We had a day in Kirkby Lonsdale, a pretty northern market town with so many things to do and see. This was part of a two-night UK mini break – our first destination, followed by the city of Lancaster. We did our trip without a car, which seemed to confuse many people, but it wasn’t difficult. Straight after leaving work in Manchester, we got the direct train to Oxenholme Lake District for a bargain £18 between us. Then an easy 15-minute taxi to Kirkby Lonsdale.
A hidden gem in Cumbria
Kirkby Lonsdale is in Cumbria, often overlooked for the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales because it’s on the edge of both. This means there are fewer tourists, which is good.
It’s absolutely picture-perfect, with lots of things to do/eat/drink. Worth going to in its own right and much better than the Lakes.
This ridiculously cute cottage with amazing view behind it says it all.
A beautiful B&B: the Horse Market
We stayed in the centre, at a new boutique B&B called Horse Market B&B. It’s on a little cobbled street called, unsurprisingly, Horse Market. Next to Swine Market. No prizes for guessing what used to be sold in these locations. As horse lovers, this was definitely fate.
After our royal messing up of our booking (ahem), we were lucky that they had a room, and we really enjoyed our night in this Farrow & Ball lovers’ dream house. The view from our window was equally glorious.
Chocolate-box cottages and cobblestones
After checking in, we went for a little mooch round the town. One of us (Caroline) spent nearly all childhood holidays in Kirkby Lonsdale (or Kirkcudbright), so she knows it well, but the other (Chris) had never been before. So we started off with a bit of a tour.
The obvious starting point was to walk past Kirkby Lonsdale’s finest selection of cute cottages.
That included this ultimate chocolate-box cottage, which has an incredible year-round floral display outside. It’s on a little cobbled path that leads through to the grounds of St Mary’s Church, which then handily lead through to The Sun Inn. And this is where we’d booked for our evening meal.
The Sun Inn: local food and beer
The Sun Inn has both pub dining and posher dining, and we went for the latter. This has the slightly fancier name of Carter at The Sun Inn and was superb.
Everything is locally sourced. We had roast quail and monkfish to start, followed by duck breast with granola and a hogget croquette. We generally live off stir fries so rich food pretty much killed us for the night but it was so worth it.
All washed down with some delicious (and oh-so-clear) Ruskin’s bitter from the local Kirkby Lonsdale Brewery. This was one of the nicest bitters either of us has ever had (equal only to The Grace from Sulwath Brewery in Castle Douglas, Scotland, if you’re interested).
After tea, we rolled up to The Orange Tree pub round the corner, also serving local ales. We didn’t get any photos worthy of the blog as it was dark at this point. But it was a very friendly pub with a lovely atmosphere and full of locals. Something about it felt like if you lived there, you’d be a regular.
Kirkby Lonsdale walks
The next morning, we were still full from our meals, but managed some eggs Benedict and bacon waffles at Plato’s restaurant, which was lovely. Quite a few B&Bs in the area seemed to be using it as somewhere to provide breakfast for guests.
We obviously then had to get some outfit shots on the steps of our B&B before heading off for a walk (or to continue the official Caroline’s childhood tour, depending on how you look at it).
In case you couldn’t tell already, Kirkby Lonsdale has more than its fair share of gorgeous houses.
This is the old manor house. It has an equally lovely little summer house in its garden that you’d be quite happy to live in with that view.
Devil’s Bridge and bacon butties
We walked down to the famous Devil’s Bridge on the River Lune. The bridge is probably one of Kirkby Lonsdale’s main landmarks and tourist attractions. It’s very old (Wikipedia says 1370).
Loads of bridges around the UK are called Devil’s Bridge, because people really liked to tell the same story and apply it to somewhere local.
Apparently, the Devil appeared to some woman, saying he’d build a bridge in exchange for the first soul to cross over it. She obviously really liked bridges and agreed to this so he built the bridge and showed up waiting for the first person to cross it. Not fancying it herself, the woman threw some bread over the bridge and her dog chased after it, thereby outwitting the Devil because apparently dogs don’t have souls. Please note, bread is not good for dogs and this woman was an idiot (and didn’t exist).
Anyway, it’s a pretty bridge.
More importantly, there’s an absolutely legendary food van on the bridge.
Home of childhood bacon butties for breakfast and famous with motorbiking people, who are queued up for it pretty much all day.
We then walked back towards the town along the river, heading for the famous Ruskin’s view.
To get to this, we went up the 86 ‘radical’ steps. They are called the ‘radical steps’ although there’s absolutely nothing radical about them.
They’re worth the climb though, because this is the famous Ruskin’s view.
It’s called this because John Ruskin decided to announce in 1875 that he thought it was one of the loveliest views in England ‘and therefore the world’…
… He’d not been on holiday much.
But it is a really good view, taking in rolling meadows, the River Lune, woods and hills.
St Mary’s Church
The view is seen from the grounds of St Mary’s Church, pictured below. It’s a very pretty typical English church.
The grounds have an area left with long grass and wildflowers as a home for wildlife, and there’s also some nice floral borders. And a sundial.
Kirkby Lonsdale’s independent shops
We then had a ridiculously large portion of pea and ham soup with fresh bread at the Lunesdale Bakery before heading off for our bus to Lancaster.
Kirkby Lonsdale itself is full of lovely independent shops, tearooms and pubs. Unfortunately, because the main street is car-lined, it’s not the most photogenic as a whole, so we have no blog-worthy photos of it. There’s a really nice market square too (also full of cars), which is worth going to when the market is on on a Thursday.
Off the main road of Kirkby Lonsdale are lots of lovely side streets. They’re generally called brilliant olde worlde names like Salt Pie Lane.
We really enjoyed our brief visit. There’s also loads to see and do in the surrounding villages and countryside, and we’ll venture further afield next time. Barbon, Casterton, Hawes, Milnthorpe and Kendal are all close by. And lots of National Trust action to be had, including the excellent Sizergh Castle. So plenty of things left to do for our next visit…
In the mean time, do you have any suggestions for other pretty towns we would like? Anything similar to Kirkby Lonsdale, or bigger but still pretty like Shrewsbury or Kirkcudbright. All I ask is that they have to be accessible by train and be in the north. Please leave any tips in the comments.
A day in Kirkby Lonsdale: useful information
How to get there
If you want a car-free trip, it’s perfectly doable. Train to Oxenholme Lake District (well connected and a lovely journey in itself). Then an easy 15-minute taxi to Kirkby Lonsdale.
Where to stay
We stayed in a new boutique B&B called Horse Market B&B. It’s on a little cobbled street called, unsurprisingly, Horse Market. Very stylish with lovely Farrow & Ball decorand great views. Breakfast is served just over the road at Plato’s restaurant.
How to get around
It’s only small and very walkable. There’s a decent bus service if you need to venture out but to see some beautiful nearby attractions, you do need a car.
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