Christmas time in Cumbria is particularly special. Not only are the Lake District villages ablaze with festive decorations and brightly enticing shops full to bursting with hand-crafted gifts and delicious food, the mountains often have an icing-sugar coating of snow so everywhere resembles a Dickensian Christmas card. There are many events and festivities around the county - Go Lakes keeps us all up to date with what's on.
The old market town of Kendal has little 'yards' with quirky boutiques, a farmer's market and a couple of great delis to find tasty treats. One of my favourite places to shop is Wainwrights Yard – everything from hand made soaps to state-of-the-art TVs. If you're looking for somewhere to visit during your trip to the town then The Quaker Tapestry is home to the fascinating embroidered artwork and is also a museum with an excellent vegetarian cafe if you get tired of all the shopping. For children there's always plenty on at the Brewery Arts Centre. My son always used to love their Christmas show with a twist - this year it's Beasts & Beauties. If you love REAL bread then go to the recently Lovingly Artisan bakery, next to Oxenholme Station for organic breads and scrumptious mince pies.
Beautiful Holker Hall hosts lots of different events during their festive Christmas extravaganza including story time and winter walks with Santa. Of course this area is famous for its pubs and what could be nicer than to snuggle round a cosy fire in an old pub and maybe try some of our famous Cumberland Sausage along with a glass of real ale. One of my favourites is the Eagle & Child in Staveley (between Kendal and Windermere). It retains a lot of original features, has an excellent food and collection of local brews and is not far from Hawkshead Brewery in Staveley Mill Yard. Finally, if you've only got time to visit one place then top of my list would be wonderful Low Sizergh Barn. One of the UK's first farm shops, they champion local and artisan suppliers and is a great place to find everything you need for your festive table. Look out for their food rules, chalked on the blackboards around the 17th century barn, which are there to inspire you to make that all important connection between food and enjoyment. Festive highlights include the wonderfully named "Chuckling", a duck stuffed with chicken, frozen desserts made in the Low Sizergh kitchen to impress your dinner party guests, and a range of award winning cheeses (including some churned from the farm's herd).
Upstairs there's a fab selection of toys, books, clothes, toiletries and cards, right next to their excellent tearoom, which now has the 'cowcam' so you can watch their cows being milked as you relax over a much needed cuppa and cake - how quirky is that?! Have yourself a VERY Merry Christmas ... Zoë Dawes is a travel blogger and her website The Quirky Traveller showcases some of the more unusual aspects of travel around the UK and abroad. She lives on the border of Cumbria and Lancashire and loves sharing her passion for this beautiful part of the UK. You can follow her on Twitter @quirkytraveller and FaceBook.