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 rich in indie shops and galleries such as Percy House, the town’s oldest building (dating to 1390) which today houses a contemporary craft shop. 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), and 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. Nearby, Egremont’s Lowes Court Gallery is testament to a thriving craft scene, and Florence Mine, once an iron ore mine, is now a multi-purpose creative space; a gallery, studio, theatre and cinema in one.