Sunday, 26 March 2017

10 Curious Cumbrian Keepsakes

From crystal used by James Bond to mattresses filled with Herdy wool and some of the finest gin in the land - I have nothing at all against Cumberland Sausage and Sticky Toffee Pudding, but there are a whole range of gifts you could buy to remind you of your Cumbrian hols.  Here's my pick of the best!

1.  It's Crystal, Cumbria Crystal

Ever fancied yourself as a bit of a James Bond?  Well, here's your chance to own a glass that was used by Bond himself in Casino Royale.  Each beautiful crystal glass, bowl or goblet is crafted by hand and takes around 14 days to produce - you can even visit them and see the whole process for yourself. They're based in Ulverson, down on the south coast of Cumbira and it's free to go and take a look around the factory - plus there's plenty of free parking for your Aston Martin. (Or you can shop online here.)

2, Gin - the perfect tonic

Those who know me know I like gin.  There are a number of gin distilleries in the Lake District (on account of all the lovely water we have for them to work with) but my favourite is the One Gin. Brewed by the Lakes Distillery - it even managed to replace Plymouth Gin in my affections (trust me, that's no mean feat!). The tour of the distillery includes a free tasting of their gins (so make sure you've ducked out of driving duties).  (You can also find a number of gin parlours across the county - such as the excellent Virginia House in Ulverston.)

3. Perfect reminder of a dirty weekend...

After you've got good and dirty on the fells (what other sort of dirty weekend did you have in mind?!) - what you'll need is a good long soak in the bath and some lovely hand made soaps.  The Soap Company Keswick is a social enterprise offering a fabulous range of soaps and soap related products all made by a local team of disabled and/ or disadvantaged people.  The shop smells divine and whichever part of you is dirty, they're bound to have something to clean it (except perhaps for your dirty mind...)

4. Candle in the wind

We all know that no county can hold a candle to Cumbria (you see what I did there?) so picture the scene: you're lying in your bath full of Soap Company bubbles, holding a Cumbria Crystal glass full of One Gin (with a dash of tonic) - all that's missing are the scented candles.  Well, here they are!  These candles don't contain any paraffin or palm oil - they're 100% Eco Soy Wax, which means you won't get any of that nasty black smoke.  They're made by a tiny family business up on the Solway coast and there's no better way of bringing a piece of Cumbria home with you.

5.  Aaaannnnnddd relax...

OK, this one isn't exactly a pocket sized keepsake, but it is utterly awesome! Those fabulous folks at Herdy have recently collaborated in the launch of herdy®sleep, to make luxury wool mattresses with all the wool responsibly sourced from local Herdwick farmers for a proper price.  The mattresses are so snuggly and comfy that you'll be able to skip sheep counting and head straight to dreaming of Cumbria.

6.  Back on the bottle...

Whitehaven is just a short drive from Keswick and if you haven't been then you're really missing out.  There are LOADS of interesting things to do and some spectacular walks along the sea cliffs with stunning views out to sea.  The town has a fascinating history involving the deepest darkest mines, the slave trade, George Washington's granny and rum.  The Rum Story, in the middle of the town will tell you everything you need to know about to town's deep connections with rum - plus you can buy a bottle (or two) to remind you of your trip.

7.  Not a Cumberland sausage

If you don't want a Cumberland sausage but you're still craving meat products, then how about Cumbrian Biltong?  Originating in South Africa, biltong can now be found in most supermarkets, but the stuff you buy in little plastic packets doesn't compare with the real thing, properly made.  James Alexander Fine Foods is owned and run in Cumbria by Cumbrians who are passionate about showing the world that there's more to the county than sausages (although the sausages are really, really, good!)

8.  New Balance trainers, ainers, ainers, ainers...

A global brand, loved by Rihanna, and made in the heart of Cumbria - a pair of New Balance trainers are the perfect keepsake for slightly sulky, super trendy teenagers.  Their "quaint village" roots fascinate our American cousins who can't quite believe that something so cool could come from Flimby (right on the coast between Whitehaven and Maryport) - a tiny town with a population of around 1700 (though that's according to Wikipedia - it could be closer to 2.5 million in reality).

9.  Pick a peck of pickled peppers...

Hawkshead is right in the heart of the Lake District and Hawkshead Relish are right in the heart of the village.  Everyone loves their perfectly made pickles - even the Queen has had a taste - and whatever your piquant preference, there'll be something to suit your palate.  All of the positively perfect pickles and spreads are hand made in small batches in a converted 16th century barn on the edge of Esthwaite Water and taking home a jar or two is the perfect way to preserve your happy holiday memories.

A two hundred year old family business, still based in a tiny village in the Lake District and run by the great, great, grandson of the founder - that's something you don't find very often.  They closed their retail shops a few years ago, but you can still buy beautiful stationery from them here - absolutely perfect for sending wedding invites for Lake District weddings and just wonderful  to work with for those who, like me, enjoy a spot of good old fashioned letter writing.

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