Penrith - the Eden Valley.
Welcome to the EDGE Guide to Penrith. The handsome and unpretentious town of Penrith in the Eden Valley is one of the best known towns in Cumbria, it is an important market town in its area and centre for the farming community hereabouts.
A rich history, interesting and diverse shops, good architecture, excellent road and rail links to the rest of the county and beyond, and on the doorstep of the Lake District.
Despite being a tourist destination Penrith hasn't lost its character, this is probably due to its continued importance as a market place for cattle and other livestock, there is another market for more domestic wares held every week in Great Dockray one of the squares in the town.
Delightful alleyways run between and behind Penrith's main streets, and this is often where you will find the more specialised shops that Penrith has a certain reputation, for example fudge, Cumberland sausage, gingerbread and more.
Attractions in the area include:
Ullswater - Haweswater - Penrith Castle - Brougham Castle - Mayburgh Henge - Brougham Hall - Dalemain House & Gardens - Bird of Prey Centre - High Head Sculpture Valley - Rheged Visitor Centre - Acorn Bank National Trust House and Gardens - Hutton in the Forest House & Gardens - Art Galleries - Golf Course & Driving Range - Mountaineering Exhibition - and more.
There are of course many examples of perhaps England's greatest contribution to the world, the traditional pub, serving real ales and fine lagers and honest to goodness pub grub. Restaurants and tea-rooms can be found among the book shops, antique shops and art galleries etc.
Like many of the towns in the Eden Valley Penrith is built largely with the red sandstone which gives these towns their uniquely warm appearance. Several buildings using this material can be seen dotted around the town.
Penrith is a charming old market town of red sandstone.
One of the best examples is the church of St Andrews, a fine building of 1720-22, it is contained in a picturesque precinct. Beside the north wall of the church is the 'Giants Grave', said to contain the remains of Owain king of Cumbria from 920-937.
St Andrews Church, Penrith.
Penrith: a short history: top
Although nearby are Mayburgh Henge (approx' 3,000BC) and King Arthurs Round Table (a later circular earth work), Penrith 'proper' dates back to about 500BC at which time it would have been a Celtic settlement.
Around the C9 and C10 Cumbria was part of the Scottish kingdom of Strathclyde, and Penrith was its capital. It is easy to see why it should have been chosen as such.
Penrith occupies a prime sight for communications with the rest of the county, and sits amongst some of the best farming land in the whole country due to its kind climate.
The Pennines to the east and the Lake District fells to the west form a natural funnel for traffic coming from either north or south, making it strategically important.
Principally, however, Penrith was, and still is, a market town, this continuous trade has left its mark on the town over the centuries, there are no less than five sites within the town with a history of market trading.
The success Penrith enjoyed did not go unnoticed by the Scots and the town became a target for raids, this resulted in the construction in 1397 of the castle that stands over the town.
Before becoming King Richard III the Duke of Gloucester was Warden of the border with Scotland and lived in Penrith at what is now the Gloucester Arms pub, known in his time as Dockray Hall, and also at the Two Lions pub.
The buildings that stand on these sites now are later than Richard's time, dating from 1580-85 after the last England - Scotland war, though private raiding continued long after that.
To the east of the town is Beacon Hill, taking its name from its use as such possibly since Roman times.
The present construction was built in 1719 to warn Penrith and much of the Eden Valley of any trouble. It was last used during the Napoleonic Wars in 1805 to warn Walter Scott of the threat.
Penrith was occupied by Oliver Cromwell's Roundheads in 1654.
In 1745 during the Jacobite Rebellion 'Bonny' Prince Charlie passed through on his way to claim the British throne. During his retreat northwards a month later his rearguard, fought a battle at Eamont Bridge on the southern outskirts of Penrith.
Despite this Penrith has not suffered greatly from war and rebellion, certainly,
not as much as Carlisle. By far the biggest killer in its history was the
plague of 1598, which claimed some 2000 lives.
Penrith: OS ref NY 515305 Sheet 90. Get the map.
Penrith has excellent road and rail links: the M6 runs by the town north through Carlisle to Scotland and south to Preston, Manchester, Birmingham and Coventry. The A66 travels west through Keswick, Cockermouth and on to Workington, while southwards it runs close by Appleby, Brough and on across the country to Scotch Corner on the A1.
The A686 travels east over the Pennines through Alston an eastern outpost of the county.
In addition to all this the mainline west coast railway between London, (Euston), and Glasgow in Scotland, calls at the town.