• Please check with campsites before setting off. Covid means some won’t be open, some will have fewer or reduced facilities and some may be limiting bookings.
    Please don’t wild camp unless you’re absolutely sure you won’t upset local people. Don’t wild camp unless you’re prepared to take all your gear and rubbish away with you.

Camping and crafting in quirky Cumbria

The Lake District is lovely, of course, but just above and just over the M6 are beautiful areas. Less dramatic maybe, but less visited too.

We spent a week camping around the area, including two days of learning to use a pole lathe at the amazing Quirky Workshops in Greystoke.

Kirkoswald Lazonby bridge over the Eden

Quirky Workshops and the Cycle Cafe

At a 17th century farm in the pretty village of Greystoke, you can learn and practise arts, crafts, cooking and country making skills – everything from linocut and cheesemaking to cobbling and felting.

We chose a beginners’ pole lathe course, followed (recklessly) by a day of bowl-making on the lathe.

Groups are kept small so that the visiting tutors can give you lots of attention, equipment is perfect and there’s a (very) light lunch and refreshments provided.

Proud pole-lathers – day one

Emma turns a candlestick on the foot-powered lathe

Chris Halliwell, a master turner, toolmaker, spinning expert and blacksmith, patiently helped us through our first attempts at turning dibbers, candlesticks and spindles on his foot-powered lathes, before we moved up to creating captive rings (a cool-looking technique where rings of wood spin free on the stem). Exhausting work, but nothing compared to the hard labour of day two!

Bowl-making on a foot-powered lathe

Amateur silversmiths at work

Bowl-making, said Chris, isn’t something many people teach…because it’s just too hard. And it really is. Sawing up logs, axing them by hand into a rough bowl shape, hours of turning the outside and painfully gouging out the inside – all using Chris’ handmade, traditional tools. Blisters and worn-out shoulders aside, most of the group came away with the satisfaction of having made a beautiful cherrywood bowl. Mine? A bowl with a hole!

Quirky Workshops is also home to the Cycle Café, a drop-in rest spot for cyclists with food, drink and everything they need to start the next leg refreshed. A great idea and very much appreciated by weary pedallers.

Highly recommended, and we’ll be going back – perhaps for some printmaking or textile design.

Where to camp in Cumbria

The garden of Eden?

The Mains campsite Eden Valley

Robert and Julie Pickthall have farmed at The Mains in the Eden Valley for 60 years, but now concentrate on making campers feel welcome.

There’s acres of space, separate fields for campervans and motorhomes, for tents and for the camping pods, and all set in lush green countryside with woods behind and the River Eden a stroll down the field.

The perfectly clean and well-kept toilets, showers, kitchens and bunk bedrooms are housed in converted stables and barns. No missing toilet seats here…there are even freshly laundered hand towels, a washing machine and hairdryer (free to use) and all the cooking equipment you need. There are recycling facilities, wifi (though patchy), local information and a pick-up service for the coast-to-coast cyclists.

Within reach of the village

The Mains campsite Eden Valley

Pitches are kept as far apart as possible and, although there isn’t the privacy of trees or hedges, the fact that caravan and tent fields are separate makes it feel a comfortable place to stay. We were here on a Friday evening in mid-May, but it does get busier in holidays and over summer weekends.

It’s a (one mile) walk to the village of Kirkoswald, where there’s a village shop and two OK pubs, with reasonable food.Across the pretty bridge is the village of Lazonby, which is on the Settle to Carlisle railway and has a heated outdoor swimming pool. There’s a small campsite next to the pool too. And the area is brimming with opportunities for walks, cycle rides, heritage and exploring. Of course, you’re only a stone’s throw from the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District too.

When you’re camping with basic facilities, having the right camping equipment makes things much more enjoyable.

Have a look at our tried and tested camping must-haves – from your own toilet and shower to lights, sleeping bags and chairs. Plus some very useful gadgets you might not have come across before.

Camping gear must-haves – our 60 best finds

Camping in Cumbria – Town End

We’d struggled to find a peaceful campsite near the Quirky Workshops, so actually joined the Motorhome and Caravan Club.

Town End Cottage – a small, quiet and nicely basic campsite

Not something we’d considered before, but the £49 annual fee gave us access to a small site 10 minutes away from Greystoke that charged only £9 a night.

Town End Cottage at Laithes is about as a basic as you can get – a field (flat and well-kept), a tap, a toilet (no washbasin), hook-up, a chemical toilet emptying spot and recycling bins. We got around the lack of facilities by nipping to Greystoke’s great community-run outdoor pool for a swim and a shower.

Cooking a vegetable chilli on the Cadac (legs folded under…clever, eh!)

It’s a laidback site in a pretty location and, even mid-August, there were only three pitches taken.

To make the most of basic sites like this (and wild camping, of course), there are some essentials you need in your camping pack – water to drink, a way to get washed, possibly a loo and, while you can always go out to eat, a simple stove and some easy camping food is a good idea.

Here are a few other Cumbrian campsites to try

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