A rainy, Michelin star-chasing, foodie vacation in Cartmel, England

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Rainbow over Cartmel Priory

Travelers: Lydia and Johan

Budget: Budget ($500-$1000)

Where did you go? Johan and I had real trouble trying to decide where to go on our honeymoon. I was really leaning towards Prague, while he wanted something a little more sunny (not an easy thing to get in October). Anything we COULD agree on was deemed too expensive.

Photo courtesy of l'Enclume's website.
Photo courtesy of l’Enclume’s website.

But then, while watching one of our favourite foodie shows — the BBC’s Great British Menu — we noticed a chef whose food we both really liked: Simon Rogan. His food seemed amazing and on a whim, we looked up his restaurant, l’Enclume, online. It turned out to be in Cartmel, a small medieval village just south of the British Lake District. Suddenly, finding a honeymoon we could both get excited about didn’t seem like a distant pipe dream anymore.

We booked our entire stay around a dinner at l’Enclume (after of course calling and checking they had a table available during our designated honeymoon week). We flew in through Manchester and stayed in a small B&B in Cartmel. Most of our time was spent in the village, with a few trips to surrounding towns like Ulverston and Windermere. On the day of our flight back, we spent the day in Manchester with a mutual friend who lives there.

What did you do? Lots and lots of sight seeing:

Beatrix Potter tour
Beatrix Potter tour
  • We hiked from our B&B to the “nearby” Holker Hall, through fields, old orchards, forests and ancient dry stone walls.
  • We went to Windermere for the day and visited the Beatrix Potter experience and took a boat trip on the Lake.
  • Our B&B hostess took us on day trip through the Lakes with her own car, where we visited remote towns and fells we could have never have gotten to by bus.

We blended in with the locals as much as we could. On our first night we spent all night chatting with a slightly drunk but very friendly guy at the local pub. We had long conversations with the hostess in her car. We traded jokes with restaurant staff and had the process of brewing beer explained to us in the local brewery. Everyone was super-friendly and very welcoming.

This and That

We ate very good food:

  • The B&B hostess cooked up a fabulous fresh breakfast every morning, with a choice of various hot dishes.
  • The pubs we visited served good quality pub grub.
  • We had lunch at a super cheap but very good Indian “greasy spoon.”
  • Johan sampled all the local beers he could get his hands on and we even visited the Cartmel brewery.
  • And there was of course l’Enclume, which we’d planned the whole trip around.
Cod yoke, sage cream, radish, salt & vinegar. Pea shoots with baked salt & vinegar rice. (Photo courtesy of l'Enclume's website)
Cod yoke, sage cream, radish, salt & vinegar. Pea shoots with baked salt & vinegar rice. (Photo courtesy of l’Enclume’s website)

The combinations of flavors and textures we had at l’Enclume are simply something I had never experienced before. They had no trouble catering to Johan’s vegetarianism and nut allergy. My favourite courses were the smoked eel and ham fat appetizer (small, fatty and warm, it was the ultimate comfort food), the starter with venison tartar, charcoal oil, mustard and fennel candies (the fennel candies were amazing, giving everything a liquorice-like flavour) and the main dessert, with blackberry, plum, malt and stout.

I should also mention the “yolk starter course,” which our excellent waitress described as a “double blind” — Johan and I got identical looking meals that seemed to centre around an egg yolk. But “those are not egg yolks, and they are not the same.” My yolk was actually made of cod, whereas his was celeriac. There was also an amazingly intense, earthy dish with Jerusalem artichoke and truffle oil.

Most of the honeymoon was pretty budget. The B&B was excellent but dirt cheap, because we went in the off-season, and flying to Manchester from Amsterdam doesn’t exactly break the bank either. This was, however, all offset by our big splurge: dinner at l’Enclume. It has two Michelin stars and we got the eighteen course taster menu, so it was never going to be cheap. But if you’re going to have a Michelin dinner once in your life, it might as well be on your honeymoon, right? And oh, was it ever WORTH IT.

Fells

What would you have done differently? I would have taken more pictures. It didn’t help that I forgot my camera, and thus had only my phone for visual records. At the time I didn’t mind as much, and I consciously didn’t take any pics on the boat trip in Windermere or during our l’Enclume because I wanted to be IN THE MOMENT. But in hindsight I do wish I had just taken one or two, as a keepsake. I also wish I would’ve taken a picture or two of me and Johan (even though he strongly dislikes posing for pics). It makes me a little sad that there are simply no photo’s of us together on our honeymoon.

Also, I would’ve taken along better shoes — I managed in my Chuck Taylors, but my feet did get a little dirty and cold at times. And I would have bought some proper British cheese at the local cheese shop.

What’s your best travel advice for other offbeat honeymooners?

  • Talk to the locals! They’re all super friendly and it enhanced our experience so much.
  • If you can afford a splurge? Go to l’Enclume.
  • Other than that, just explore the area. Take a walk, see what you find. Go into the fells if you can. The Lake District is a beautiful, rugged place.

Comments on A rainy, Michelin star-chasing, foodie vacation in Cartmel, England

  1. Things you’d have done differently? Not regrets, reasons to go back in 10-20 years time and do it again!

    • Ha! We definitely plan on going back sometime (and hope the B&B will still be in business). Maybe for our five year anniversary.

  2. Yay! I’m from the North of England and I’m so glad you had a great time. The Lakes are a lovely part of the world. I’ll definitely look up L’Enclume based on this recommendation.

  3. Your trip sounds lovely!

    Offbeat Editors – I’d love to see more vacation posts. I’m trying to think of where we could go on vacation this year but all I can come up with is the same old vacations we’ve done before. While a break is nice, we want to go somewhere new but we’re not sure where/how so some inspiration would be great.

  4. Please tell me you tried Cartmel’s famous sticky toffee pudding! Oh man, so much deliciousness.

  5. This sounds just like a recent holiday we took! We went to the Lake District for our anniversary earlier this year and it was DIVINE. We did it slightly differently, renting a National Trust cottage – incredibly rural and rustic with a wood stove to heat the whole cottage. Then we wandered about the lakes, taking in the beautiful scenery and also planned our trip around an amazing restaurant. It wasn’t Michelin starred but it was absolutely the most delicious dinner I have ever had and I highly suspect stars coming its way soon. Best holiday EVER. Yay for the Lake District!

  6. Cartmel is just the prettiest little place ever. The sticky toffee pudding is such a treat, I am so glad we can get it in Manchester!

    Incidentally I am basing our trip to London in July all around a trip to Dinner by Heston Blumenthal (Also 2 Michelin stars!) for my 30th – Glad to hear I am not the only one who does this! 🙂

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