Updated: May 3, 2019
Last August I traveled to The Lake District of England to visit my first cousin, Mark, where he and his family live on a beautiful working farm. Mark was celebrating his 40th birthday and had decided to throw himself a massive Viking-themed party on the property. I was lucky enough to fly over for a few days and join in the festivities!
The farm is well-suited for parties of this size since Mark and Jenny run a wedding and event venue out of their renovated barn. My first visit to the farm was actually for their wedding ten years prior, and the additions since then are vast! They've added a full bar and bathrooms to the main barn, have a marquee for added outdoor space, and on-site lodging for guests in the tipi, yurt, or their custom built "Shepherd's Huts."
Mark and his wife Jenny are basically living my dream life. They operate a fully functional dairy farm with 200 cows, brew and sell their own beer, and run the event company. Jenny also runs a "Forest School" on the property, which is an outdoor program for children that's integrated into the local school curriculum. Upon my departure, Mark was readying his first batch of milk to be sent off and turned into their own line of cheese. How cool!
The weekend was booked with a full itinerary on the property. There was a wedding on-site, followed by the viking party, all while the farm continued to operate. I loved seeing Mark and Jenny's process for readying the barn with their full staff present. I thrive on the buzz of event prep and was happy to help move tables, add place settings, decór and wine, and witness everything come together in such a seamless way. Jenny and Mark didn't flinch or even seem stressed at all by the organized chaos. They're a great example of work ethic and I can absolutely get down with their work hard, play hard mentality.
The Viking Party was certainly the highlight of my visit. The guests fully embraced the theme, with almost everyone dressing in viking attire. It was a family reunion of sorts, too; I don't see my Paternal cousins very often, and everyone showed up for this event! My brother flew over from Paris, I came from Boston for a whirlwind 4 day visit, my Aunt and Uncle drove down from Scotland, and our other cousins traveled from various parts of England. The men spent the night before prepping for the party by crafting faux shields to add to their costume. The hype was real, and the party did not disappoint!
For the first two nights, I slept in the Yurt. It was large enough to hold my cousin and his family, and my brother and I. It was still fairly cold during the August nights, and we were sent to bed with hot water bottles to put in our sleeping bags. On the third night, I was "upgraded" to a private Shepherd's Hut, which I absolutely adored. Jenny has done an amazing job of decorating, and it was so nice to sleep in a real bed after a couple of heavy nights of partying! The outdoor accommodations also have a fully functional bathhouse nearby. These two have thought of everything!
Beyond the village where I stayed, one of the largest towns in the area is named Cockermouth. I spent an afternoon wandering, shopping, and enjoying lunch there with my Aunt and Uncle at The Moon & Sixpence Cafe.
I was also able to venture out for a scenic drive and walk at Crummock Water with my cousin Christopher and his family. We ate lunch at the Kirkstile Inn, which was tucked beside an old church, with gorgeous mountains surrounding!
Two things I fell in love with during this trip that I cannot keep from you: Patterdale Terriers, and Rhubarb Gin. Mark and Jenny own Millie, a Patterdale who is tiny and adorable, but also fierce when she needs to be. I love the personality of this little dog and had never heard of the breed before this trip! I'd tried Rhubarb Gin once before, but there are so many brands available, that I was able to sample even more! My favorite was the local Lakes District Distillery, followed by Edinburgh Distillery.
Leaving family overseas is never easy. I felt so at home with my cousins and these surroundings; It really made me question whether I might live in England at some point during my life. Cumbria and the Lake District is incredibly picturesque and peaceful. I spent the weeks after my trip browsing property listings in the area and daydreaming about what might be. For now, though, my roots are deep within New England, which thankfully has it's own list of charming qualities.
Thank you to Mark and Jenny for hosting me during this amazing visit! Hope to see you all again very soon.