Did you use lockdown to publish that book you always meant to write? The 2021 Hunter Davies Lakeland Book of the Year is open for entries and the judges are looking for their next winner.

The competition celebrates and showcases the myriad of literature the Lake District inspires each year. Open to any book published in 2020 – set in or featuring Cumbria – the awards attract entries include authors, poets, historians and more following in the footsteps of Wordsworth, Beatrix Potter and countless others whose work has helped put Cumbria on the literary map.

Now in its 37th year, the competition continues to go from strength to strength, with not even the Coronavirus pandemic halting proceedings. “2020 definitely gave us an extra challenge” says Sam Tollerson, awards organiser. “We had to hold the ceremony online for the first time ever! All being well, we’ll be able to meet the authors in person next year as we celebrate their achievements together.”

2020’s winner was The Lake District in 101 Maps and Infographics by David Felton, Evelyn Sinclair and Andrew Chapman, a unique and dazzling collection of facts and statistics shedding light on all aspects of the area’s history, culture and more. Special recognition was also given to local hotelier John Cunliffe’s memoir Slightly Perfect following his passing earlier this year.

Other recent winners have included Alan Cleaver and Lesley Park’s The Corpse Roads of Cumbria in 2019 and Phil Rigby’s photographic collection Portrait of Cumbria in 2018. Many entries also focus on the area’s worldwide reputation for adventure and the outdoors, with Lakeland legend Alfred Wainwright winning in 1985.

Joint 2020 winner David Felton said “Winning Lakeland Book of the Year in 2020 really helped drive interest in – and sales of – my book in what has been a tough year for Cumbrian retail and small independent businesses based in the county. The Lakeland Book of the Year event is always a highlight of the calendar for those of us with a passion for books, for Cumbria – and for both.”

The judges, who all have a background in writing and broadcasting, are:

  • Awards founder Hunter Davies OBE
  • Broadcaster and Cumbria Tourism President, Eric Robson
  • Fiona Armstrong, Lord Lieutenant of Dumfries

The panel will read and shortlist entries before category winners and the overall Book of the Year are announced at a charity event in June, in support of the Stroke Association.

Authors and publishers can learn more about how to enter at www.lakelandbookoftheyear.co.uk or by contacting Cumbria Tourism at info@cumbriatourism.org. The deadline for entries is Friday 26th February 2021.

The Lakeland Book of the Year is generously supported by the Cumbria Community Foundation and the Hunter Davies Fund, which allow the continued celebration of the county’s literary prowess.

Cumbria Tourism provides administration and PR support to the Lakeland Book of the Year alongside external organisers and the judging panel.

Cumbria Tourism’s Managing Director Gill Haigh will address an influential group of MPs and business leaders today, 9 December 2020, with a high-profile speaker slot at a special conference organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration.

With a new set of immigration rules coming into effect in just over three weeks, the event will focus on the challenges and opportunities different types of businesses face in managing their workforce post-Brexit.  Cumbria Tourism has been selected to highlight issues in England’s tourism industry, providing a key opportunity to emphasise some of the unique issues Cumbria faces around its migrant workforce.

Gill Haigh will speak later this afternoon alongside the Federation of Small Businesses, MAKE UK and the City of London Corporation.  MPs from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Migration are also expected to offer their reflections and comments. The discussion will be chaired by the APPG’s Vice Chairman, Westmorland & Lonsdale MP, Tim Farron.

Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism Gill Haigh says, “It is a privilege to be representing England’s visitor economy at this important event, building on the high-profile lobbying work Cumbria Tourism has done in recent months around the impact and implications of not only the current pandemic, but also wider long-term issues such as skills, recruitment and retention.

European workers are an important asset in our county – and an intrinsic part of our workforce – but the new points-based immigration system will introduce new job, salary and language requirements that will change the way businesses hire from the EU.

“In a post-Brexit era, it is vital that policy-makers fully understand the specific needs of tourism-reliant areas like Cumbria, where a flexible migrant workforce is so integral to supporting some of our key tourism operators, which in turn, support the rest of the workforce locally.

“We know that Cumbria’s tourism businesses are very resilient and will keep adapting and innovating, but the right support must be in place to ensure they can continue accessing the talent and skills they need. This conference is an important opportunity to get these messages across.”

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration will hold its event on the afternoon of Wednesday 9 December.


The number of cyclists visiting the county from other parts of the UK looks set to be boosted as Cumbria Tourism joins the successful Cycle England initiative.

Cycle England was launched as a joint venture between VisitEngland’s Discover England fund, Welcome to Yorkshire and Visit Lincoln in 2018 with the initial aim of developing cycling holidays for the Dutch and German markets.

The project got off to a strong start with 21 holidays being made available across 12 international tour operators before the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt on all but essential foreign travel.

With those restrictions in place, Cycle England have shifted focus to take advantage of the domestic market and capitalise on the huge rise in cycling since the UK first went into lockdown. The decision proved an astute one, and last week enabled the project to secure a second round of funding from VisitEngland’s Discover England fund

Cumbria Tourism has joined the project alongside Northumberland, and the money will be used to develop cycling holidays across the county as well as launching a digital marketing campaign in the New Year.

Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh, says, “Our latest visitor survey results revealed that the top two reasons for visiting The Lake District, Cumbria were for personal wellbeing and the landscape. Not only do our routes offer cyclists the chance to really soak-up our world class scenery, but to also appreciate the relaxation opportunities here, alongside our rich culture, heritage and attractions, our fabulous food offering and wide range of accommodation providers, making it #theperfectplacetobe.

“With cycling routes across The Lake District, Cumbria suitable for all ages and abilities, the popularity of cycling staycations is expected to rise in 2021 and we are delighted to be able to work with partners to develop the Cumbria offering. This project also fits perfectly with Cumbria Tourism’s ‘attract and disperse’ policy, which we have been using heavily in recent years to encourage people to look beyond the more famous areas of the county and explore our hidden gems, which can sometime fly under the radar.

“The Lake District, Cumbria’s wider cycling offer and incredible range of routes right across the county will be put in the national spotlight, to encourage visitors to explore areas off the beaten track including areas like the West Coast, North Pennines, Hadrian’s Wall, Morecambe Bay and the Yorkshire Dales. It also complements other cycling projects being developed within the county and increases Cumbria’s profile as a top destination for cycling.”



Cumbria Tourism has cautiously welcomed Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announcement today (5 November 2020) committing to financial assistance to businesses over the winter period.

Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh, says, “We welcome Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announcement of the extension of both the furlough and self-employment income support schemes until the end of March 2021.

 “Only this week, we joined South Lakes MP Tim Farron to meet once again with the Tourism Minister Nigel Huddleston MP to update him on the challenges facing businesses, and to press for a winter package of support to give the sector breathing space to consider the best way of moving forward to aid their survival into the Spring of next year and beyond.

 “However, with many jobs and more than half the of value of the visitor economy already lost this year, we will need to continue to monitor the situation very closely to ensure all businesses have access to the support they will require.”


An internationally-important Cumbrian museum and visitor attraction has been chosen to take part in an innovative new programme – funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund – to bring culture and heritage to life across the North of England.

The latest phase of Creative United’s Prosper North programme is geared directly to post-lockdown recovery, providing free, tailored business support for specially selected cultural heritage organisations in the North. It has now been confirmed that Senhouse Roman Museum in Maryport will be one of 33 organisations to benefit over the next six months.

The museum is Britain’s oldest private collection of Roman treasures and only reopened in August, after shutting its doors in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The news will give volunteers and staff access to an intensive programme of mentoring and 1-2-1 support from a network of specialist cultural and heritage specialist business advisors, to help them innovate and re-shape the way they run on a day-to-day basis.

With the current pandemic having a major impact on the arts and cultural sector across Cumbria, museum bosses say the timing couldn’t be better.

Manager of the Senhouse Roman Museum, Jane Laskey, comments, “In challenging times, this is a fantastic opportunity for both our staff and loyal volunteers to get specialist advice, guidance and practical skills to help us develop our business strategies and become more resilient for the future.

 “I believe that not only our Museum, but culture and heritage in its broadest sense, has an important role to play in the recovery from COVID-19, by bringing local communities together, supporting education and learning, and inspiring positivity and mental wellbeing. Now is the perfect time to make the most of this practical new opportunity to think long-term about how we safeguard and promote some of our uniquely Cumbrian stories and heritage.”

The Prosper North programme at Senhouse Roman Museum will get underway in the coming days, with the attraction open as usual for visitors from 11am to 5pm daily during October half term.

The project is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and will be delivered by entrepreneurial community interest company Creative United in partnership with Key Fund, Bates Wells and Social Investment Business.

A major restoration project to revitalise two historic Railway Pullman Camping Coaches has already uncovered some hidden gems from Cumbria’s past – with the action unfolding on social media for everyone to see.

Work got underway on the historic vehicles last month, after Ravenglass Railway Museum Trust and Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway secured £250,000 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to bring them back to life as quirky self-catering accommodation.

Dating back to 1917, ‘Elmira’ and ‘Maid of Kent’ were originally part of a World War I ambulance train and are the oldest railway camping coaches still in their original location – sited on Cumbria’s west coast inside both the English Lake District and Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage sites.

Although both were in a critical state of disrepair, work is progressing well to conserve these unique structures. The interiors of the two vehicles have been stripped out and the decorative marquetry panels have been carefully removed for conservation.

Already, the work is exposing a hidden history, with former interior layouts from rebuilds in the 1930s and 1940s.  A striking stained-glass window has been uncovered in one of the bedrooms, with other original, quirky features being discovered for the first time in decades, including seat numbers etched into the high-crafted marquetry panels.

It’s hoped some of the features will eventually be linked into a more permanent display within Ravenglass Railway Museum. In the meantime, the restoration is evolving on social media so the public can follow the project every step of the way. There are also future plans to open up the camping coaches at a later date, for pre-booked, socially distanced visits.

Looking further ahead, the historic vehicles will be restored as striking new visitor accommodation for between four and six people, with overnight bookings for April 2021 onwards being taken from November.

Head of Marketing & Development at Lake District Estates, Rachel Bell says, “It’s really exciting to see the Railway Pullman Camping Coaches being given a new lease of life before our eyes! Knowing that these interiors and their original, lovingly crafted features haven’t been seen for decades adds a genuine sense of magic to the project.

“We’re particularly excited that the coaches are evoking such special memories of railway heritage and bygone family holidays for so many people.

“For anyone who doesn’t know much about the national story of the ‘Carriages off the Rails’, it really is fascinating. These historic vehicles were used as ‘homes for heroes’ after World World I. Some became animal shelters and barns, while other redundant carriages in attractive locations – including right here in Cumbria – were turned into affordable holiday accommodation linked to the railways in the 1930s.

“Later, many were pressed into the Second World War effort. They then saw a brief revival, before the combination of 1970s branch closures and cheaper overseas travel led to their demise. It’s an important story that we can now bring to a wider audience.”

Rachel adds, “What’s extra special about this project is that a charity, the Ravenglass Railway Museum Trust, is working hand-in-hand with the commercially-run Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway to bring it to life. Elmira and Maid of Kent hold a very special place in all our hearts, so we hope people will continue to follow their progress on our social media channels in the weeks ahead.”



21st October 2020

Cumbria Tourism says a barrage of cancelled holiday bookings from ‘very high risk’ COVID-alert areas – combined with alarming results from its latest business tracker survey – makes a compelling case for additional targeted support from the Government to see the county’s tourism businesses through the winter months.

Cumbria’s official Destination Management Organisation is urgently now calling for additional support. It wants to see high-level talks to agree an appropriate package of support for Cumbria to include, as a minimum: extending the furlough scheme from November, along with extended rate relief for 2021/22 and continuation of the VAT reduction for hospitality businesses beyond next March.

With South Yorkshire and Greater Manchester now set to join Lancashire and the Liverpool City Region in tier 3, tourism and hospitality businesses across Cumbria are seeing tens of thousands of pounds worth of lost bookings ahead of the vital October half-term holidays.

There are also fears that tighter local restrictions are potentially on the cards for other core domestic tourism markets, including West Yorkshire and the North East.

Cumbria Tourism says the knock-on effect of people from tier 3 areas being asked not to travel is having a potentially devastating effect on COVID-safe tourism operators, who have collectively already seen more than £1.7billion losses this year.  That’s alongside additional travel restrictions for tier 2 residents and the existing Rule of Six and 10pm curfews for pubs and restaurants.


It comes as the results of Cumbria Tourism’s latest business tracker survey reveal that Cumbria’s tourism industry is on a knife-edge:

  • Even before the introduction of the threetier alert system, Cumbria tourism businesses had lost – on average – almost half of their usual income (46%).
  • 70% of businesses now say they plan to reduce staff hours, up from a quarter just six weeks earlier.
  • Almost a third of businesses now plan redundancies, up from 23% of businesses at the start of September, and 13% in mid-July.
  • Almost half (46%) of tourism businesses are NOT confident about surviving the next six months, until the end of March 2021.
  • 70% of tourism businesses say they still need financial assistance in the form of grants.

We now have the worst of both worlds,” says Gill Haigh, Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism. “Although we welcomed the Chancellor’s winter support package just four weeks ago, the situation has deteriorated rapidly and urgent action is needed to support viable successful businesses who are now seeing a steady stream of cancellations – with forward bookings falling away rapidly.

“Cumbria tourism industry is heavily reliant on visitors from the North West, North East and Yorkshire, so to lose potential visitors from these areas has a massive financial impact. Even in other parts of the country, where travel restrictions are less strict, consumer confidence is plummeting and there is massive uncertainty about whether people should book their well-deserved trips away.

Some of the feedback we are receiving from businesses is simply heart-breaking. These are hardworking, resilient people who have made monumental efforts to adapt, re-open and trade in COVID-safe way. But businesses and livelihoods are at real risk this winter, and there is a clear need for additional wage support and cash grants to protect Cumbrian jobs, communities and the wider supply chain to help the sector bounce back next year.

“Cumbria Tourism is now urgently seeking a joint meeting with Cumbria’s six MPs to call for action. As well as liaising directly with government officials, VisitEngland and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, we are also joining forces with other Northern destinations to make a collective plea for support.”

Cumbria Tourism says £3.1million awarded to thirteen arts and cultural organisations across the county will be a lifeline for venues which have been hit hard by the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

The county’s official Destination Management Organisation is congratulating the recipients of the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund, which were announced yesterday (13th October).

Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake will receive the largest slice of funding, with £878,492 to support the theatre and to help cover losses as a result of coronavirus. Meanwhile Tullie House in Carlisle will receive £494,800.

The other recipients in Cumbria are:

  • Audio Collective Ltd (for Music): £51,000
  • Bar Thirty Two Ltd (for Music): £50,000
  • Barrow Borough Council – The Forum (for Combined Arts): £100,000
  • Brantwood (for Museums): £221,000
  • Brewery Arts Centre (for Combined Arts): £237,8157
  • Lakes Story LtdThe Old Laundry Theatre (for Theatre): £250,000
  • Rosehill Arts Trust (for Combined Arts): £207,281
  • Rosehill Youth Theatre (for Theatre): £89,397
  • Signal Film & Media (for Combined Arts): £75,000
  • The Beacon (for Museums): £252,000
  • Wordsworth Trust (for Museums): £242,355

The news follows last week’s announcement that a number of Cumbria’s heritage organisations are set to receive a financial boost totalling £1.16million from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage. That included:

  • Dalemain Historic House and Gardens: £57,400
  • Farfield Mill Ltd: £44,400
  • Heron Corn Mill (Beetham): £75,600
  • Levens Hall: £165,500
  • Lowther Castle Ltd: £200,200
  • Morecambe Bay Partnership: £63,200
  • Muncaster Castle: £479,200
  • South Tynedale Railway Preservation Society: £84,300

Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh, said, “Our county has an exceptional cultural offer, and this funding is absolutely vital to maintaining the brilliantly creative and inspiring arts and cultural organisations we have in Cumbria. It is desperately important that they survive this crisis not just for the economic benefits they bring into the county, but for the fabric and wellbeing of our local communities

 “This news is an important step in protecting jobs and helping organisations get back on an even financial footing, amid continuing uncertainty and ever-evolving government restrictions. However, we also know that there is a very challenging winter ahead and cultural and heritage organisations of all sizes will still need help and support to see them through.

She added, “Arts, culture and heritage are absolutely integral to Cumbria Tourism’s ongoing Recovery Marketing Campaign and we will be continuing to work collaboratively with the industry to further amplify Cumbria’s profile as a cultural hub. Our priority is to inspire visitors – new and old – to experience a range of cultural attractions that, in turn will incentivise visitors to stay overnight, further boosting the visitor economy as a whole.”

Commenting on the news, Andrew Mackay, Director of Tullie House, commented: “As a charity, our survival is dependent on the income we generate on site. We rely on people paying admission, buying refreshments and gifts and hiring our venue. In 2020/21, income has been severely restricted due to this dreadful pandemic. This grant will help us survive this financial year, but we still need people to visit us. We are a Covid-secure venue so please, if permitted, come and see what we have to offer. We need your support.”

Colin Glover, Chair of Cumbria LEP’s Creative and Cultural Sector Panel, said: “We hugely welcome this source of funding at a time of considerable strain for businesses and organisations in the sector. Those businesses contribute so much to the well-being of the county, for local people and visitors alike. Their importance was recognised earlier this year when, in conjunction with Cumbria County Council, CLEP published Cumbria’s Creative and Cultural Strategy to further develop the sector.

“I am proud of the commitment towards continued growth that the Sector has already demonstrated and I hope that this funding can help ensure that Cumbria really is the ‘Natural Capital of Creativity and Culture’.”

The Lake District has been named as the UK’s top destination on Lonely Planet’s brand new international ‘Ultimate Travel List’ revealed today (October 7), with Hadrian’s Wall also making the top 500.

The prestigious international travel guide has ranked hundreds of what it calls “unmissable global travel experiences”, with the National Park sitting at number 40 – the highest of the UK’s 34 recommendations, with Hadrian’s Wall listed as the UK’s 13th most essential destination.

Described as “the definitive wish-list of the 500 most thrilling, memorable and interesting travel experiences in the world – ranked in order of brilliance”, with almost half of the guide’s recommendations being outdoors or wildlife experiences, its authors say the list reflects “a growing desire from travellers to experience the natural world”.

 Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh, says, “We’re thrilled to see that both of Cumbria’s World Heritage Sites have made this amazing list, with The Lake District topping the UK’s tally of 34 ‘must visit’ destinations, alongside the equally important Hadrian’s Wall. As one of the world’s most-trusted travel guides, Lonely Planet’s acknowledgement of both of Cumbria’s World Heritage Sites speaks volumes for the region and is also a timely boost for our #theperfectplacetobe recovery campaign, which we launched to help the entire tourism and hospitality sector get back on its feet after a very difficult 2020.

 “Our wide open spaces provide the perfect environment for a visit based around relaxation, health and wellbeing, while our culture and arts sectors are among the best in the world thanks to famous writers with a Lake District connection such as Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth. As the Lake District is also the home of England’s deepest lake and highest mountain, opportunities for adventure are endless, and we also boast the highest number of Michelin stars anywhere north of London – making Cumbria a true food-lover’s paradise.

“Of course, there’s so much more to Cumbria than just The Lake District and Hadrian’s Wall. The whole county is a fantastic all-year-round destination with more than 100 miles of stunning coastline, the city of Carlisle, England’s highest town of Alston, and towns and villages wrapped around Morecambe Bay, just to name a few other highlights which makes Cumbria #theperfectplacetobe. At a time when awareness of our visitor-offer is more important than ever, we can’t understate the value of Lonely Planet’s recognition highly enough.”

 Last year, Lonely Planet ambassador and ‘Trailblazer’ Chloe Gunning highlighted the county as one of her favourite places to visit thanks to a successful partnership with Cumbria Tourism. Better known to her online community as ‘Wanderlust Chloe’, she spent three days travelling by foot and eBike in the Eden Valley as part of the organisation’s sustainable travel campaign.

Commenting on Cumbria’s double-inclusion on Lonely Planet’s list, Chloe says, “It’s no surprise to see the Lake District as the highest placed destination in the UK. It has it all. Beautiful landscapes, lots of great activities and a top food scene too. I’ve adored my trips to the region, and when people ask me where to visit in the UK, it’s one of the places I recommend most of all. I can’t wait to visit again soon!”

 For more information about visiting the Lake District, Cumbria, visit: www.visitlakedistrict.com