Your guide to things to do in Cumbria: fifth stop, Cockermouth & West Cumbria
Once known for its industry, West Cumbria has an independent, industrial streak that sets it apart from the rest of the county. Smaller and less crowded than Keswick or Ambleside, Wordsworth’s birthplace, Cockermouth, is looking better than ever since the 2009 floods that devastated the town. It is rich in indie shops and galleries such as Percy House, Cockermouth’s oldest building (dating to 1390) and which today houses a contemporary craft shop run by a former Liberty’s worker.
Cockermouth is also the place to head for to get a taste of Cumbria – literally. The town hosts the annual Taste Cumbria Food Festival (Sept), is home to pubs such as The Bitter End (which sources local meat and has its own micro-brewery). There are B&Bs a-plenty, but Six Castlegate is worth a mention – a Grade II-listed Georgian affair in the old part of town, and not too far from Castlegate House Gallery which specialises in 20th-century British art. Serving the community and visitors is the Kirkgate Centre; small but perfectly formed for film, theatre and music events.
The west coast of Cumbria is little-visited, perhaps thanks to the industrial ports that once dotted the shoreline. Whitehaven was one of them, but today its redeveloped waterfront houses the £2.2m maritime-themed museum, The Beacon, as well as breezy eateries such as Zest.
Last summer, Whitehaven hosted digital art and film festival Abandon Normal Devices, which brought a ‘Mobile Republic’ of interactive caravans to the town, while Lakes Alive staged two street-theatre performances during the August Bank Holiday. Nearby, Egremont’s Lowes Court Gallery is testament to a thriving craft scene, and Florence Mine, once an iron ore mine, has recently re-opened as a multi-purpose creative space; a gallery, studio, theatre and cinema put together with the help of Coniston-based contemporary art agitators, Grizedale Arts.