Things to do in Penrith and the Eden Valley – a gem hunter’s guide

The remains of English Heritage's Brougham Castle near Penrith
The remains of English Heritage’s Brougham Castle near Penrith

A market town and the largest centre in the Eden valley, historic Penrith has lots of interesting hidden gems, as has the area surrounding it.

You can take a walk around one of the historic town trails, and climb up Beacon Pike to the Penrith Beacon, with views across Penrith and the surrounding hills. The Beacon was built in 1719 on the site where beacons have been historically lit during periods of war and emergency, such as Scottish raids over the years.

Rheged, just outside of Penrith, is a fantastic escape for families with children on a rainy day. It has a choice of three restaurants and cafés, a giant cinema screen, exhibitions, and activity and play areas.

Image courtesy of Rheged
A bird’s eye view of Rheged – image courtesy of Rheged

The garden and grounds of the National Trust’s Acorn Bank are also nearby, and there is a watermill here which has recently been restored.

The National Trust's Allan Bank
The National Trust’s Allan Bank

To the north of Penrith lies Hutton-in-the-Forest, an historic Cumbrian home with gardens and woodland walks, owned by the Inglewood family.

Historic days out in the Eden Valley include visits to Dalemain Mansion, Hutton-in-the-Forest, the remains of Brougham Castle and Lowther Castle, and Brougham Hall.

Local curiosities include the stone circle Stone Meg and Her Daughters and the fascinating Lacy’s Caves, sandstone chambers carved out of the riverbank on the River Eden in Little Salkeld.

The view from the top of the Keep at Brougham Castle
The view from the top of the Keep at Brougham Castle

Gardeners will love the quaint garden nursery, Larch Cottage Nurseries, in nearby Melkinthorpe.

Larch Cottage Nurseries, Melkinthorpe
Larch Cottage Nurseries, Melkinthorpe

It’s also worth taking time to stop off and view the remains of Shap Abbey by the River Lowther at Shap, which lies to the south.

Shap Abbey, managed by English Heritage and free to visit
Shap Abbey, managed by English Heritage and free to visit

Nearby is the only access by road to Haweswater Reservoir in the valley of Mardale. Here, the farming villages of Measand and Mardale Green were controversially flooded to create the reservoir and supply water by pipeline to Manchester, with permission granted by an Act of Parliament in 1919. The remains of the original stone buildings can sometimes be seen during a severe drought.

There’s so much to see around Penrith and the Eden Valley, so I’ll be adding more here in the future as I explore the area further. If I haven’t included one of your favourite Lake District gems, please feel free to let other readers know by leaving a comment below (I’ll do my best to include your suggestions in future revisions to this post)!