The Best of Non Golf
The North West of England
When I was a boy and learned the counties of England, the North West was made up of Cheshire, Lancashire, Westmorland and Cumberland. Since then bureaucrats have taken away parts of Cheshire and Lancashire to create Merseyside as well as amalgamating Westmorland and Cumberland into Cumbria. It doesn’t really affect the golf, which is still mostly divided up into the traditional county golf unions. And it doesn’t really affect me because I ignore the bureaucrats!
Cheshire is the southernmost of the north-western counties and in some ways is more midland than northern, yet it is greatly influenced by its proximity to Manchester and Liverpool. It has been wealthy for millennia because it has large deposits of salt – mostly in the Weaver Valley in the flat mid-Cheshire plain. The Romans came to Northwich, Middlewich and Nantwich, building straight roads to carry their precious loads away, straight roads which are the basis of a number of major roads even today. The Romans also settled at Deva, Chester. Their street layout, in the form of a cross, survives, as do fragments of a number of Roman buildings.
When the Romans left, their civilising influence was lost. Chaos ruled. Invaders came over from Wales, down from Scotland, across the sea from Ireland and, of course, the Angles, Saxons and Jutes sailed from continental Europe, hell bent on rape and pillage. In fact names such as Knutsford and Toft are Danish in origin. Cheshire as such did not exist until the Anglian kingdom of Mercia was ‘shired’ (sheared) and it was first mentioned in an Alfredian chronicle of AD 980. It was created around a county town, Chester, which had been rebuilt in the early 10th century. By the time of the Domesday Book, Cheshire had become a larger county encompassing much of North Wales, parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire and even the Lake District. From 1237 the Earldom of Chester passed to the crown and Cheshire was granted a fairly independent administration meaning that it could freely create its own charters, impose taxes and make its own laws. This ‘palatinate’ status did not last and Henry VIII’s reign saw the dissolution of the monasteries, the disappearance of fiscal independence and control taken to Westminster.
Cheshire has been famous for its cheese since the middle ages. The sort of grass which enables the finest cheese to be made is not conducive to golf, and few courses were to be found in the centre of the county until the last couple of decades of the twentieth century. Sadly, after the Second World War, cheese production was centred no longer on the farms themselves but in factories, producing bland, characterless pap. I recall that when I was a young boy my father’s family still produced their own cheese on their farm. I remember the milk churns and that most of the equipment was manufactured by WH Smith (same company as the newsagents!) in Whitchurch, Shropshire. Before the war, my aunt had studied cheese-making, at Ellesmere in Shropshire. But I also remember the scene changing. The milk was then taken by horse and cart to Plumley station where it was sent by train to Manchester to become yet more bland, characterless pap. The family also grew huge, tasteless potatoes which, similarly, went to Manchester by train for turning into chips, big coarse and greasy, served with lashings of salt and vinegar. But there is a happy ending to part of that story, for artisan cheeses are back in vogue (all over the country, not just Cheshire) and small producers are rediscovering the art of making truly fine cheese. Local artisan markets are springing up throughout the country, featuring the best cheese you can find anywhere. When I say anywhere, a few years ago I saw Mrs Appleby’s finest red Cheshire on sale in a classy food shop in Mill Valley, California http://www.applebyscheese.co.uk/our-products/applebys-cheshire/
If Cheshire was a county of extensive dairy farms for most of its existence, the coming of the railways changed all that. In 1837 a station was built at Crewe, then nothing more than a village of 70 inhabitants, because Nantwich and Winsford had both rejected it! In time Crewe became one of the major railway hubs in Britain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crewe_railway_station
It also had a big railway works, building locomotives in large numbers. The railways and their locomotives were important in bringing limestone from the south Pennines and coal from south Lancashire to Northwich and the factories of the Mersey estuary, utilising the salt deposits of mid Cheshire (extracted as brine and pumped in enormous pipelines) to make soap, sodium hydroxide, chlorine and their many derivatives.
From 1946 to 2002 Crewe was home to Rolls Royce cars, but now it is where Bentleys are manufactured. http://www.bentleymotors.com/
Most are to be seen looking elegant in the wealthier parts of the county, although one does see some extraordinary paint schemes on the cars of some of the footballers who are the wealthiest of the lot! For the record, Crewe Alexandra football club has had an enviable reputation as a club nurturing the careers of young players before going on to stardom: http://www.crewealex.net/
Returning to Chester, there is much of interest to see. It looks and feels an old place, with what appear to be mediaeval houses and buildings contained within the two-mile circuit of its city walls. As it happens many of the mediaeval buildings are not as old as we might imagine. Many date only from the 19th century, built in a sham mediaeval style with wooden frames which are simply nailed onto the brickwork rather than supporting the buildings. Even the city walls, which date principally from the 13th century, suffered during the Civil War and had to be rebuilt substantially. http://www.chesterwalls.info/
Little remains of Chester’s Norman Castle which was largely swept away in the late 18th and early 19th century when new ‘Greek revival’ public buildings were erected on the site. Perhaps the most surprising fakes are the famous Rows, originally constructed in the 13th century – elevated walkways in the centre of the city giving pedestrians unrivalled views of life and work going on at street level below them. http://www.discoverchester.co.uk/Rows.html
Today’s Rows look original but they are largely late 19th century in origin. Nonetheless a promenade along them and a walk around the city walls are musts for every visitor.
Again, Chester’s fine Cathedral is only partly of great age. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chester_Cathedral
It was founded in 1092 by Hugh Lupus as a Benedictine Abbey. At the dissolution of the monasteries in the reign of Henry VIII it became a Cathedral, but visually it was changed considerably by three major rebuilds in the 19th century. Like many Cheshire churches it is built of red sandstone, giving little acoustic advantage, although the organ is very fine.
Other Cheshire churches worthy of investigation include St Mary’s, Nantwich (14th century) http://stmarysnantwich.org.uk/
Great Budworth (14th century) http://www.greatbudworthchurch.org/ in which the remains of some of my ancestors are buried.
Gawsworth (15th/16th century) http://www.gawsworth.com/stjames.html where Elizabeth Fitton (often said to be the Dark Lady of Shakespeare’s sonnets) worshipped.
Bunbury (14th century) http://www.bunbury.org.uk/
Macclesfield (consecrated 1278, but much rebuilt) http://www.stmichaels-macclesfield.org.uk/
Prestbury (13th century, with an older Norman chapel in the grounds) http://www.stpetersprestbury.org.uk/
Malpas (14th century) http://www.malpaschurch.co.uk/
Northwich (St Helen’s, Witton, 14th century) http://sthelenwitton.org.uk/ Astbury (late 13th century) is especially pretty when the daffodils are in bloom in spring http://astburychurch.org.uk/
Hidden away in a courtyard in the centre of Macclesfield is a very handsome, tiny Unitarian chapel http://www.maccunitarians.co.uk/
And there is another lovely Unitarian Chapel near Wilmslow, at Dean Row: http://www.ukunitarians.org.uk/deanrow/
It is also rewarding to visit the 14th century churches of Lower Peover http://peoverchurches.org.uk/ and Marton http://www.martonchurch.co.uk/
Both built in a half-timbered black-and-white style. The charming black-and-white church at Siddington is beautifully sited, well worth seeing in the autumn when it is filled with corn dollies following the harvest festival. http://www.cheshirenow.co.uk/siddington.html
By no means is all of Cheshire flat. On the east of the county beyond Stockport, Bollington, Macclesfield and Congleton the countryside changes abruptly, rising to the southernmost outposts of the Pennines. This area of gritstone, the Peak National Park, lies mostly in Derbyshire, but a pleasant chunk of it enjoys Cheshire status. http://www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/
The views over the Cheshire plain are outstanding, with the famous radio telescope at Jodrell Bank always catching the eye. http://www.jodrellbank.net/
You are only a few miles from civilisation, yet you are away from it all in the little roads of Wildboarclough http://www.wildboarclough.co.uk/
Forest Chapel http://www.visitcheshire.com/things-to-do/st-stephens-church-forest-chapel-p109081,
Wincle http://www.wincle.org.uk/. And you are only a few minutes’ drive from Alister MacKenzie’s late masterpiece, Cavendish at Buxton or his earlier gem at Reddish Vale in Stockport.
Mention of Wincle reminds me that the villages of Cheshire are creating a stir with their breweries, micro- and mini-. Within a few miles’ drive I can sample the products of http://www.winclebeer.co.uk/, http://www.beartownbrewery.co.uk/,
Unfortunately I should not drive home if I have sampled too many of these! Thankfully these beers bottle well and I can test them at home. It’s true of the whole country these days: there are wonderful craft beers, ciders, gins, even non-Scotch whiskies receiving acclaim from knowledgeable consumers throughout the country. The Slow Food movement has done much to educate us in our consumption of the finest locally-sourced products, and its effects have been influential and lasting – not only in Cheshire! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slow_Food
I should return to Chester. I abandoned it early in this survey. I failed to mention its important zoo http://www.chesterzoo.org/ and its racecourse http://www.chester-races.co.uk/. It was the most important port of north-west England for many centuries. George Frideric Handel set sail from here for the first performance of his oratorio Messiah in Dublin in 1742. There is a story that Handel had to wait in Chester for favourable tides before embarking and tried to arrange a rehearsal before departure. It seems that it was unsuccessful, but, as I have friends at Chester Cathedral, I shall leave it for you to discover the story: http://cc-publishing.co.uk/Archives/messiah.html
Handel would have sailed from Parkgate, an estuarine village a few miles nearer to the sea, north-west of Chester. Today it is a remarkable place. The Dee Estuary has silted up. No boats sail from it, and it is a charming sea-front village with no sea. There are good views across the remains of the estuary to the hills of north-Wales and there is an abundance of interest for ornithologists. http://www.visitparkgate.co.uk/
For good measure there is a wonderful ice cream shop: http://www.nichollsicecream.co.uk/
At Parkgate you are close to the start of one of the Wirral coastal walks, which largely follows the track bed of a long redundant railway (easy walking!), through two golf courses, up to West Kirby and Hoylake, along the north coast and back south easterly along the estuary of the River Mersey: http://www.wirralcoastalwalk.org/
Overlooking the Dee Estuary, Ness Botanic Gardens possess one of the major collections in Britain. It is now run by Liverpool University: http://www.nessgardens.org.uk/
Visitors to Royal Liverpool Golf Club at Hoylake often remark on how far the tide goes out and they are often surprised to see people walking out across the sands to Hilbre Islands. It is not an expedition to treat casually. It needs proper planning and suitable clothing, but the wildlife on the islands is remarkable: http://www.wirral.gov.uk/my-services/leisure-and-culture/parks-beaches-and-countryside/parks-greenspaces-and-countryside/local-nature-reserves/hilbre-isl
Birkenhead is the Wirral’s largest conurbation. It flourished when its docks were full of merchant shipping. It is no longer at the forefront of commerce, but there are one or two surprises, including the beautiful remains of Birkenhead Priory: http://www.birkenheadprioryparish.co.uk/
Birkenhead Park was laid out by Sir Joseph Paxton and was the first publicly funded park in Britain. It is said to be the model for Central Park, New York. http://www.visitwirral.com/attractions-and-activities/birkenhead-park-p44211
Sadly, the future of the Warship Preservation Trust in Birkenhead is uncertain, but if its collection remains intact (HMS Onyx has already been relocated to Barrow-in-Furness) it should be on the attractions list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warship_Preservation_Trust
Port Sunlight was designed as a model village for William Hesketh Lever’s employees at his Sunlight soap factory http://www.portsunlightvillage.com/
Nearby, the Lady Lever Art Gallery is a small but well stocked gallery of important works of art http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/ladylever/
The former docks at Ellesmere Port, designed by Thomas Telford, are nowadays the site of the impressive National Waterways Museum – very much more than simply a canal boat museum: https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/national-waterways-museum
The network of canals in Cheshire was important in the transport of its salt and salt-based products to the coastal docks for export. And the Trent and Mersey canal was a major route for getting china clay, brought from Cornwall by big vessels, from the coast to the potteries of Staffordshire. The canal was 50 feet above the River Weaver at Northwich. An extraordinary boat lift was constructed at Anderton to enable narrow boats to be lifted or lowered using the simplest of mechanical means. Although the traffic now is leisure-based a great many boats still use the boat lift: https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/anderton-boat-lift
When I was a young boy the factories producing chemicals in and around Northwich were profuse. They were then owned by ICI, but most had been founded by industrialists Sir John Brunner (British) and Ludwig Mond (German). Not only were they very successful and inventive in their business but also they were philanthropists. Brunner, in particular, gave generous financial support to the local library and grammar school. There is much to be seen about the salt industry in the Weaver Valley at Northwich’s old Union Workhouse which has been turned into a tiny, but fascinating, museum: http://www.cheshirewestmuseums.org/?page_id=60
The extraordinary Lion Salt Works just outside Northwich has been undergoing restoration and is well worth experiencing: http://lionsaltworks.org/re-launch-of-the-salt-museum-and-northwich-heritage-week/
And you could drive on from there to walk through the picturesque village of Great Budworth, often used for film sets by local television companies: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Budworth
Nearby is the small town of Knutsford. Happily it has managed to retain many of its old buildings and a number of traditional shops: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knutsford
One of Knutsford’s famous former residents was the novelist, Mrs Gaskell: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Gaskell
She is buried at Brook Street Chapel http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brook_Street_Chapel,_Knutsford
During the 2nd World War American troops were stationed at Toft Camp outside Knutsford in preparation for the D-Day landings. They were commanded by General Patton who was the unfortunate recipient of being misquoted in the press, apparently snubbing the Russians at a time when they were a necessary ally. Several of the venues at which he spoke to his troops remain in Knutsford: http://www.virtual-knutsford.co.uk/frameset.php?main=/ask_joan/history_askjoan_patton_tong.htm
One of these buildings, the Ruskin Rooms, is an extraordinary confection by a group of architects who transformed Knutsford at the close of the 19th century, under the leadership of Richard Harding Watt: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Harding_Watt
Just beyond the Ruskin Rooms is Drury Lane, a remarkable terrace of unique houses originally intended for workers at Watt’s laundry (sadly now demolished) and now almost a museum in its own right of Art Nouveau building design and decoration. In what we call the ‘Lower Street’ is another love-it or hate-it building, the King’s Coffee House: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaskell_Memorial_Tower_and_King%27s_Coffee_House
Again, the attention to detail is remarkable. But the biscuit is taken at the top of the hill where Legh Road branches to the right off the Macclesfield Road. Here is a sequence of big mansions, most of them in the unmistakable style of Harding Watt. One of them was owned by Henry Royce (he of Rolls-Royce). A walk up and down Legh Road is quite an eye-opener!
Before we leave the Knutsford area we should make a visit to the Bells of Peover, a pub in a village nearby. It was in this pub that Generals Eisenhower and Patton planned the fine details of the D-Day landings in Normandy – over lunch! http://thebellsofpeover.com/our-history
Eisenhower and many Americans (officers only in those days) stationed in the area were given courtesy of the course at Mere Golf and Country Club (now the Mere Resort). The course was constructed in the 1930s (James Braid and George Duncan) and is little altered to this day, although tree planting has narrowed much of the course. However Eisenhower would not recognise the clubhouse were he to make a return visit – it was gutted by fire some years ago and nothing survived. http://www.themereresort.co.uk/
If you want to play golf in Knutsford there is a charming little 10-hole layout: http://www.knutsfordgolf.com/
It is a 10-hole course, despite the website describing it as 9-hole, because it has separate 9th and 18th holes. It is laid out in Tatton Park, one of Cheshire’s great estates (1,000 acres) with deer park, 17th century mansion, old manor house, extensive gardens and events from American car shows to Tatton RHS flower show: http://www.tattonpark.org.uk/
Nearby, Arley Hall and gardens remain family owned: http://www.arleyhallandgardens.com/
I have fond memories of Arley as my father’s family used to be tenant farmers on the estate and he and his brothers used to sing in the chapel choir. They also acted as beaters for shoots and one of the brothers used to spend many nights during the war up on the roof fire watching.
In the east of the county are two more impressive estates, Capesthorne owned by the Bromley Davenports: http://www.capesthorne.com/hall-and-gardens and Gawsworth, one of our black and white gems: http://www.gawsworthhall.com/
Bramall Hall is another superb Tudor mansion, currently shut for a major restoration, but reopening in 2016 and a must see. http://www.stockport.gov.uk/services/leisureculture/visitstockport/museumsandgalleries/museumsandgalleries/bramallhall/
Churche’s Mansion in Nantwich, yet another beautiful black-and-white house, is currently in use as an antique shop: http://www.churchesmansion.com/
But the finest of all our great Tudor mansions is Little Morton Hall a few miles south of Congleton: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/little-moreton-hall/
While in that area the visitor might enjoy an excursion to Mow Cop. It’s a strange place, on top of a hill, visible from much of Cheshire. There are the remains of an old castle (or is it a sham?), links to Primitive Methodism, a coal tunnel, the Mow Cop Killer Mile and all sorts of other diversions: http://www.mowcop.info/index.htm
Mow Cop’s Primitive Methodism has a strong connection with the Second Great Awakening religious revival in America: http://www.engleseabrook-museum.org.uk/history.asp
Beeston Castle is also a Cheshire landmark, visible from a wide area, and much visited by intrepid parties of vigorous schoolchildren: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/beeston-castle-and-woodland-park/
Dating from the mid 19th century Peckforton Castle was an extravagant display of wealth amid the south Cheshire hills. It belonged to Lord Tollemache. Today it is a lavish hotel and event centre: http://www.peckfortoncastle.co.uk/
Cholmondeley Castle (pronounced Chumley) is the venue for an annual pageant of power: http://www.visitchester.com/whats-on/cholmondeley-pageant-of-power-p86391
The Castle itself is not generally open to the public but its grounds are and many events are held: http://www.visitchester.com/things-to-do/cholmondeley-castle-p30371
Oulton Hall and its estate was the home of the Gray-Egerton family (the Egertons being prominent Cheshire landowners). Yet more American forces, under General Patton, were stationed and trained here prior to the D-Day landings. Following their departure the estate was not revived, but it was turned into a modest motor racing circuit. It attracted many of the famous drivers of that time and I remember seeing Stirling Moss demolish a classy field in the Gold Cup. Drivers beaten included Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jack Brabham and Roy Salvadori.
The circuit still exists and plays host to many track days for cars and motor bikes: http://www.oultonpark.co.uk/
And there is some fascinating historic car racing: http://www.oultonparkgoldcup.co.uk/
We have not yet finished with historic buildings. Let’s continue with Dunham Massey, a fine Georgian house in a charming deer park: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dunham-massey/
Set in even more expansive grounds is Lyme Park, in the moors on the edge of the Peak District: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lyme-park/
Much older, and still standing, are the Saxon cross shafts in West Park, Macclesfield: http://www.talkingwestcheshire.org/talking_together_direct/campaigns/revealing_cheshires_past-1/community_exhibition/sites_to_visit/saxon_sites_to_visit/west_park_crosses.aspx
And in Sandbach there are two fine, elaborate Saxon crosses in the market square: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/sandbach-crosses/
There is no entrance fee.
Adlington Hall is in a mixture of styles, part Tudor (black-and-white) and part mid 18th century (brick). It is not generally open to the public, except for weddings and other such events, but, on those rare occasions that it is open, it is well worth seeing. The organ, mounted on ancient oak trunks, is one of the oldest in the world that is still playable. http://www.adlingtonhall.com/
Macclesfield is a historic silk town. Thirty years ago the fabric was still being made there, but is no more. The silk heritage is well commemorated, however, in a number of museums around the town, conveniently drawn together on one web site: http://www.silkmacclesfield.org.uk/
The old Sunday school is a remarkable building in which professional concerts are given from time to time: http://www.ncorch.co.uk/
Quarry Bank Mill is a traditional cotton mill located very close to Manchester Airport, recreating all the noise and bustle of its age, a fascinating place to visit: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/quarry-bank/
Water power was used at Quarry Bank, and also at Nether Alderley Mill – a corn mill: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/nether-alderley-mill/
Right in the centre of Stockport is the country’s only museum dedicated to hats, hat making, hat fashion and so on: http://www.stockport.gov.uk/services/leisureculture/visitstockport/museumsandgalleries/museumsandgalleries/hatworks/
Just a few yards from the hat museum Stockport’s Air Raid Shelters can be found. When they were opened in 1939 they were the largest civilian shelters in the country, accommodating 6,500 people. They have been restored and provide an evocative experience for those old enough to remember them from their youth and a vivid experience for those of a younger age, probably on a school trip: http://www.stockport.gov.uk/services/leisureculture/visitstockport/museumsandgalleries/museumsandgalleries/airraidshelters/
The bureaucrats decided to move Warrington from Lancashire to Cheshire. I know not why. Little need detain us, other than the Town Hall and its magnificent gates: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warrington_Town_Hall
On a factory estate in Warrington my friend, Roger Barlow, runs a brilliant wine merchant’s business. There is no shop, there is little wine on the premises, but his van delivery service is most efficient and, I am pleased to say, calls in Wilmslow frequently! He’s a great Burgundy expert and has acquired some superb growers and winemakers. He also now lives part time in Piedmont, and his personal contacts have greatly enhanced my cellar: http://www.gerrardseel.co.uk/
And if you happen to be passing through Cheshire and are hungry go to Boons in Chelford if you are a meat eater: http://www.ajboonbutchers.co.uk/
Cheeses second to none (and a lot more besides) are to be found at Grantham’s: http://www.granthamsfinefood.com/
And a vast range of fine foods is available at the Cheshire Smokehouse: https://www.cheshiresmokehouse.co.uk/index
Philip Beavan who runs the wine department is, like Roger Barlow, a friend, a former singer and a man with a good palate. They have acquired an excellent baker and pastry chef. He makes first-rate croissants, pain-au-raisin, pain-au-chocolat, but you must be there before 10 am on a Saturday morning. It’s the only day he makes them and demand is high! If you choose to visit any of these emporia do contact me – we are very close to all of them.
Artisan food is a central theme of the many artisan markets we now enjoy in Cheshire. In Macclesfield there is the treacle market: http://www.treaclemacclesfield.co.uk/
Here in Wilmslow we have an artisan market: http://www.themarketco.co.uk/
And in Knutsford there’s a Makers’ Market: http://www.knutsfordtowncouncil.gov.uk/TourismEvents/Events/MakersMarket
And excellent Christmas Market: http://www.knutsfordtowncouncil.gov.uk/TourismEvents/Events/Market
Finally, while golfers enjoy the fresh open air at Delamere Forest Golf Club, non golfers might walk, cycle, ride or even Go Ape in the handsome forest itself: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/delamere
It’s time to move north into Lancashire. Even in the 21st century there are two physical barriers if you choose to cross the boundary by motor car: the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal. The Mersey has a broad estuary as it flows into the sea bounded by the Wirral on the Cheshire side and by Liverpool on the right bank. There is no bridge, but there are two tunnels for road traffic: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mersey_Tunnels
It is a considerable distance before encountering the first road bridge at Runcorn: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silver_Jubilee_Bridge
This replaced a rather rickety transporter bridge that carried a few vehicles at a time over the river and ship canal, which are adjacent at this point. I am old enough to have travelled on it a number of times: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Widnes-Runcorn_Transporter_Bridge
Thereafter most road crossings of the Manchester Ship Canal are on swing bridges. These days they are opened fairly infrequently as few vessels of sea-going size make the journey inland towards Manchester, but they caused much congestion back in days of boatloads of bananas, oil and even sewage in the 1950s and 60s before the high level motorway bridges were constructed at Thelwall http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thelwall_Viaduct
and Barton http://wikimapia.org/193963/Barton-High-Level-Bridge
The one exception to the low-level swing bridges is a privately owned toll-bridge across the ship canal at Warburton: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warburton,_Greater_Manchester
The ship canal terminates at what used to be bustling docks at Manchester: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manchester_Docks
Now the docks are surrounded by apartments, an opera house/theatre, a media centre, offices, hotels, restaurants, an outpost of the Imperial War Museum and so on, the Quays:
The German composer Peter Cornelius visited Manchester with the Mainz Opera Orchestra in the 1840s and he wrote home of the city’s ugliness, of the smoke pouring from the factory chimneys, its miserable climate and its ‘revolting, muddy rivers.’ Little has changed!
In truth Manchester has never had the architectural elegance of Liverpool or its near neighbours across the Pennines, Leeds and Bradford. There is a Town Hall which is impressive if you like heavy Victoriana: http://www.manchester.gov.uk/townhall/
Next door is the impressive Central Library which has an important collection of music, The Henry Watson library: http://www.manchester.gov.uk/centrallibrary
There is a tiny, if warm and friendly, Cathedral: http://www.manchestercathedral.org/
And that really is about all there is of architectural merit.
Culture is well provided for with the Hallé and BBC Philharmonic orchestras maintaining high profile, exceptional quality concert seasons in the marvellous Bridgewater Hall:
There are major appearances by visiting orchestras from around the world, plus distinguished soloists, chamber ensembles, early music groups and so on, and a concert series featuring one of Manchester’s most successful chamber orchestras, the Manchester Camerata: http://www.manchestercamerata.co.uk/
The Camerata are based in the Royal Northern College of Music (where I am a tutor in oratorio). The RNCM’s recently refurbished concert hall and opera theatre play host to a busy programme of serious music of all shapes and sizes from students to visiting orchestras, ensembles and soloists: http://www.rncm.ac.uk/
Drama, musicals and occasional opera are well catered for with The Lowry (see above), Palace Theatre, Royal Exchange, Opera House, Contact Theatre and Library Theatre being main venues:
Big events of various kinds are hosted by Phones4U arena:
and Manchester Central (aka GMex): http://www.manchestercentral.co.uk/
Manchester’s art galleries and museums are comparatively small and few in number but they have quality:
The daddy of all the Manchester museums is that of the Museum of Science and Industry. It is big, it is comprehensive and (happily for all of us) there’s lots of hands-on stuff to engage children (and adults): http://www.mosi.org.uk/
I am always enthralled by the air and space collection and the marvellous steam engines of many kinds, but there is so much that it will take a detailed exploration of their web site to discover just how much there is to see.
The John Rylands Library of Manchester University contains a valuable collection of rare books and manuscripts. Events and exhibitions vary enormously in content because of the extraordinary range of the collection: http://www.library.manchester.ac.uk/rylands/
There is a little spot of tranquillity in the neighbouring city of Salford, Ordsall Hall, a Tudor gem in an otherwise unprepossessing wilderness of urban sprawl.
In the summer of 2002 Manchester hosted the Commonwealth Games: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2002_Commonwealth_Games
The sporting legacy has been considerable and lasting. Physically it has left Manchester with a world-class velodrome at the heart of the National Cycling Centre: http://www.nationalcyclingcentre.com/
and a fine stadium, now known as the Etihad Stadium, home to Manchester City Football Club: http://www.mcfc.co.uk/
On the other side of the city is Old Trafford, not one, but two sporting arenas. Old Trafford cricket ground is the home of Lancashire County Cricket Club and a frequent host of international test matches: http://www.lccc.co.uk/
Old Trafford football ground is known the world over as the home of Manchester United Football Club: http://www.manutd.com/Splash-Page.aspx
The spread of languages on its splash page is enough to recognise the club’s global influence. Tours of the ground are particularly popular.
According to Google, it is 33.9 miles from Manchester to Liverpool. By car, it will take you anything from 40 minutes to an hour or longer, according to the weight of traffic encountered, road works, accidents and so forth. According to Wikipedia, the Liverpool and Manchester Railway was the world’s first twin-track inter-urban railway in which all the trains were timetabled and ticketed. Part of the original station at the Manchester end survives as part of the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liverpool_and_Manchester_Railway
That part of the M62 motorway linking Manchester and Liverpool passes (north of Warrington) the site of RAF Burtonwood. This was, during the Second World War, the gateway to Europe for vast numbers of American troops. Sadly, there are few vestiges and the site is now a vast complex of commercial and industrial buildings. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAF_Burtonwood
A comparison of the merits and demerits of Liverpool and Manchester may be invidious, but it will be fun for me – until the residents from either read this and bar me from entry to both!
As far as Liverpool is concerned it is a more imposing a city than Manchester. You may not like all its buildings, but its setting on a hill climbing from the waterfront is uplifting. There, at the top, are its two vast Cathedrals, the modern Roman Catholic one, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King: http://www.liverpoolmetrocathedral.org.uk/
and the Anglican one: http://www.liverpoolcathedral.org.uk/
The Anglican Cathedral is vast (though not as long as originally intended) and took 100 years to build. To hear a vast symphony orchestra in this acoustic is stunning, and the organ is one of the biggest and most powerful I have ever experienced – yes, I have played it! The Catholic Cathedral stands at the other end of the aptly named Hope Street. It had been intended that it should be a vast basilica and would have been the second largest church in the world. The design by Lutyens survives and there is a model of how the church would have been: https://localwiki.org/liverpool/Edwin_Lutyens’_Original_Liverpool_Catholic_Cathedral
The extensive crypt was in fact built. But after the Second World War there was no appetite for such opulence and eventually a competition was held for a completely different sort of cathedral, which was won by Sir Frederick Gibberd. Work began in 1962 and it was completed in 1967. It is striking in its appearance internally when the sun is shining. Both cathedrals are notably welcoming to visitors.
Roughly midway along Hope Street, connecting the two cathedrals, is the Philharmonic Hall, home to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. http://www.liverpoolphil.com/
The hall is 1930s art deco and was one of the better halls acoustically in the country until the advent of the recent exceptional halls such as Symphony Hall in Birmingham and Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. I have a very soft spot for the hall and for the Phil, with whom I worked as a producer much during the 1980s and 1990s.
On the opposite side of Hope Street are the Philharmonic Dining Halls, a period piece of a pub once described as ‘the most ornate pub in England.’ http://www.nicholsonspubs.co.uk/thephilharmonicdiningroomsliverpool/
Liverpool is, of course, well supplied with dramatic entertainment:
There is also a Cavern Club, but it’s not the original: http://www.liverpooltheatres.com/cavern.htm#
The original, where the Beatles starred in their early years, was closed down in 1973: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cavern_Club
The Beatles story is told in a museum in the revitalised Albert Dock area: http://www.beatlesstory.com/
And much is remembered or reconstructed on:
The waterfront is dominated by the Royal Liver Building http://www.royalliverbuilding.com/default.aspx
In front of it the Albert Dock blends historic architecture with modern amenities in an exciting way: http://www.albertdock.com/
On the must see list of most visitors is the Merseyside Maritime Museum, which tells many fascinating tales, not least those connected with the ill-fated RMS Titanic. Entry is free. http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/maritime/
Nothing now remains of the ‘Dockers’ Umbrella’ as the Liverpool Overhead Railway was known. I remember it, even though it was closed in the mid 1950s. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liverpool_Overhead_Railway
It ran along the waterfront past the splendid liners that used to ply between Liverpool and Canada, Australia, the far east, South Africa. They, too, are now a thing of the past, although some huge cruise liners call at Liverpool, dwarfing all around them.
Before the docks were constructed the River Mersey washed the walls of the Church of Our Lady and St Nicholas, Liverpool Parish Church, or St Nick’s as it is known locally. It is a reminder that when the estuary of the River Dee silted up, Chester was no longer able to enjoy a thriving port. Shipping moved to the little fishing village of Liverpool. How it has grown through the centuries! http://www.livpc.co.uk/
We should not take our leave of the Albert Dock area without visiting the Tate Liverpool art gallery: http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-liverpool
There is another outstanding art gallery in Liverpool, the Walker Art Gallery. http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/walker/
Its collection ranges from the renaissance right through to David Hockney, Lucian Freud and Bridget Riley. Walkers brewed beer, but when the gallery was first opened it was on a Sunday. Sundays in those times were ‘dry’. A visitor misquoted Coleridge: ‘Walker, Walker, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink!’
The Walker is in an imposing part of the city with the St George’s Hall dominating everything. It is a huge building, in its day accommodating 4,000 people for its free Sunday organ recitals. Nowadays it is more likely to host conferences, weddings and other functions. Its interior may not be to everyone’s taste, but it is undeniably impressive. http://liverpoolcityhalls.co.uk/st-georges-hall
A visit to the newly restored Liverpool Central Library should be built into this part of town, with its well presented collections of historic books and handsome reading rooms. http://liverpool.gov.uk/libraries/find-a-library/central-library/
The most historic building in central Liverpool is the Bluecoat, dating from the 18th century. It has always been associated with the arts, particularly under the guidance of Augustus John. Great composers, jazz musicians, dancers and writers have performed or appeared here. http://www.thebluecoat.org.uk/
Of greater antiquity, however, is Speke Hall, a part Tudor building overlooking he Mersey estuary. Unfortunately it also overlooks the unsightly mess that is John Lennon Liverpool Airport. http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/speke-hall/
Liverpool is particularly well provided with green spaces, its big parks, Sefton and Stanley, notable for their size: http://liverpool.gov.uk/leisure-parks-and-events/parks-and-greenspaces/
Bigger still, is the impressive Knowsley Safari Park: http://www.knowsleysafariexperience.co.uk/#&panel1-2
Notice that it is only open at weekends in the winter.
One of the world’s best-known race meetings takes place in the Liverpool suburb of Aintree, the Grand National: http://aintree.thejockeyclub.co.uk/
(There are, of course, other race meetings throughout the season).
Liverpool is synonymous with football. Two clubs have dominated proceedings in the city for many, many years:
And Liverpool: http://www.liverpoolfc.com/welcome-to-liverpool-fc
I’m not a big fan of shopping, and rows and rows of department stores cheek by jowl fill me with horror. But I have to say that I rather like Liverpool One. It has got space and even a touch of good taste: http://www.liverpool-one.com/
And, if your spirits need lifting, call in at Lunya, a Spanish deli, bar, café and restaurant right in the middle. It has just been awarded ‘North West restaurant of the year’ in the Good Food Guide. A few tapas and the odd cerveza make a wonderful pick-me-up: http://lunya.co.uk/
While golfers will never tire of that wonderful range of sand dunes stretching from Crosby to Southport I am afraid non-golfers have it pretty thin in this part of the county. Nature lovers might profitably walk in the pine woods at Formby hoping to spot some of the few remaining red squirrels in this country: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/formby/
And autumn is a great time to go bird watching at Martin Mere:
Near Ormskirk is Rufford Old Hall, a late mediaeval timber-framed building with plaster panels:
Parts of Halsall Parish Church date back to the 14th century and contain fine carvings in wood and stone: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Cuthbert’s_Church,_Halsall
Ormskirk Parish Church is older still, with its chancel dating back to 1270 and a Norman window to a hundred years before that: http://www.ormskirkparishchurch.org.uk/
However, if the weather is bad you may have to resort to the British Lawnmower Museum in Southport! http://www.lawnmowerworld.co.uk/
So, to the rest of Lancashire.
We have not done with the big industrial towns and cities with Bolton, Wigan, Blackburn, Burnley and Preston trying to drag themselves (and their football teams) out of the 19th century and into the 21st. Although our daughter teaches in Wigan I am more aware of goings on in Blackburn because I have been lucky enough to take part in many concerts in the Cathedral: http://www.blackburncathedral.com/
It is really rather a remarkable place, with a lot of music going on, much of it quite ambitious, such as period performances of the major Bach sacred works. I have also been honoured to join their choir as a soloist on a concert tour to Malta. As a place of worship the cathedral builds important bridges with the other faiths prevalent in Blackburn. In fact it can be quite surreal singing there. You drive in through seas of Islamic costumes. Then you enter the cathedral, rehearse your Monteverdi Vespers (or whatever) in a wholly different atmosphere and environment and follow that with the public performance. And then you leave the cathedral at, say, ten o’clock at night and find yourself driving through hordes of young white people, most of them drunk, and most of them wearing next to nothing, even though it is the middle of winter! But it is the Monteverdi you retain in the memory as you hit the motorway towards home.
Blackburn Rovers have had periods in the top flight of British football, but not recently: http://www.rovers.co.uk/
Bolton has quite impressive civic buildings and a handsome parish church:
Its football club was one of the big names in England and its stadium is attractive, but it is no longer the force it once was:
Of particular merit is Smithills Hall, a couple of miles from the town centre. http://www.boltonmuseums.org.uk/historic-halls/smithills-history
Turton Tower is a few miles further north and well worth a visit, with a very long history: http://www.turtontower.co.uk/
Driving along the M6 you will see signs to Wigan Pier. Many northern seaside towns have piers stretching for miles into the sea. It is not the same at Wigan, for it is not on the sea! For the story, here is a link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wigan_Pier
Wigan’s football team, Wigan Athletic, is known as the ‘Latics’ and the club has led a charmed life over the last few seasons, managing to survive somehow in the Premier League despite its low budget. http://www.wiganlatics.co.uk/
The town’s rugby league side has a long history of success: http://www.wiganwarriors.com/
Their arch rivals over many years have been St Helen’s: http://www.saintsrlfc.com/
I cannot think of any other reason to visit St Helen’s unless you have relations living there!
In 2002 Preston was made a city, the 50th English city in the 50th year of the Queen’s reign. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_of_Preston,_Lancashire
My advice would be not to bother making the detour to look at it. Carry on up the M6 towards greater beauties, or head off down the M55 if you want to prove your golfing prowess over Royal Lytham’s testing course. Unfortunately your non-golfing friends will find little to attract them to this, the Fylde, unless they are young at heart when they might enjoy the excitement of the hair-raising rides at Blackpool Pleasure Beach: http://www.blackpoolpleasurebeach.com/
For 120 years Blackpool Tower has looked out from a dizzying height over the miles of sand exposed when the tide goes out (some two miles out!) and its ballroom has a fame of its own: http://www.theblackpooltower.com/
Blackpool can boast not one, not two, but three piers, with rides, theatre shows and all sorts of ancillary events to keep visitors in the town when the boarding houses are shut for the day:
Don’t forget to take a ride on the tram:
And if you are around in the autumn, the holiday season is prolonged by switching on the Blackpool Illuminations:
Personally, from Preston I would prefer to turn not towards the sea but inland by some 10 miles to Ribchester. You can tell from its name that it is an old place, Roman, indeed. But it is in fact even older, with links to the bronze age. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ribchester
There is a charming little Roman museum:
St Wilfrid’s Church, Stydd Alms houses, the White Bull pub and Ribchester Bridge are all worth a look, and, if you can be there when Ribchester’s arts festival is on, all the better, for the performers are often stars of the future:
Ribchester is one of the places listed as having one of the traceable Roman roads to be found in Lancashire: http://www.lancashire.gov.uk/environment/historichighways/roman.asp
Nearby is Samlesbury Hall, of great antiquity, and almost seeming more black than white to my eye. It has a reputation as one of the most haunted houses in England.
Most of us go as fast as we can up the M6 or M61 to get to the main attractions of Lancashire and beyond. It is very easy to avoid Chorley on either road. It would be a shame to miss out on Astley Hall: http://chorley.gov.uk/Pages/AtoZ/Astley-Hall.aspx
And there is a wonderful cheese shop (Pat’s) in Chorley Market, with the most exquisite Lancashire cheese, light, curdy and very moreish: http://www.patsmarketcheeseshop.co.uk/
Chorley is also home to the Chorley Cake, of which there are many derivatives in the locality, such as Sad Cake: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chorley_cake
The more famous Eccles Cake comes from Eccles, which is a suburb of Manchester: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eccles_cake
They are mass-produced and readily available in supermarkets up and down the land – and none the worse for being mass-produced; they are very good, even if their nicknames such as squashed fly cake do not immediately attract!
East of Preston the countryside becomes more attractive, with hills and dales forming the foothills on the Pennines. The drive through to Clitheroe is pleasing, as is the town when you get there. Clitheroe has a delightful parkland golf course with a welcoming club. Non golfers have plenty to occupy them, beginning at the castle:
There are a number of traditional shops including the appropriately named Cowman’s – a specialist in sausages:
And in this part of Lancashire there is only one place to consider buying your wine, Byrne’s: http://www.dbyrne-finewines.co.uk/
Not only are their wines amazing in their number and variety, but also the shopping experience is something special. No glamour, no glitz, just a hole in the wall where you step from the shop front into the cellar, wall to wall with wooden cases of the finest burgundies and clarets, all sorts of rarities from little-known wine regions and some remarkably inexpensive bargains, too.
Unusually, the parish church which had served the town for around 900 years was dismantled during the 19th century and rebuilt. http://www.stmaryclitheroe.com/
The Royal Grammar School was founded in 1554, although a school is thought to have existed since the 13th century. http://www.crgs.org.uk/
Nearby is the pretty village of Whalley, with its fine, old (13th century) parish church https://sites.google.com/site/whalleyparishchurch/
and the remains of Whalley Abbey, used as a retreat and conference centre for Blackburn diocese along with being an upmarket wedding venue. http://www.whalleyabbey.org/
Of salutary interest is the extraordinary tale of the Pendle Witches, now something of cause celebre, but frightening in its day: http://www.pendlewitches.co.uk/
Also in this neck of the woods is Stonyhurst College, one of the senior Roman Catholic schools in England, with its important library, small but significant arts centre, and flourishing sports centre. http://www.stonyhurst.ac.uk/
I have to say that, unless you are in a hurry to get to some specific spot, it’s a good idea to leave the map behind and just follow your nose. You may stray over into the Yorkshire dales, you may find your way back to the lowlands of west Lancashire, but you can drive all the way up to the Scottish border through very beautiful countryside, on roads rarely busy, through little villages and the occasional small town while sensing that little has changed in centuries. While Yorkshire has its famed Dales, Lancashire enjoys the delights of Bowland and its so-called Forest (forest, here, meaning an ancient hunting ground, not a mass of trees, which this most certainly is not). http://www.forestofbowland.com/
If you want to explore this part of the country, you might consider basing yourself at http://www.innatwhitewell.com/
Those of us who don’t wish to potter about on the little roads of Bowland are probably speeding north up the M6 and, once past Preston, the traffic density decreases noticeably. Fifty or sixty years ago, before the M6 was completed, traffic regularly ground to a halt in Lancaster. Nowadays we tend to race past it, which is a pity, because it has its merits. Its early history predates the Romans. We are aware of Norman activity in Lancaster, and Royal connections are centuries old. It is not a history for the sensitive, with bloodshed, executions, purging of witches and much more besides, but the history of England was bloody: http://www.lancastercastle.com/
Lancaster stands on either side of the River Lune, its estuary emptying into Morecambe Bay, one of the great wildlife habitats remaining in Britain. Bird watchers flock to Hest Bank: http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/seenature/reserves/guide/m/morecambebay/
From here it is possible to walk across the bay to Grange-over-Sands (7 or 8 miles) but you need to know what you are doing: http://www.aboutbritain.com/towns/hest-bank.asp
Morecambe Bay shrimps are some of the best in the world, but professional shrimpers have died in the treacherous sands and tides of Morecambe Bay. Beware!
Morecambe itself is rather a faded seaside resort, although American visitors may be interested to know that ancestors of George Washington once owned the site of the open-air market. There is a rather stronger Washington family link with Wharton, a part of Carnforth , close to Lancaster: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warton,_Lancaster
Neighbouring Heysham makes few demands on the visitor other than the ruins of St Patrick’s Chapel, which was probably started by the Angles, as long ago as the 8th or 9th century: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Patrick’s_Chapel,_Heysham
We near the end of Lancashire, despite its size, but before indulging in the manifold treasures of the Lake District we ought to mention a few other Lancashire gems we have, so far, ignored.
Rochdale is a case in point, a rather moth-eaten town on the western slopes of the Pennines just off the M62 heading for Yorkshire. It’s an ancient town dating back to pre-Roman times and its early wealth came from wool. By the end of the 18th century cotton spinning (a vast Lancastrian industry in the 19th century) was replacing wool, with huge mills created to house an enormous number of workers slaving away from earliest dawn. Poverty was common and it was against this background that a group of visionaries set up the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers in 1844, recognised today as the very first Co-operative Society. http://www.rochdalepioneersmuseum.coop/
Near Carnforth, Borwick Hall is run as an outdoor pursuits centre http://www.lancashire.gov.uk/corporate/web/?siteid=5262&pageid=27861&e=e
While Leighton Hall is renowned as the seat of the Gillow family. http://www.leightonhall.co.uk/
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds runs an important reserve at Leighton Moss: http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/seenature/reserves/guide/l/leightonmoss/
My old Shell Guide to England is so old that Cumbria hadn’t been invented, so I’m charmed to be able to include Cartmel in Lancashire. It lies inland of Grange-over-Sands by only a few miles and there’s a very characterful little 9-hole golf course at Grange Fell which offers spectacular views of the fells of the southern lakes and the Irish Sea. Cartmel Priory was founded in 1188 and much of it survives. It is a very beautiful church in an uplifting setting. http://www.cartmelpriory.org.uk/Home
The village as a whole is charming and immaculately kept. Of particular note is the village shop, nationally famous for its Sticky Toffee Pudding – disastrous for the waist line, but irresistible if you like your puddings seriously sweet! http://www.cartmelvillageshop.co.uk/
There are pubs and restaurants aplenty but if you have a fat wallet (and can manage to get a booking) then L’Enclume is the place to eat and drink: http://www.lenclume.co.uk/sr/ In 2014 the Good Food Guide rated it top of all the restaurants in Britain, its chef, Simon Rogan, drawing inspiration from local ingredients and their relationship with the world about. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
I shall also allow myself to include Barrow-in-Furness in Lancashire in order to visit Furness Abbey, once one of the most powerful monastic houses in England: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/furness-abbey/
The ruins of one of Furness Abbey’s daughter monasteries have part survived at Calder Abbey. It is not generally open to the public, but there are occasional open days: http://www.visitcumbria.com/wc/calderbridge-calder-abbey-ruins/
And while you are in this part make sure to acquaint yourself with the handsome town buildings of Broughton-in-Furness: http://www.visitcumbria.com/sl/broughton-in-furness/
The gardens of Holker Hall, owned by the Cavendish family, are among the finest in the north of England, and its herd of fallow deer is one of the oldest and largest in the country: http://www.holker.co.uk/
Ulverston was the birthplace of Stan Laurel, but there is much more to this pleasant old town, not least long Quaker connections, The Hoad lighthouse, and the stone circle on Birkrigg Common: http://www.visitulverston.com/
Art lovers familiar with JMW Turner’s work will know his Crook O’ Lune, one of a series of representations of Richmondshire (in Yorkshire) http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-crook-of-lune-looking-towards-hornby-castle-t04471/text-catalogue-entry
Visitors to Caton (in Lancashire) can see for themselves this very spot, perhaps enjoying a walk in delightful countryside, or a good, old-fashioned picnic! http://www.citycoastcountryside.co.uk/things-to-do/crook-o-lune-and-picnic-sites-p11664
For my convenience I am going to deal with Cumbria in alphabetic order, which means that I start with the highest market town in England, Alston. It’s almost 1,000 feet above sea level and features a handsome market cross, a number of historic houses and ample accommodation for walkers (many tramping the Pennine Way) and riders, narrow gauge rail enthusiasts, and even a few golfers who enjoy the open spaces of Alston Moor Golf Club, at 1,476 feet the highest course in England. http://www.alstonmoorgolfclub.org.uk/
The drive over the Pennines from Penrith to Hexham is one of the finest in the country, climbing to 1,904 feet at Hartside. http://www.visitcumbria.com/evnp/hartside-pass/
Ambleside is a bustling little town on the shores of Windermere. http://www.visitcumbria.com/amb/ambleside/
It is mostly a 19th-century development, fostered by the opening of the ferry terminal in 1845. It is still possible to take ferries to Bowness and Lakeside. http://www.visitcumbria.com/amb/windermere-lake-cruises/
As in much of the Lake District, car parking can be problematic. The Armitt Museum (opposite the main car park) is a useful source of information on Wordsworth, Ruskin and Beatrix Potter http://www.visitcumbria.com/the-armitt-museum/
Bridge House is, these days, an information centre for the National Trust but it was formerly an apple store built over the river to avoid land tax!
Parts of the old Roman fort of Galava survive:
Appleby was the county town of Westmorland until the formation of Cumbria. It is an attractive town with a wide main street dominated by its castle. http://www.applebytown.org.uk/
The castle is privately owned but there are tours for small parties: http://www.applebytown.org.uk/index.php?page=appleby-castle
Appleby Horse Fair takes place in early June and attracts visitors and participants from considerable distances: http://www.applebytown.org.uk/index.php?page=horse
For my taste, the organ in St Lawrence’s Church is one of the most interesting in the country. It was built for Carlisle Cathedral in 1661 by Robert Preston and given to St Lawrence’s in 1683, complete with its original case and is one of the three oldest playable organs in the country: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Lawrence’s_Church,_Appleby
Bassenthwaite is both a village and a lake. Place names ending in ‘thwaite’ are common in the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales, indicating that they were settled by Norsemen, thwaite being a cleared place. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bassenthwaite
Bassenthwaite Lake (the only lake in the Lake District!) is one of the larger lakes, about 4 miles long, but also one of the shallowest, only 70 feet deep at most. Osprey were re-introduced to the lake in 2001.
Boot is an old mining town, for which a narrow gauge railway was built to transport ore to the coast at Ravenglass, seven miles away. Passengers were soon carried and the railway continues to carry passengers in large numbers, being one of the Lake District’s major tourist attractions: http://ravenglass-railway.co.uk/ (See also Eskdale)
It was at Seathwaite in Borrowdale that graphite was mined to make Keswick pencils. In days past iron was smelted, charcoal burned and copper mined. Today Borrowdale survives on tourism. Brandlehow Woods was the first property bought by the National Trust, back in 1902, and in 1910 Princess Louise bought Grange Fell as a gift to the National Trust in memory of her brother, King Edward VII. In all, the National Trust owns 29,000 acres in Borrowdale including half of Derwentwater. http://www.visitcumbria.com/kes/borrowdale/
Bowness-on-Windermere is really an extension of the town of Windermere, enjoying the many facilities of England’s largest lake. http://www.visitcumbria.com/amb/bowness-on-windermere/
The parish church of St Martin is the most interesting building in Bowness. http://www.visitcumbria.com/amb/bowness-on-windermere-st-martins-church/
Braithwaite, a little to the west of Keswick, is a convenient centre for climbing the Grasmoor mountains and provides a scenic drive to Bassenthwaite Lake. http://www.visitcumbria.com/kes/braithwaite/
High above Braithwaite in the Coledale Valley can be found Force Crag Mine, the last working metal mine in the Lake District, now a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a scheduled ancient monument. http://www.visitcumbria.com/cm/force-crag-mine/
Brothers’ Water is a quiet spot sheltering below the crags of Helvellyn. It is said that the name of the lake was changed (from Broadwater) after two brothers drowned there. http://www.visitcumbria.com/amb/brothers-water/
Nearby, Hartsop Hall is now maintained by the National Trust:
Brough, in the east of Cumbria, in what was true Westmorland, is an ancient parish divided by the busy A66 road from Penrith east across the Pennines. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brough,_Cumbria
The remains of Brough Castle stand within the old Roman fort of Veteris. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brough_Castle
St Michael’s Church is historic and handsome: http://www.visitcumbria.com/evnp/brough-st-michaels-church/
Brough Castle was one of the homes of the powerful Clifford family, as was Brougham Castle just outside Penrith. http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/brougham-castle/
If you can, make time to visit also St Ninian’s Church, known as Ninekirks: http://www.visitchurches.org.uk/Ourchurches/Completelistofchurches/St-Ninians-Church-Brougham-Cumbria/
as well as St Wilfrid’s Chapel with its wonderful mediaeval woodwork: http://www.visitcumbria.com/pen/brougham-st-wilfreds-church/
Buttermere is the name of both a lake and a village. Here good rambling, walking and fishing abound. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buttermere
The Maid of Buttermere is a character in Book VII of The Prelude by Wordsworth. She was the daughter of the landlord of the Fish Inn and had the misfortune to marry a forger and bigamist who was later hanged. After her death she was buried in the churchyard of St Kentigern’s, Caldbeck. Few visitors will notice her tomb, but many will spot that of John Peel, the master huntsman: http://www.visitcumbria.com/car/caldbeck-st-kentigerns-church/
It has been said of Carlisle that it has probably suffered the longest period of unrest of any English town or city. From the arrival of the Romans in 80 AD until the suppression of the Jacobite Rising in 1745 warfare, struggle, strife and family feuding dominated everyday life in Carlisle. Even after that the city has seen huge social problems of overcrowded and unsanitary housing, drunkenness and prostitution, and as recently as 1994 The Independent on Sunday reported that the Raffles district was a no-go area. The sorry tale is told: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlisle,_Cumbria
But my personal experience of Carlisle has been entirely happy. On many occasions I have taken part in concerts at the Cathedral. It is a diminutive building, much wrecked in troublesome times past, and yet it somehow remains attractive and wonderfully quiet compared with the world of Mammon only just outside the church. http://www.carlislecathedral.org.uk/
I have a particular fondness for the Cathedral organ, resolutely Victorian and none the worse for it: http://www.carlislecathedral.org.uk/the_cathedral_organ
Carlisle Castle has seen many fractious encounters and has, in consequence, been rebuilt or modified much through the centuries. But it still stands and is well worth a visit: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/carlisle-castle/
Carlisle Citadel is a pair of towers originally erected at the order of King Henry VIII. They are open to visitors in the summer months: http://www.discovercarlisle.co.uk/lifestyle/attractions/citadel.aspx
The historic part of central Carlisle has miraculously survived all the strife of centuries and is home to a worthwhile museum, Tullie House: http://www.discovercarlisle.co.uk/lifestyle/attractions/tullie-house.aspx
‘Discover Carlisle’ lists a number of other attractions and entertainments for the visitor: http://www.discovercarlisle.co.uk/lifestyle/attractions/
Six miles north-west of Carlisle, Burgh-by-Sands church is heavily fortified and constructed of Roman stones: http://www.visitcumbria.com/car/burgh-by-sands-st-michaels-church/
There is another at Newton Arlosh: http://www.visitcumbria.com/car/newton-arlosh-st-johns-church/
And yet another at Great Salkeld: http://www.visitcumbria.com/pen/great-salkeld-st-cuthberts-church/
Carrock Fell is situated some 8 miles north-east of Keswick, in the very north of the National Park. It is esteemed by fell walkers and geologists alike and during both World Wars and the Korean War it was the site for vigorous mining activity, being the only source of Tungsten north of Devon and Cornwall. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrock_Fell
Sir Walter Scott’s poem The Bridal of Triermain refers to Castle Rock in St John’s Vale, near Thirlmere. It is a most handsome spot, although climbs on the rock are said to be severe. http://www.geog.port.ac.uk/webmap/thelakes/html/lgaz/lk02236.htm
Great Dodd and High Rigg are among the favourite hills of ramblers in this part of the lakes, and it is on the upper slopes of High Rigg that the church of St John’s in the Vale is to be found. It is still a functioning church despite its remote location. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_John’s_Church,_St_John’s_in_the_Vale
Speeding along the M6 motorway or West Coast main railway line you are unlikely to be aware of the little village of Clifton a few miles to the south of Penrith. Yet it is a historic spot, for here was fought the last battle on English soil, in 1745 between Bonnie Prince Charlie’s forces, in retreat after their defeat at Derby, and those of the Duke of Cumberland. After the battle some of the dead were buried in St Cuthbert’s Church. Clifton may also have been the site of a battle against Roman forces in 69 AD (although this is disputed) and is also referred to in Sir Walter Scoot’s Waverley. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clifton,_Cumbria
The rivers Cocker and Derwent meet at Cockermouth and this confluence was of strategic importance to the Romans who built a fort at Papcastle. Stones from this fort were later (12th century) used to construct a castle which was subsequently ravaged by Robert the Bruce’s soldiers and also in the Civil War. http://www.cockermouth.org.uk/
Today Cockermouth is famed for its speciality shops and Georgian Fair but it should not be forgotten that Cockermouth was also the birthplace of the eminent scientist, John Dalton; leader of the mutiny on the Bounty, Fletcher Christian; and the Wordsworths, William and Dorothy. The Society of Friends has long been associated with Cockermouth (since the 1650s). Its historic first meeting house could not accommodate the huge numbers attending meetings, which had to be held outdoors at Pardew Crag. A new meeting house was built in 1728 and that, along with its graveyard, survives: http://www.visitcumbria.com/cm/pardshaw-quaker-meeting-house/
Coniston is both a town and a lake (Coniston Water). It is a pretty lake, backed by mountains and wooded hills. http://www.visitcumbria.com/amb/coniston-water/
Chief of the surrounding hills is Coniston Old Man. http://www.walklakes.co.uk/walk_2.html
It was on Coniston Water that Donald Campbell was killed in 1967 attempting to break the world water speed record. The Ruskin Museum includes Campbell’s history and many memorabilia. http://www.ruskinmuseum.com/
The Lakeland Motor Museum at Ulverston also contains Campbell (father and son) artefacts. http://www.lakelandmotormuseum.co.uk/
John Ruskin bought Brantwood, a house overlooking Coniston Water, in 1871 and it remains a memorial to him as well as hosting cultural events, study courses and tours of its famous gardens. http://www.brantwood.org.uk/
Arthur Ransome based his book Swallows and Amazons in the area around Coniston Water.
It is worth strolling up to Tarn Hows for the fine views afforded over Coniston Water and the surrounding fells. http://www.visitcumbria.com/amb/tarn-hows/
In Eastern Cumbria, near Kirkby Stephen, is the parish church of St Andrew at Crosby Garrett. It dates from the 11th century and part of an interior arch is reckoned to date from Saxon times. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Andrew%27s_Church,_Crosby_Garrett
In 2010 a roman helmet was discovered near Crosby Garrett, which sold at auction for £2.3 million.
Between Shap and Appleby is the village of Crosby Ravensworth, with its handsome parish church, often described as a cathedral in miniature, and 7th century cross shaft. http://www.visitcumbria.com/evnp/crosby-ravensworth/
A couple of miles away is Ewe Close, believed to date from the iron age, one of a number of ancient settlements in the area. http://www.visitcumbria.com/evnp/ewe-close/
Crosscanonby overlooks the Irish Sea near Maryport. A roman milefortlet has been resurrected along with Elizabethan saltpans. Former roman stones were used in the construction of the church of St John the Evangelist. http://www.visitcumbria.com/wc/crosscanonby/
Crosscanonby Carr is a recently established nature reserve http://www.solwaycoastaonb.org.uk/crosscarr.php
Crummock Water lies close to Buttermere, and may once have been joined to it. http://www.visitcumbria.com/cm/crummock-water/
Nearby Scale Force is reckoned to be the highest waterfall in the Lake District. http://www.visitcumbria.com/cm/scale-force/
Dacre, a few miles west of Penrith, is a village with a historic church, castle and pele towers. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dacre,_Cumbria
The church houses two very old (one pre-Viking) cross shafts and an ancient floor. http://www.visitcumbria.com/pen/dacre-st-andrews-church/
The pele towers were built to protect residents from attack by vast marauding armies of Scotsmen during the reign of King Edward I. http://www.visitcumbria.com/pele/
Dacre Castle is one such: http://www.visitcumbria.com/pen/dacre-castle/
It stands within the grounds of Dalemain House: http://www.visitcumbria.com/pen/dalemain/
Derwentwater is one of the most attractive of the lakes, surrounded by high mountains, and conveniently supplied with a road all the way round it. Of its islands, Lord’s Island was once the residence of the Earls of Derwentwater. http://www.visitcumbria.com/kes/derwentwater/
Wordsworth was inspired by the Duddon Valley, or more properly by the Reverend Robert Walker of Seathwaite, to compose 35 of his sonnets. The river traditionally divided Cumberland from Lancashire. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duddon_Valley
Egremont is hardly the prettiest small town in Cumbria, having a history of mining, dyeing and weaving. Its Florence Mine was the last working deep iron ore mine in Western Europe. The remains of Egremont Castle are Norman. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egremont,_Cumbria
The town boasts a very old fair, dating from 1267. The Egremont Crab Fair attracts visitors from far and wide, necessitating the closure of the main street: http://www.egremontcrabfair.com/
To fruit lovers and gardeners the name Egremont is always linked with the Egremont Russet apple, one of the finest varieties for the English climate. It is believed to have first been raised by the Earl of Egremont on his estate in Sussex in 1872. https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/49442/Malus-domestica-Egremont-Russet-(D)/Details
Elterwater, it seems, means the lake frequented by swans and, indeed, Whooper Swans can be seen there during the winter months. It is an area still bearing the scars of mining, which was its principal activity. http://www.visitcumbria.com/amb/elterwater/
Former President Bill Clinton proposed to his wife, Hillary, on the banks of Ennerdale Water in 1973. It is the most westerly of all the lakes, and only infrequently visited because you have to make an effort to find it. The area is maintained as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. http://www.visitcumbria.com/wc/ennerdale-water/
Mention was made earlier of the Ravenglass Railway. It chuffs through the gentle countryside of lower Eskdale. Upper Eskdale, however, is a place of high mountains, not least Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain. http://www.eskdale.info/
And if you intend to drive through Eskdale and over the mountains to Langdale you will encounter Hardknott Pass, which is narrow, tortuous, the joint steepest road in England and there are no safety fences! Don’t miss the remains of Hardknott Roman Fort. Can you imagine being garrisoned here in mid winter? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hardknott_Pass
Esthwaite Water is a pretty little lake situated between Windermere and Coniston. It is particularly renowned for its trout fishing and winter pike fishing: http://www.hawksheadtrout.com/
Grasmere is closely associated with the Lake poets, principally William Wordsworth who lived here in Dove Cottage. The village’s fame brings tourists in swarms and in summer it can be impossible to find somewhere to park. Wordsworth described Grasmere as ‘the loveliest spot that man hath ever found.’ Thomas Gray called it ‘this little unsuspected paradise.’ http://www.visitcumbria.com/amb/grasmere/
First time visitors will wish to see Dove Cottage, now a museum dedicated to the memory of William, his sister, Dorothy, and wife, Mary. http://www.visitcumbria.com/amb/dove-cottage-wordsworth-museum/
Visitors will also wish to visit Wordsworth’s grave in the churchyard of St Oswald’s. http://www.visitcumbria.com/amb/grasmere-st-oswalds-church/
The church itself is dour from the outside, but inside it is delightful. There are other connections to the Wordsworths and the organ is very fine of its kind, beautifully voiced. Our younger son got married in St Oswald’s and I persuaded one of the finest organists in the country to play for the service. He was delighted with the instrument – and his fee was a round of golf at Silloth!
And if you happen to be in Grasmere in early August make sure to witness its Rushbearing ceremony: http://www.visitcumbria.com/rushbearing-festivals/
Grasmere Ginger Bread was popularised in the 19th century by Sarah Nelson. The shop still does a roaring trade. http://www.grasmeregingerbread.co.uk/
And, if you have a sweet tooth, don’t miss the Grasmere Chocolate Cottage: http://www.chocolatecottage.co.uk/
I have so far neglected the lake of Grasmere. It is most attractive, but the island in the middle, which Wordsworth liked to visit, is privately owned and not open to uninvited visitors. http://www.visitcumbria.com/amb/grasmere-lake/
Other poets who passed through Grasmere include Coleridge, Southey and de Quincey.
But there is another side to Cumbrian culture, the energetic side. Grasmere hosts one of the many popular sports meetings every August. It involves Cumberland Wrestling, Hound Trails and, of course, Fell Running. http://grasmeresports.com/
We watch with awe Olympic athletes pound around the steeplechase track, others tackle fearsome marathons, or overcome the tribulations of cross-country circuits. Fearless amateurs indulge in fell running in the Lake District as if it were an everyday farming activity. At Grasmere they have been fell running ‘for fun’ since 1850. If you want to prove how fit you are try Borrowdale’s 17-mile race which involves 6,500 feet of climbing including the ascent of Scafell Pike and Great Gable. http://www.thecumbriadirectory.com/Cumbria_Traditions/tradition_view.php?tradition=fell_racing
Great Gable is one of the most scenic of the Lake District’s peaks. It is not the highest mountain, coming in at just under 3,000 feet, but it is very satisfying to climb as you cannot really cheat! http://where2walk.co.uk/lake_district/classic_circuits/great-gable/?pid=1134
Returning to the neighbourhood of Penrith, Greystoke is about 5 miles to the west and features a fine, large parish church mostly dating from the 15th century. http://www.visitcumbria.com/pen/greystoke/
The village itself is pretty and the castle was once the seat of descendants of the Duke of Norfolk, the premier duke in the Peerage of England, and a senior Roman Catholic.
When I first encountered Grisedale it had an s as its fourth letter. Now it seems to have been Americanized into Grizedale. No matter, it’s still a popular destination for walkers. There used to be a music festival at the Theatre in the Forest, but I think it must have folded. However, there is much art work scattered throughout. http://www.visitcumbria.com/sl/grizedale-forest/
Following alphabetical order Hadrian’s Wall should come next, but as it is shared equally by Cumberland and Northumberland I’ll hold it back for the end of this chapter.
Haweswater is a somewhat controversial reservoir in the east of the region. It was constructed in 1929 to supply Manchester with water. Villages, a church and graves were sacrificed and in periods of drought visitors return to view the ruins. http://www.visitcumbria.com/pen/haweswater/
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds maintains a bird reserve at Haweswater at which, occasionally, a Golden Eagle may make an appearance. http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/seenature/reserves/guide/h/haweswater/
Hawkshead these days is a traffic free zone. You park outside the village and walk. http://www.visitcumbria.com/amb/hawkshead/
There is much to see, not least the old grammar school of 1585: http://www.visitcumbria.com/amb/hawkshead-old-grammar-school/
Only the Courthouse remains of the once extensive manor farm which existed here in monastic days, part of the Furness Abbey (qv) estates: http://www.visitcumbria.com/amb/hawkshead-courthouse/
The Beatrix Potter Gallery is a must for all visitors to Hawkshead: http://www.visitcumbria.com/amb/hawkshead-beatrix-potter-gallery/
Before the late 17th century Quakers were not allowed to congregate in towns. If they wanted to worship together they had to meet out of town, and the Friends’ Meeting House at Hawkshead is a little way distant at Colthouse: http://www.visitcumbria.com/amb/colthouse-quaker-meeting-house/
Similarly Hawkshead’s historic Baptist Chapel is a mile or so outside the village. Happily, you can park there: http://www.hawksheadhillbaptistchurch.org.uk/welcome.htm
The Anglican Church of St Michael and All Angels looks out over the village: http://www.visitcumbria.com/amb/hawkshead-st-michael-and-all-angels-church/
Slightly confusingly, the very popular Hawkshead Brewery is not in Hawkshead at all, but at Staveley, between Kendal and Windermere: https://www.hawksheadbrewery.co.uk/
Happily, for those intending to sample their beers in depth, the brewery is accessible by bus and by train.
Helvellyn, at 3,118 feet, is the third highest peak in the Lake District. http://www.helvellyn.com/
It is very popular with walkers, easily accessed, with fine views along its length.
If you are driving to Silloth to play golf your route may take you through Abbey Town. Holme Cultrum Abbey may not instantly catch your attention. It doesn’t look very old and appears to be a hotch-potch of architectural styles – which is what it is. But if you look inside there are fragments of the original mediaeval abbey well worthy of study: http://www.visitcumbria.com/wc/holme-cultram-abbey/
The village on Ings, close to Windermere, possesses a pleasant 18th century church. But I suspect most visitors to the village come to drink beer. The Watermill Inn and Brewery boasts up to 16 real ales at any one time, all on hand pulls. http://www.watermillinn.co.uk/
The coming of the M6 motorway has greatly relieved congestion in Kendal. I am old enough to remember the town in the days before the M6. It was impossible to cross the main street in the height of summer. http://www.visitcumbria.com/sl/kendal/
Sadly, Kendal’s main industry, K shoes, didn’t make the cut and is no more. But there’s a nod in the right direction on the website of the outlet centre which now occupies the site: http://www.kvillage.co.uk/k-shoes-heritage-centre
Happily, one of Kendal’s more obscure industries still flourishes, the manufacture of snuff: http://www.samuelgawith.co.uk/
More famous, however, is Kendal Mint Cake: http://www.kendal.mintcake.co.uk/
It’s very sweet and it’s very good!
There’s not much in particular to attract the visitor to Kendal, the remains of a Norman castle and the attractive 18th century parish church excepted, but it’s one of those towns where the whole adds up to more than the sum of its parts. It is a lovely place.
Kendal is, as it were, the southern gateway to the Lakes. By the same reckoning Keswick might be said to be the northern gateway, and, like Kendal, it is also more than the sum of its parts. http://www.visitcumbria.com/kes/keswick/
Keswick enjoys a lovely setting near to Derwentwater and overlooked by the mountains Skiddaw and Saddleback. It was a home to many of the Lake poets. Coleridge lived here for a while, who was followed by Southey. Charles Lamb came on holiday and Shelley lived here for a time. Scott, Tennyson, Stevenson and Wordsworth patronized the Royal Oak Hotel. Manuscripts held by the Fitz Park Museum and Art Gallery include many by these as well as Hugh Walpole and John Ruskin. Ruskin also started a branch of his hand-made linen industry here and the School of Industrial Arts was founded by Canon HD Rawnsley in 1883. He was Vicar of Crossthwaite and a founder of the National Trust.
Crossthwaite Church has a remarkable history, traceable back to 553 AD. The present building was started in 1181, although there were many alterations throughout the centuries and what one sees today is mainly the hand of Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1844. http://www.visitcumbria.com/cm/crosthwaite-st-kentigerns-church/
Since 1832, when its first factory opened, Keswick pencils have been renowned for their quality. Although the factory was replaced by another, opening in the 1920s, fine pencils are still made in the town. All is revealed at the Cumberland Pencil Museum: http://www.pencilmuseum.co.uk/
Both Kirkbys, Kirkby Lonsdale and Kirkby Stephen, lie in the former county of Westmorland, somewhat divorced from the Lake District, more in keeping with the Pennines. Kirkby Lonsdale stands on the River Lune which is crossed here by one of England’s finest historic bridges, the Devil’s Bridge: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirkby_Lonsdale
Kirkby Lonsdale’s history is long, with a Neolithic stone circle at Casterton. (It was at Casterton that the four Bronte sisters were pupils). The Romans passed through Kirkby on their travels to and from Hadrian’s Wall. The centre of the town is handsome with old houses and shops, some of them continuing historic trades in local foods. St Mary’s Church is a Norman foundation, a good deal of which survives despite many ‘restorations’. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Mary%27s_Church,_Kirkby_Lonsdale
Ruskin was particularly proud of the view of the River Lune, memorably captured by JMW Turner: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirkby_Lonsdale#mediaviewer/File:Ruskins_View.jpg
Kirkby Stephen has more moorland in its feel, being essentially a broad main street near to the source of the River Eden. http://www.kirkby-stephen.com/
St Stephen’s Church is a big one for what is essentially a village. It is impressive: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Stephen%27s_Church,_Kirkby_Stephen
The weekly market has been in existence since 1352/3 and brings vast numbers of cattle and sheep to the town every Monday. Around October Tup sales are held, reminding of the importance of sheep rearing in this part of the Pennines. Railway lovers rejoice that the old Settle-Carlisle line has been retained, despite many attempts to have it closed. Occasionally trains on it are still steam hauled. It runs about a mile from Kirkby Stephen: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Settle-Carlisle_Line
It is over the Settle-Carlisle line that vast trainloads of gypsum are transported to Kirkby Thore for processing. In fact Kirkby Thore was once the site of a Roman fort, Bravoniacum, and retains a part 12th century church.
Kirkoswald is a village in the Eden Valley. Its church is unusual in that its bell tower is located some 200 yards away, on top of a hill. It has been suggested that it was so sited that villagers might hear its bells better. There is also a ruined castle (not open to the public) and the fine ‘College’, a handsome private house of the 16th and 17th centuries. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirkoswald,_Cumbria
At an altitude of 1,489 feet, Kirkstone Pass is the highest in the Lake District open to road vehicles. The inn close to its summit is the third highest in all England.
I’m fond of Lanercost Priory, close to Hadrian’s Wall. It’s one of those places that, although largely ruined, continues to evoke much of the spirit and spirituality of the 12th century in which it was founded. However, some of the former priory survives intact, and very beautiful it is, too! Those surviving parts remain the local parish church: http://www.lanercostpriory.org.uk/
The ruins are cared for by English Heritage: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/lanercost-priory/
Langdale consists of two valleys (Great and Little Langdale) and their surrounding mountains. It is premium rambling and climbing country. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Langdale
The names of mountains hereabouts are poetry in themselves: Pike o’ Stickle, Harrison Stickle, Pavey Ark, Crinkle Crags and Pike o’ Blisco. Stickle Tarn (small lake) and Dungeon Ghyll Force (waterfall) attract walkers. A welcome pint awaits at the historic Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel: http://www.odg.co.uk/home/index.cfm?id=1
It was here, as a young lad, that I came across for the first time that local speciality Cumberland Rum Butter, with home-made scones and whipped cream!
At Levens Bridge on the River Kent stands Levens Hall, a most attractive Elizabethan mansion. http://www.levenshall.co.uk/
Of particular interest inside the house are the plasterwork ceilings and oak chimney pieces, while outside pride of place is taken by the outstanding topiary gardens, retaining their original plan of 1689.
Loweswater is the most northerly lake in the Lake District, at the border between the fells proper and the coastal plain. It is a peaceful place, ideal for a gentle walk. http://www.visitcumbria.com/cm/loweswater-lake/
Lowther Castle, a few miles south of Penrith, was for centuries the home of the Earls of Lonsdale. It and its famous grounds fell into disrepair when they were used for military exercises during the Second World War. The family is now working in partnership with English Heritage to restore the gardens and make the buildings safe for visitors. http://www.lowthercastle.org/
The fact that the gardens were unmaintained for 70 years has meant that a rich variety of flora and fauna can be viewed by visitors: http://www.lowthercastle.org/wildlife-lowther
When the family left Lowther they lived at Askham Hall, which is now a country house hotel: http://www.askhamhall.co.uk/
If there is a sense of uniformity to the appearance of Maryport it is because the
Port was developed from a fishing village into a coal port by the Senhouse family in the 18th century. http://www.visitcumbria.com/wc/maryport/
The maritime museum brings Maryport’s past to life: http://www.visitcumbria.com/wc/maryport-maritime-museum/
In Roman times a fort, Alauna, guarded the village and important relics have been found. There are delightful sea views from the early holes at Maryport Golf Club: http://www.maryportgolfclub.co.uk/Home.aspx
Millom is a former iron and steel town on the far south-west tip of Cumbria. Following the closure of the works, Millom has seen hard times. http://www.visitcumbria.com/wc/millom/
Millom Rugby League Club is one of the oldest amateur rugby league clubs in the world, founded in 1873. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millom_RLFC
Millom Museum is housed in the (still active) railway station and tells the story of the rise and fall of iron mining and steel making in the town. http://www.visitcumbria.com/wc/millom-museum/
The former mine was at Hodbarrow where there is now a major RSPB bird sanctuary: http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/seenature/reserves/guide/h/hodbarrow/
The Church of the Holy Trinity in Millom is situated next to the ruins of a 14th/15th century castle. The church is older, with surviving Norman work as well as later stained glass and a fine sundial outside the church. http://www.visitcumbria.com/wc/millom-holy-trinity-church/
Muncaster Castle has been the home of the Pennington family from the 13th century. Parts of the original castle were retained when the castle was reconstructed in the 19th century. http://www.muncaster.co.uk/
It is reputed to be haunted and you can even take part in an overnight ghost sit or ghost vigil! http://www.muncaster.co.uk/ghost-sits.html
The web site majors on events (weddings and corporate events) but the castle is still a family home, containing much fine furniture, and the 18th-century gardens are famous. http://www.muncaster.co.uk/gardens
Naworth Castle has a long history within the Dacre and Howard families: http://www.naworth.co.uk/history1_new.htm
It’s a reminder of how bloody life could be from the 14th century onwards, even for the wealthy and powerful. The castle isn’t normally open for visits but it can be arranged for small parties to stay overnight. The castle remains in the Howard family and can be made available for corporate events, conferences, weddings and so on. http://www.naworth.co.uk/index.htm
Newby Bridge is one of those villages in the South Lakes that has migrated from Lancashire to Cumbria. Its claim to fame is its stone bridge with arches of unequal size. http://www.visitcumbria.com/sl/newby-bridge/
The village is served by the Lakeside and Haverthwaite preserved railway. http://www.lakesiderailway.co.uk/
Newby Bridge Mansion was the first of its kind, overlooking the shores of Lake Windermere. It is now a conveniently situated hotel, but I have no personal experience of it. http://www.newbybridgehotel.co.uk/
St James’s Church at Ormside (west of the A66) is of considerable antiquity. http://www.visitcumbria.com/evnp/great-ormside-st-james-church/
Ormside Hall, nearby, incorporates a 14th/15th century pele tower into what is now a farmhouse. http://www.matthewpemmott.co.uk/2008/01/great-ormside.html
George Whitehead was a major influence in the development of the Society of Friends in the 17th century. He was born in Orton, a little village just north of Tebay: http://www.orton.org.uk/
The village has many pretty cottages from the 17th and 18th centuries. All Saints’ Church is mostly late mediaeval. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Saints_Church,_Orton
Up near Hadrian’s Wall stands the little church of Upper (or Over) Denton. http://www.visitcumbria.com/churches/upper-denton-church/
Apparently stones from the wall were used in its construction (possibly in the time of the Anglo-Saxons, perhaps Norman).
Patterdale is a valley and village at the head of Ullswater. http://www.ullswater.co.uk/patterdale.html
It is a popular centre for climbing on the High Street group or the mountains of Helvellyn. St Patrick’s Church is mid-19th century, but there is a tradition that St Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, preached here in the 5th century. http://www.patterdaletoday.co.uk/church/church-history
The market town of Penrith is ancient and historic. http://www.visitcumbria.com/pen/penrith/
It’s also a modern working town with the ubiquitous garden centres, DIY centres, supermarkets, road haulage depots and all the other paraphernalia of contemporary business. But the town centre still has a good number of traditional shops.
It is thought that the Celts were the earliest occupants of Penrith 500 B.C. The Romans built a road through Penrith to their fort of Voreda: http://www.roman-britain.org/places/voreda.htm
After their departure came the Norsemen and Angles and by the 9th and 10th centuries Penrith was the capital of Cumbria, a semi-independent state of the (Scottish) Kingdom of Strathclyde.
Testament to the violent history of Penrith are the ruins of Penrith Castle. http://www.visitcumbria.com/pen/penrith-castle/ It’s dramatically situated on its old earthworks – and right in the middle of a busy traffic island!
There is great antiquity to the site of St Andrew’s, the parish church. http://www.standrewspenrith.org.uk/welcome.htm Today’s church buildings in part go back to Norman times, although the appeal of the interior is its Georgian classicism. Of particular curiosity out side is the Giant’s Grave: http://www.standrewspenrith.org.uk/giantsgrave.htm
Wordsworth connections with Penrith are several, including one of the 1791 houses today forming part of Penrith Town Hall, and formerly a residence of Wordsworth’s cousin, John. There is a pleasant walk around the Town Hall, Thacka Beck and Penrith Museum (located in a school building dating back to 1670) http://www.explorepenrith.org.uk/trail/stage1/
One very old pubs Penrith, The Gloucester Arms, is said to have been in existence since 1477, http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g186328-d2400788-Reviews-Gloucester_arms-Penrith_Lake_District_Cumbria_England.html
And it seems the Two Lions was only a little more than a century younger (started in 1584), but it must have been closed since my (antiquated) guide book was published: http://www.geog.port.ac.uk/webmap/thelakes/html/lgaz/lk13587.htm
On a hill overlooking Penrith is Penrith Beacon, a comparatively modern structure (1719) in which beacons have been lit to warn of war or a dangerous emergency. http://www.visitcumbria.com/pen/penrith-beacon/
Pooley Bridge, on Ullswater, is a convenient boarding place for lake steamers. It is well placed for access from the M6, and (at the right time of the year) to view Wordsworth’s famous daffodils. http://www.ullswater.co.uk/pooley_bridge.html
Ravenstonedale is at the heart of a number of scattered villages south west of Kirby Stephen. It is pretty country and St Oswald’s Church (mostly 18th century) provides a handsome focus. http://www.ravenstonedale.org/
Rydal and Rydal Water are synonymous with Wordsworth. The poet moved to Rydal Mount in 1813, living there until his death in 1850. http://www.visitcumbria.com/amb/rydal-mount/
When, in 1847, his daughter Dora died, Wordsworth, his wife, sister and gardener planted a memorial garden to her next to St Mary’s Church. It is maintained by the National Trust. http://www.visitcumbria.com/amb/doras-field/
St Mary’s Church is quiet and simple, dating from 1824, but it has strong links with the Wordsworth and Arnold families, who worshipped there. http://www.visitcumbria.com/amb/rydal-st-marys-church/
From the higher ground in the vicinity (not least Rydal Mount) there are fine views over Rydal Water. http://www.visitcumbria.com/amb/rydal-water/
Nab Cottage, overlooking the Water was home to Thomas Quincey and Hartley Coleridge (son of Samuel Taylor Coleridge).
Saddleback, or Blencathra as it is often called, is one of the most distinctive mountains in the north of the Lake District. It is popular with fell walkers as a stiff climb, and the mile-long ridge on its summit gives magnificent views. But the mountain also achieved notoriety in May 2015 when it was sold by the Earl of Lonsdale. ‘Friends of Blencathra’ was quickly formed to try to buy off the sale, but failed: //www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/lake-district-mountain-sold-friends-of-blencathra-fail-to-buy-the-iconic-saddleback-9585832.html
St Bees Head is the most westerly point on the coast of Cumbria and host to a prolific seabird colony: http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/seenature/reserves/guide/s/stbeeshead/
The village of St Bees itself is little more than a small coastal resort but ut has a long history: http://www.visitcumbria.com/wc/st-bees/
St Bees School had a long history – 400 years – but it is scheduled to close at the end of the summer term 2015. It is a shame, but its location and other factors have brought about its demise: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cumbria-31877302
St Bees Priory is older still, a remarkable foundation. Some of the building (notably a doorway) dates from Norman times, although most of the visible stonework is part of a ‘restoration’ of 1855 by William Butterfield. http://www.stbeespriory.org/#/about-us/building-history
Housed within the building is an extraordinary organ, one of the last masterpieces of the great Father Willis (1899). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Willis_%26_Sons
What is so stunning about the instrument at St Bees is that, housed in a small church, with little acoustic, you really can hear every single note in a way that you often can not in the vast acoustics of some of our grander cathedrals and city halls.
At 3209 feet, Scafell Pike is the highest mountain in England. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scafell_Pike
It stands within a ‘dominating group….like a giant knot near the geographical centre of Lakeland, as if a mighty convulsion had thrust it up and thrown the main lakes outward from it.’ (Shell Guide to England, 1970). I hardly need to add that Scafell Pike and its neighbours are very popular with visitors at any time of year, whatever the weather.
For many, Seascale http://www.visitcumbria.com/wc/seascale/
is dominated by the presence of the Sellafield Nuclear site just north of the (jolly sporty) golf club. http://www.visitcumbria.com/wc/sellafield-nuclear-reprocessing-facility/
The manner in which Grey Croft Stone Circle continues to defy the odds against the might of nuclear fission is heartening. http://www.visitcumbria.com/wc/grey-croft-stone-circle/
Only a few miles east of Seascale, at Gosforth, there is a magnificent collection of Viking monuments in (and outside) St Mary’s Church. The cross standing outside the church is the tallest Viking cross in England and astonishingly well preserved. http://www.visitcumbria.com/wc/gosforth-st-marys-church/
Not to be missed!
For most of us, Shap is the highest point on the M6 travelling from England towards Scotland (Beattock, in Scotland, will be higher if we continue the journey). In good weather it is pleasant motoring. The only dampener on the outlook is the unsightly Shap Fell Lime Works on our left. Had we, however, taken the old, non-motorway A6, we would be following one of the more dangerous lorry routes in England. There is even a memorial to the drivers and crews of the transport lorries which used to make this journey in filthy weather.
As a village, Shap is now quite insignificant. http://www.visitcumbria.com/pen/shap/
There is some pleasant Norman arcading in St Michael’s Church http://www.visitcumbria.com/churches/shap-st-michaels-church/
The remains of Shap Abbey, once quite a famous foundation, are to be found in a gloriously peaceful setting: http://www.visitcumbria.com/pen/shap-abbey/
Only a short walk away is the remote and rather charming Keld Chapel http://www.visitcumbria.com/pen/keld-chapel/
There is something rather stirring about the manner in which the ancient Kemp Howe Stone Circle remains in existence despite the onslaught of road and rail http://www.visitcumbria.com/evnp/kemp-howe-stone-circle/
Sizergh Castle, a mere 3 miles south of Kendal, has been the Strickland family’s home for 776 years, although it was given to the National Trust in 1950. Like so many major estates it boasts a full complement of activities to attract visitors, especially families, there is no escaping the fascination of the castle’s architecture, history joined up, as it were. The gardens are irresistible and the wildlife on the extensive estate is impressive, particularly the rarely-seen hawfinch. http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sizergh/
Skiddaw is the most northerly of those Lakeland fells which exceed 3,000 feet in altitude. It is a good climb and can easily be joined with ascents of neighbouring hills. In good weather the views from the summit are superb – as far as Ireland on a good day. http://www.english-lake-district.info/skiddaw/skiddaw.html
Stock Ghyll Force is a 75-foot waterfall tumbling through woodland behind Ambleside. http://www.walklakes.co.uk/walk_132.html
Until recently Tebay was a rather austere village in whose houses lived the railwaymen engaged on driving, stoking and servicing the banking engines attached to most steam trains ascending Shap Bank. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nh8fyxr2J3Y
It is now the gateway to a most beautiful stretch of the Lune Valley which accommodates both the main London-Glasgow railway line and the M6 motorway. Motorists with an interest in good, locally sourced food should take every opportunity to visit Tebay Services on the M6 which has a marvellous farm shop. http://www.tebayservices.com/ It is particularly good in autumn and winter when game is in season. Take your freezer box!
A recently constructed by-pass has brought tranquillity to Temple Sowerby, a village a few miles south east of Penrith. http://www.visitcumbria.com/evnp/temple-sowerby/
It has a pleasant village green, complete with maypole. Nearby Acorn Bank hosts a distinguished collection of culinary and medicinal plants in its herb garden and the building is handsome. http://www.visitcumbria.com/evnp/acorn-bank-garden/ 3 miles north, Milburn also features a large village green, retaining the layout of a former mediaeval fortified village. http://www.visitcumbria.com/evnp/milburn/
Thirlmere is a reservoir constructed out of two former small lakes in the late 19th century to provide extra water supply for Manchester. http://www.visitcumbria.com/kes/thirlmere/
It is today a pleasant scene, good for walking, but the destruction of many farms and two villages was controversial. One of the pubs destroyed was regularly visited by the Wordsworths and Coleridge. It was out this controversy that the National Trust was formed to try to prevent the loss of wonderful country, fine houses and so on. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Trust_for_Places_of_Historic_Interest_or_Natural_Beauty
Torpenhow (pronounced Trupenah) is a lovely little village near Cockermouth with a fine late Norman church. http://www.thecumbriadirectory.com/Town_or_Village/location.php?url=torpenhow
For philologists there is a degree of controversy surrounding the village name: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torpenhow_Hill
Troutbeck is a fine river valley between Windermere and Penrith and a village of the same name, famous, historically, for a race of giants or strong men. http://www.visitcumbria.com/amb/troutbeck/
Beatrix Potter lived in the village at Troutbeck Park Farm. It was here that she bred and kept Herdwick Sheep, a breed successfully maintained to this day. In fact we can buy Herdwick lamb locally from Booths Supermarkets, and very good it is to eat!
Jesus Church is famed for its unusual dedication. http://www.visitcumbria.com/amb/Troutbeck-jesus-church/
The east window sports a particularly fine pre-Raphaelite window, mostly the work of Sir Edward Burne-Jones. It is thought that Ford Madox Brown also had a hand in the design.
Townend House was built in the 1620s and was home to the Brownes, a local family who lived and farmed there until 1943, when it became a National Trust property. http://www.visitcumbria.com/amb/townend-house/ It is remarkably complete and well preserved.
Ullswater was the first of the main lakes I came to know more than fifty years ago. In those days the Cumberland/Westmorland border ran through its waters. Nowadays it is a busy lake with activities galore and a thriving tourism industry. http://www.ullswater.com/
Gowbarrow Park should be visited in spring when Wordsworth’s beloved daffodils are in full bloom. He also referred to Lyulph’s Tower and Aira Force: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/aira-force-and-ullswater/
Surrounded by rocky, high mountains, Wastwater is the most dramatic of the Lakes. http://www.visitcumbria.com/wc/wastwater/
It is also the deepest.
At the head of the valley stand’s one of England’s tiniest churches, St Olaf’s: http://www.visitcumbria.com/wc/wasdale-st-olafs-church/
Watendlath is an attractive hamlet owned by the National Trust, which guarantees its preservation. http://www.visitcumbria.com/kes/watendlath/
The entire area is handsome with the Watendlath Beck feeding the imposing Lodore Falls. http://www.visitcumbria.com/kes/lodore-falls/
Make sure to see Surprise View and Ashness Bridge: http://www.visitcumbria.com/kes/surprise-view-and-ashness-bridge/
Whitehaven has been a seaport and mining town – not, perhaps, an inviting prospect, yet there is much to admire: http://www.visitcumbria.com/wc/whitehaven/
This website suggests that many historians believe that New York’s street system is inspired by Whitehaven’s grid system. Well, if Birkenhead Park was the model for Central Park, maybe they are right!
And an American, John Paul Jones, paid Whitehaven a visit in 1778 with the intention of setting the entire merchant navy fleet on fire. He did not succeed. A German U-boat was slightly more successful in 1915, shelling the town from offshore.
American visitors may wish to seek out St Nicholas Church and Gardens in which a plaque in memory of Mildred Warner Gale, grandmother of George Washington, can be found. http://www.visitcumbria.com/wc/whitehaven-st-nicholas-church-and-gardens/
Windermere is England’s largest natural lake. There are many references to it in the entries above for Ambleside, Bowness and so on. But, at the risk of repetition here is another web link: http://www.visitcumbria.com/amb/windermere-lake/
Witherslack is a rather scattered village between Kendal and Grange-over-Sands. It has a rather discreet church with a restrained classical interior with 17th-century woodwork http://www.visitcumbria.com/churches/witherslack-st-pauls-church/
Steel making was the main industry of Workington, until as recently as 2006: http://www.visitcumbria.com/workington/
The town was ravaged by floods in 2009, to the extent that many of the town’s bridges were destroyed and road communications became impossible: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_Workington_floods
There are few buildings of note, although the interior of St John’s Church is worth seeing: http://www.visitcumbria.com/wc/workington-st-johns-church/
The 1876 Catholic Church of Our Lady and St Michael, designed by Pugin, is also noteworthy: http://www.visitcumbria.com/wc/workington-our-lady-and-st-michaels-church/
The Helena Thompson museum contains an interesting collection of furniture, pottery, silver and objects connected with the social and industrial background of the town: http://www.visitcumbria.com/helena-thompson-museum/
There is also a model of Workington Hall, now in ruins, in which Mary, Queen of Scots, spent the night after fleeing the battle of Langside in 1568: http://www.visitcumbria.com/wc/workington-hall/
Finally, we arrive at Hadrian’s Wall, shared between Cumbria and Northumberland. I really don’t need to tell you anything about this amazing northernmost relic of the Romans in Britain. The whole tale is told in the following web links. All I would say is that it is a never to be forgotten experience in some of the loveliest country in the north of England. Just to stand where Roman sentries kept guard two thousand years ago is no less exciting than walking on the Appian Way or reliving the sporting activities of the Circus Maximus in Rome. It’s a fabulous place and the drive along the military road is one of the finest in the north. If you have children Hadrian’s Wall is fantastic.