keep our fells and fields beautifully lush, our rivers sparkling and our lakes lustrous. You can still enjoy Cumbria in the wet – and it saves on expensive moisturiser!
Arts and Crafts
Cumbria has a rich and varied artistic history and has inspired all kinds of art over the centuries. There’s Blackwell, the Arts and Crafts House near Bowness-on-Windermere and John Ruskin’s old home of Brantwood at Coniston. Tullie House Museum and gallery in Carlisle has a collection of works by the Pre-Raphaelites. Which brings us on to.
The Derwent Pencil Museum in Keswick is known internationally. Based on the site of the old Cumberland pencil factory, it has the biggest colouring pencil in the world and played a key part in the black comedy Sightseers.
Swallows And Amazons
Arthur Ransome’s adventure book for boys and girls is a perennial favourite. Set in and around Coniston, you can play out the roles yourself at Coniston and Derwentwater which was also used in the two movies.
Whether it is pop, rock or folk, Cumbria boasts a range of events that are now firmly established on the national music scene. Folk and roots music is championed by the Ireby and Music on the Marr shows, then there’s Solfest and Eskfest which mix local and national performers. Kendal Calling attracts 250,000 to hear some of the biggest names in pop and rock.
How often do you get to say bumfit without getting a slap in the face? (It means 15 in Lakeland dialect). The Lakeland dialect is a particular and peculiar way of speaking and is cherished and promoted by a fiercely proud band of folk.
We all know there are spectacular views all across the Lake District, but try standing on a beach, looking out to Scotland or the Isle of Man and watch the sun go down for a stunning experience.
A pioneer of the development of atomic theory and atomic weights, he was born in 1766 in Eaglesfield, near Cockermouth. He was one of the founding fathers of the Victoria University of Manchester and has a statue in his honour in the city.
The Jennings family started there brewing business in Lorton in 1828 before moving to its current base at the Castle Brewery in Cockermouth in 1874.Recent years has seen more than 40 micro breweries start up in the county, many of them award-winning, including Coniston which has been awarded two supreme champion beers of Britain titles.
Set close to the shore of Bassenthwaite Lake, near Keswick The Lakes Distillery is an award-winning whiskey distillery. Based in a refurbished model farm, it opened in 2014 and as well as creating prized spirits, it is host to tours and a popular bistro.
Cumbria lifts the lid on how Romans used to govern, trade and live as the county is home to forts, baths, roads – oh, and a rather large wall. The Senhouse Museum at Maryport, Hardknott, Ambleside and Ravenglass as well as the UNESCO site of Hadrian’s Wall offer a unique insight into the Roman occupation.
More than 900 years old, the castle has played a key role in British history. It has withstood sieges from Scots and English and was the scene of a bloody battle in the Wars of the Roses. It held Mary Queen of Scots as a prisoner and was HQ to the Kings Border Regiment until the Sixties. Now home to Cumbria’s Museum of Military Life.
Arguably England’s greatest poet, he was born in Cockermouth in 1770 and spent almost all of his life in the Lake District. He wrote much of his best known poetry at Dove Cottage in Grasmere, next to what is now the Wordsworth Museum.
Theatre by The Lake
It started in a portable building and the theatre on the shores of Derwentwater has become a much-loved venue by theatre-goers from across the country. The Christmas show (never a panto) is always popular, but the highlight of the year is the six play summer season which includes world premieres and specially-written pieces as well as well-known big-name plays.
Uppies and Downies
Basically a massive scrum involving hundreds of people trying to get a ball from one side of Workington to another, membership of one of the two teams depends on which part of the town you were born in. The three matches are ‘played’ over Easter and raise money for charities.
Another grand tradition of the county, this is one of the toughest sports around. There has been a surge of interest in recent years, but the revered Godfather remains Wasdale sheep farmer Joss Naylor who has set countless records over the decades and still ventures out at the age of 83.
Cumbria is known as the adventure capital of the UK, so it’s not surprising that it’s home to iconic mountaineers of the past and present, including Sir Chris Bonington, Doug Scott, Simon Yates, Leo Houlding and pioneering female climber Gwen Moffat.
Whether it is Herdwick lamb, Grasmere Gingerbread, Cartmel sticky toffee pudding, anything to do with damsons, or crabs from Ravenglass, Cumbria has a rich and wide larder and our chefs make the most of it. Cumbria has become a magnet for foodies and now has seven kitchens that have a total of eight Michelin stars.
We had to give this it’d own section. A coil of spicy, unlinked Cumberland sausage is known and loved the world over. Recipes are closely guarded and Richard Woodall of Waberthwaite won a Royal Warrant in 1990 to supply the Queen with her Cumberland sausage.
Mysterious and fascinating, there are 50 stone circles in Cumbria, dating back to the Bronze Age. Best known is Castlerigg near Keswick where druids welcome the summer and winter solstices and is the best known and the one with a lovely setting. Long Meg and her Daughters in the Eden Valley and Swinside at Broughton-in-Furness are important sites.
Cumbria is one of the last remaining strongholds of these hugely popular but critically endangered animals. Fondly regarded by many as spirits of the woodlands, the Red Squirrels Northern England group works to protect and conserve the creatures.
Believed to have arrived with Norse settlers in the C10th, with their distinctive grey coats and white faces, Herdwicks are as much a part of the fells as the drystone walls. They have roamed free range across the landscape for centuries ‘hefting’ or living in a particular area, year after year.
As a teenager, she invented some of her most-loved characters, including Peter Rabbit, and Squirrel Nutkin while holidaying by the shores of Derwentwater. She later made the county her home and was committed to the conservation of Herdwicks.
After a gap of 150 years, ospreys returned to the county and began nesting near Bassenthwaite Lake in 2001. Since then, they have been carefully monitored and protected. Almost 100,000 visits are made to the osprey viewpoints at Whinlatter and Dodd Wood and it is estimated they contribute as much as £2 million to the economy.
What better, more relaxing and easier way to see the landscape can there be other than during a stately cruise across a lake on a steamship gliding across Ullswater, Derwent or Windermere.There are regular sailings for most of the year.
Cumbria has been hit by a series of floods over the past decade and each time the folk have pulled together and helped each other to recover with a brilliant ‘can-do’ attitude.
What is it that makes you smile?
The Cumberland is looking for the 30th reason to be proud or happy about Cumbria to add to its list. Send your suggestion to [email protected]