Kirkby Stephen - the Eden Valley.
The Cloisters in Kirkby Stephen.
Welcome to the EDGE Guide to Kirkby Stephen. Kirkby Stephen is at the head of the beautiful Eden Valley and at 600ft is the highest town on the Eden river.
Kirkby Stephen is narrow, mainly built along the length of Market Street, and perhaps a mile long, it is not a large community but is popular with travellers and has a weekly market bringing more life to what is already a busy town.
The Coast to Coast walk, a spectacular walk in through the Pennines, runs through Kirkby Stephen and it is a favoured place for weary walkers to rest.
Kirkby Stephen is on the magnificently scenic Settle to Carlisle railway line, though the station is a mile or so to the south of the town on the A685.
In town turn off onto the B6259 road to Hawes, and about 2.5mls/4km along the road you will see Lammerside Castle (not open to the public) on your right on the West bank of the Eden occupying a lonely spot.
The original building was larger as can be judged by the grassed over foundations next to the tower. The de Warcop family needed to control and secure the natural path to the south that the R. Eden created in the Mallerstang Valley, and the castle was built for this purpose.
By the early C15 the family had built Wharton Hall and over the next few centuries the castle fell into disrepair.
Further up the same road is Pendragon castle undergoing a restoration and not open to the public either but it is only a few yards from the road and easily visible, it is in a ruinous state.
Suffice to say the building you see now is of a much later date, possibly 1180, than when Uther Pendragon, father of King Arthur allegedly ruled the land hereabouts, but he is supposed to be buried here and Arthur near Longtown, north of Carlisle.
In reality there was no King Arthur, he is merely a romantic invention.
Of interest are the Nine Standards, (OS ref NY 827062), a group of cairns roughly built of stone put up sometime after the end of the Roman occupation their purpose is not known.
They make an impressive sight on top of the Nine Standards Rigg, quite a hike from Kirkby Stephen but if you like walking then it could be rewarding.
As already pointed out Kirkby Stephen is at the head of the Eden Valley, it also has good access to the fells towards Kendal and the southern Lake District to the SW or you could travel to the Yorkshire Dales not far to the SE.
Brough Castle is also worth visiting - just off the A685 to the north.
Wherever you look the countryside is magnificent, and you should definately
consider a short visit to the town. The many quiet country lanes lead to many
picturesque villages and it would be easy to spend several hours driving around
enjoying the scenery.
Kirkby Stephen: a short history: top
Kirkby Stephen dates back to the time of the Danes, roughly AD850 to just after 1000, this is backed up by the "Loki Stone" of the C10, a stone carving representing the Norse God Loki, a bound devil, and is one of only two in Europe.
It can be seen in the parish church of St. Stephen. The church, in parts, is from 1175 with additions made in the early and late 1300s all the way through to 1847.
In 1361 King Edward III granted Kirkby Stephen a market charter and the Market Square is still the centre of the town, indeed, the market is still held every Monday.
The Square has an unusual feature in the form of an area marked out in cobble
stones, this was used, unfortunately for the 'sport' of baiting Bulls. This
barbaric sport thankfully came to an end in 1820 after one of the Bulls managed
to escape and ran round town causing havoc.
The entrance to the church from the Market Square is through the handsome Cloisters, built in 1810 with money left to the town by a former inhabitant John Waller, who had served in the Royal Navy. The Cloisters is a striking edifice and is an asset for the town.
From the Market Square walk down Stoneshot to Franks Bridge, a C17 footbridge over the River Eden. Below the Stoneshot alleyway is a tunnel used to hide women and children from the Scots during their frequent raids into the area during the Border Wars.
Kirkby Stephen: OS ref NY 775085 Sheet 91. Get the map.