IMG_20140821_205925Every heritage site and museum has a gift shop. It is a constant rant of mine that often they contain items that are irrelevant to the site/displays (especially those run by English Heritage) or things I don’t want. Ok, I confess I possess a ridiculous number of site guidebooks that I MUST acquire as souvenirs of my visits. I justify as ‘research’ tools andsome are indeed scholarly and competent, even if others are toilet paper. And yes, I confess again, I do sometimes succumb to purchasing tea towels, jam and even booze (e.g. Lindisfarne mead at the English Heritage shop at the Priory).

Places of historic worship visit are my particular weak spot however. I rarely spend much and I don’t go in for the religious paraphernalia. However, I do leave a donation when I can and I do like a good fridge magnet. Indeed, through my many recent visits to cathedrals, I have amassed a ludicrous number of cathedral fridge magnets. The gift shop at Hagia Sophia in Istanbul didn’t inspire me, although I did leave with two fridge magnets!

However, forget the big cathedrals and other holy places. In my recent travels, it has been St Cuthbert’s church, Bewcastle, Cumbria, that has won hands down for ESSENTIAL souvenirs. I didn’t spot a fridge magnet, but there was so much more.

Now Bewcastle is  well worth a visit for its castle, church, churchyard, museum and most importantly because of its famous eighth-century Anglo-Saxon cross-shaft. Obviously I am biased because I love this monument.

Still, I challenge you not to acquire a fabulous, tasteful and stylish tee-shirt and porcelain mug, both bearing interlace designs inspired by the Bewcastle cross. I don’t get a commission, but I implore you to visit and acquire through payment of UK pounds, these beautiful items to treasure, wear, sup from and display to friends and family.