Whilst it may be tempting to explore only the towns and villages of the Central Lakes during your time in the Lake District, it’s also well worthwhile investigating those on the edge of, and just outside, the World Heritage Site itself.
The small market town of Kirkby Lonsdale is situated in the south-eastern corner of Cumbria, on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and on the border with Lancashire, and in recent years has gained a growing number of independent retailers, alongside the range of cafés, restaurants and accommodation you would also expect to find here.
I visited Kirkby Lonsdale one weekend just a short while ago, to find it buzzing with visitors and pre-Christmas atmosphere. Owing to its location, and therefore the stonework used on the buildings here, the town has its own distinctive character, and there’s nothing nicer than to see a high street filled with shops you won’t find anywhere else.
Kirkby Lonsdale has a long history, the town’s market charter dating back to 1227, so there are some lovely old buildings and architectural features around the town to discover, including lanes and monuments. One distinctive building is the Sun Inn, which dates back to the 17th century.
If you don’t know it’s there, it would be especially easy to miss an extraordinarily beautiful view over the Lune Valley from a place called Ruskin’s View – yet it’s less than a five-minute walk on tarmac through the churchyard of St Mary’s Church, which you’ll find at the end of the shops on Market Street. The view gains its name from famous Lake District resident and philosopher John Ruskin, who apparently described the view as:
One of the loveliest in England, therefore in the world.
So that’s quite a recommendation you probably shouldn’t ignore! The view was also painted by the artist JMW Turner.
There’s apparently a lovely walk from the promenade at Ruskin’s View which heads down a flight of steps – known as the Radical Steps – and then leads round to Devil’s Bridge, an iconic medieval bridge spanning the river on three arches.
Both this circular walk and a self-guided historic tour of historic Kirkby Lonsdale can be found in a guide by the Kirkby Lonsdale Civic Society. Costing just 50p for a detailed line-drawn map and accompanying text, the guide is available from the Tourist Information Centre on Main Street next to the market square. There’s also a less detailed but very elegant information panel about Kirkby Lonsdale, pictured below, on a wall in the square.
A leisurely walk with a view, a wander around some unique little shops, and a cup of tea or something to eat – Kirkby Lonsdale has it all! However you choose to enjoy this superb hidden gem of a town, it is most definitely worth a visit next time you’re looking for something new to do in the area.
Have you stayed in or explored the market town of Kirkby Lonsdale for yourself? If so, have I missed anything that other readers would enjoy on a visit here? You can let me know by leaving a comment below – it’s always lovely to hear from you!