A year ago I retired from my main job and transitioned to part time working and increased opportunities to do other thing. As it happened I’ve done rather too much of the former meaning not as much of the latter as I’d like, but I intend to adjust the balance this year. To mark the change, last year in early March we took a week’s break in Settle on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. We’d enjoyed getting away for some walking, reading and relaxing and a change of scenery, so decided to mark the anniversary (and another significant birthday) with another week away. This time we stopped in Kirkby Stephen in Westmorland (now in Cumbria) which lies just north of the Yorkshire Dales and a few miles to the south and west of the Northern Pennines. Like Settle, it only takes about an hour and a half to drive there, but it really feels like a different world.
It’s always a gamble booking a holiday in Northern England in early March, but unlike this week (which has been pretty awful) we had some decent weather. There were only two days when we didn’t really venture out (other than walking the short distance to the Co-op to pick up supplies and a short drive to Brough on one day) and we took those as a day to relax and do some reading. On Friday, the last full day before returning home, we woke up to snow several inches deep,
but then it turned into a sunny day and we enjoyed getting out for a walk in the snow covered fields. We managed a few local walks and a trip to Settle on the Settle Carlisle Railway down Mallerstang and Ribbledale. So it worked out well for us.
The small town is very remote. Wikipedia describes it well
surrounded by sparsely populated hill country, about 25 miles (40 km) from the nearest larger towns: Kendal and Penrith. The River Eden rises 6 miles (9.7 km) away in the peat bogs below Hugh Seat and passes the eastern edge of the town. At the 2001 census the parish had a population of 1,832. In 2011, it had a population of 1,522.
It has a butcher’s, bakers, independent grocers, a bookshop (limited opening hours) a medium sized Co-op supermarket and a few other shops, and, probably because it’s on the route of the Coast to Coast path it’s able to support several pubs, cafes, gift shops, two walking equipment shops and an independent hostel.
It’s in “Lady Anne Clifford country” – one of her castles, Pendragon Castle, is a few miles away in Mallestang. There’s a statue of her in front of the tourist information centre on the main street
We stopped in Oscar House, a superb property – an “upside down” converted barn close to the centre but also on the edge of the town, overlooking fields. There were views in every direction and we could see the fells including the North Pennines and Wild Boar Fell from the upstairs windows. I neglected to take photos but there are plenty on the Sykes website page for the property. Being out of season we were able to rent for a good price.
Just across the road and down a short ginnel we found our favourite little pub, the La’l Nook. It’s tiny and is only open Friday to Sunday.
We called in on Saturday night then popped in after a walk on Sunday and made a final visit on our last night. I don’t drink alcohol but beside the selection of real ales (which changes every week) they had three non-alcoholic beers. We got chatting with the landlord who it turns out was from our part of the world having grown up in Atherton and Hindley.
It always seemed busy, especially as it can only accommodate a small number of customers. There was a band of regulars, all of whom were rugby addicts (sadly, the 15 a side code) and we had a good chat with a couple of them on our last visit.
Nine tall stone structures, the Nine Standards, overlook the town from high up on Hartley Fell, one of the nearby fells. Their origin and history is disputed so no-one really knows who built them and what they were for. We could see them on the skyline from one of the widows in our property. I managed to get up close on a solo walk on a sunny Tuesday during our stay.
Most of the older, vernacular buildings are constructed from brockram, a local stone composed of fragments of limestone in a cement of red sandstone, so they have a dull grey look about them. Nevertheless they had their own charm and the stone looked good on a sunny day.
One building that stood out, was Barclay’s Bank. Built in 1903 in an Arts and Crafts style, it’s a Grade II listed building. (I think someone who reads this blog used to work here once). It was orignally a branch of Messrs Wakefield, Crewdson’s Kendal Bank and then a branch of Martin’s bank which was taken over by Barclays in 1969.
Some other distinctive structures include the red sandstone cloisters in front of the church
The Parish Church , built of soft red sandstone – which, very unusually, is used for both Anglican ad Catholic services
and the old bridge, known as “Franks Bridge” over the Eden
There is definitely more to see and do in this area which we’d only ever passed through before after taking the A66 route back from the North East. A return needs to go on to my ever increasing list!