“ Address: Snuff Mill Lane / Stainton / Penrith / Cumbria / CA11 OHA „
The best thing about having visitors (well, apart from that if you're lucky they'll pay for a nice meal for you) is planning an itinerary. Living in Cumbria we have a great choice of places to take our visitors, although as people come up again and again it can be harder to choose where to go, based on where we've taken them before!
With my parents and friends coming up for a weekend I decided that we'd go to Rheged as they'd love the shops there, but I needed somewhere else for us to visit, and the Alpaca Centre was what I decided as it's very near to Rheged, in Stainton just outside Penrith.
The first time hubby and I visited the Alpaca Centre was in the winter a few years ago when we visited with my best friend and her husband. We all (well my friend and I anyway!) fell in love with these gorgeous creatures and their cute hair cuts, although we weren't too impressed with the DIRTY donkey (just don't ask!), and I was looking forward to seeing them again.
---Getting to the Alpaca Centre---
The Alpaca Centre is easy to find as it's well signposted. The instructions on the website say "From the M6 junction 40 take the A66 West towards Keswick at the first roundabout turn left on the A592. Take the second turning right and the Alpaca Centre is about 300yds on the right." It's down Snuff Mill Lane and the postcode is CA11 OHA.
----What is an alpaca?---
Alpacas are like llamas, except smaller and cuter - they come in a variety of colours - black, brown, beige, white (different shades in between), and have the loveliest hair on top of their heads - I'm sure they must get in a specialist alpaca hairdresser!
Alpacas originate from South America, and are a type of domesticated camelid - they're far friendlier than camels though, and can be tame with their owners. Alpacas live in herds in the Andes, Peru, northern Chile, and northern Bolivia. Alpacas are mainly bred for their wool. I have heard that they eat alpacas in Peru, although have read on Wikipedia that it is illegal to trade in alpaca meat.
Rather than regurgitate information, more can be found here - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpaca
Dooyoo have chosen to put the Alpaca Centre in the shopping category which is fine I suppose as it is partly a shop (although my main purpose of visiting was to see the alpacas). However you cannot buy alpacas there!
---At The Alpaca centre---
Walk up a slope to the centre. Inside there is a lovely but expensive shop (which has an upstairs as well) selling all things alpaca, mainly things made out of their wool - much of it from Peru. A full length women's coat made of alpaca wool will set you back approximately £375. There's a nice selection of children's clothes knitted from alpaca wool, and some gorgeous alpaca rugs (about £300) and cushions - if we had room in our house for one I would be very tempted! Then there's also a range of items made from wood, and some cheaper souvenirs - I bought an out of date Alpaca magazine for 50p.
There's also a small café in the shop selling drinks and cakes. We had a drink after we'd seen the alpacas. A can of drink will set you back £1.20 (think hot drinks were about the same), and a piece of cake somewhere in the region of £1.50 - cake looked very nice, but we were already full from lunch!
---Meeting the Alpacas---
It costs £1 each to go on the 'field walk' to meet the alpacas. It would probably not be possible for those with disabilities to get to see the alpacas easily, but such is the nature of a field. Be warned, if it's wet, you will get muddy feet!
There are currently 9 alpacas and 2 donkeys at the centre. The signage is pretty out of date (saying that the alpacas are between 1 and 8 years old), but we talked to the owner about the alpacas which was really interesting. The (all female, since they don't breed them) alpacas are currently aged between 11 and 20 - 20 is about as long as they usually live. The oldest alpaca was the only one not to have been sheared as she has recently been ill, and they weren't sure if she'd be able to withstand the ordeal.
The youngest alpaca is a small black alpaca called Alice, although she is now 11. Alice is small as she was mistreated as a child (or cria as young alpacas are known) which stunted her growth in Chile, and then at one point she ended up living in a shed with some goats. A massive group of 150 mistreated alpacas were brought over here from Chile about 10 years ago, and Alice is one of these. They don't breed alpacas at the alpaca centre as there are so many mistreated alpacas. When the current alpacas have died then they will get more rescue alpacas.
Alpacas are sociable animals, so you could never keep one on its own. Saying that though I know of places which do have just one alpaca which I think is really cruel. I have read on Wikipedia that you can keep up to 10 on one acre of land, so they don't actually take up a huge amount of space. Mind you, our yard is the size of a shoebox, so not much hope for me getting a few at the moment. They also vary greatly in price (I believe starting at about £500, but going up to many thousands), so it would depends if you wanted them just as pets and for their wool (although the value of that I would imagine depends on the class of alpaca), or if you wanted to put them into alpaca shows!
Along with the alpacas there are two donkeys, and there are currently three hens wandering around, having escaped from a nearby farm and having made their new home at the alpaca centre!
We spent a good 20 minutes watching the animals and then chatting to the owner. I think our guests were slightly disappointed that the alpacas had been sheared, so weren't as cute as they otherwise would have been - next time I will come back to visit in the winter!
The Alpaca Centre is open from 10-5pm daily, and there's a £1 charge to meet the alpacas - bargain!
To find out more visit www.thealpacacentre.co.uk or phone 01768 891440
This review will be on Ciao (with cute pictures) in due course!
Enjoy browsing through exquisite items crafted from the luxurious alpaca fibre.