Penrith forms the main gateway to the Eden Valley and is easily reached from the M6. From junction 40, various roads heading east lead to the valley’s smaller towns and villages, including the A66 (Temple Sowerby and Appleby) and the A686 (Langwathby and Little Salkeld). For Kirkby Stephen, follow the A66 to Brough and then the A685 south. For villages further north, use the A6 from Penrith.
By rail, Penrith and Carlisle are on the West Coast Main Line, with direct trains to Glasgow, Crewe, Manchester, Birmingham and London Euston. Kirkby Stephen, Appleby, Langwathby, Lazonby and Armathwaite are also on the Settle to Carlisle Railway.
In an area packed with excellent walking routes, one of the most interesting is a 5½-mile circular route from Little Salkeld. Heading northeast to take in Long Meg and Her Daughters, it visits Addingham, where a historic church has lost its village, before descending via hedged tracks to the Eden. A lovely riverside path heads upstream, passing Lacy’s Caves (left) carved into the red sandstone cliffs by a local squire. There’s a good chance of spotting wildlife along this section, including red squirrels, herons and kingfishers. Return to Little Salkeld Watermill’s tearoom for coffee and delicious cakes.
South Stainmore, near Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria CA17 4DE
Always fancied staying in a castle but worried it’s going to be a stuffy experience? There’s no fear of that at the family-run Augill Castle with its bright, imaginative decor and easy-going atmosphere. A grand setting
at the foot of the North Pennines.
Double rooms (with breakfast) from £170 per night.
Crake Trees Manor
Crosby Ravensworth, Penrith, Cumbria CA10 3JG
This stylishly converted barn at the centre of a family-run livestock farm offers three cheery, spacious
en-suite rooms with views over the Eden Valley and towards the hills.
A quirky shepherd’s hut and small, self-catering holiday cottage are also available.
Double rooms (with breakfast) from £80 per night.
For more accommodation options, visit www.golakes.co.uk.
Roman Road, Appleby, CA16 6JB
This elegant fine-dining restaurant, holder of an AA rosette, is located in the award-winning Appleby Manor Country House Hotel. Much of its meat and seafood is sourced locally, and there is also an imaginative vegetarian menu. Starters £8.25–£9.50, mains £15.75–£19.95.
Great Strickland, Penrith,
Cumbria CA10 3DF
Modern but hearty pub grub, with homemade pies, curries and fish dishes, in a friendly village venue. Welcomes walkers and cyclists, including Sir Bradley Wiggins who gave it one of his yellow Tour de France jerseys.
Starters £4.75–£6.95, mains £8.95–£19.95.
Askham Hall Kitchen Garden Café, Askham, Cumbria CA10 2PF
Light lunches, tasty cakes and good coffee served in a converted barn in the grounds of this 13th-century mansion. In the summer, sit outside in the orchard and enjoy freshly cooked pizzas straight from the wood-fired oven. Afterwards, you could visit the lovely garden (£3.50 charge).
Lunches from £6.50.
The Toffee Shop
Brunswick Road, Penrith,
Cumbria CA11 7LU
This shop has been making various sweet treats by hand since 1910, but it’s the fudge that is really the stuff of dreams. It’s the sort of soft and creamy fudge that melts as soon as it hits your tongue.
An Unmissable Place
If time is short, don’t miss Little Salkeld’s Long Meg and Her Daughters, one of Britain’s largest stone circles. It’s said to be the petrified remains of a coven of witches. Long Meg herself, a 13-feet-tall (4-metre) standing stone just outside the circle, bears 4,500-year-old cup and ring markings (concentric circles).
On a Rainy Day…
Cumbria CA11 0DQ
Rheged is a good place to while away an hour or two. This unusual structure, built into the hillside close to junction 40 of the M6, has galleries, shops, restaurants, play areas, craft workshops and a huge cinema screen. Entrance to the centre itself is free.
The award-winning novelist Sarah Hall originates from the Eden area. Two of her books, Haweswater (2003) and The Carhullan Army (2008), are set within the river’s catchment area. Both have a strong sense of place, with the landscape and local way of life vividly depicted.