Eden Valley

The River Eden flows from North Yorkshire to the Solway Firth in the north of Cumbria. The main course of the river is an area known as the Eden Valley – an unspoiled area of rolling green countryside, quant villages and thousands of years of historical myths and legends.

If you are looking for a holiday where you can breathe in the tranquility, in an area little-known from the usual tourist trail, the Eden Valley is the place for you. It is perfect for a romantic break or a voyage of historical discovery. Bring the family and enjoy the great outdoors, there is always something here to entertain and captivate you.

For walkers, ramblers, cyclists, mountain bikers this beautiful landscape awaits you.

There are an abundance of places to visit in the Eden Valley so helpfully, our team have selected ten of the best towns and villages that you simply must visit.

1. Appleby in Westmorland


We aren’t doing this alphabetically but lets start with Appleby in Westmorland. This really pretty town is blessed with riverside walks - perfect picnic territory. If you have come on holiday to enjoy the virtues of walking you couldn’t have found a better place. Appleby is on The Dales Highway, The Westmorland Way, Lady Anne's Way, and The Pennine Way not to mention the attractive riverside paths around the town.

Similarly, for cyclists the town is on the North Pennine and the Sea-to-Sea cycle routes. Several of the roads surrounding Appleby are part of the National Cycle Network.

There is loads to do here. You’ll find an indoor swimming pool, golf course, an outdoor market and plenty of places to eat and drink.

Such is the history in Appleby in Westmorland, even the Tourist Information Centre dates back to 1596 in the wonderful period building Moot Hall.

George Washington, first President of the United States, has connections to the area. His father and two half brothers were educated at Appleby Grammar school. George was due to make the crossing from Virginia too, but his Father died suddenly and the voyage didn’t happen. The rest, as they say, is history.

No historic town would be complete without its own castle. Appleby’s proudly guards over the River Eden and is surrounded by lush green parkland. Be sure to pack the picnic basket.

2. Kirkby Stephen

Our next stop is Kirkby Stephen. This historic town has a market charter dating back to 1153. The majority of the buildings in the centre are a lot more recent in comparison – dating back to the 17th Century!

Myth and legend fills the air in Kirkby Stephen. It is said that Uther Pendragon - Father of King Arthur, was poisoned in the nearby Pendragon Castle. Today you can still visit the ruins of the ancient castle.

Wild Boar Fell in nearby Mallerstang is home to another legend. Apparently, the last wild boar in England was killed here in 1409.

More mystery – this time at Nine Standards Rigg. Walk up to find nine very old and unique mysterious cairns on Hartley Fell. Why are they there?

There are pleasant riverside walks in Kirkby Stephen. Franks Bridge picnic area is a good place to stop and enjoy a sandwich and so are the parks – Jubilee and Stenkrith - which has a deep river gorge.

If you are seeking a more challenging walk then Alfred Wainwright's Coast to Coast, Lady Anne's Way, Pennine Journey, The Eden Way and Yoredale Way all pass through Kirkby Stephen. Be sure tp bring your waking boots.

The Poetry path is well worth a visit. Discover a year in the life of a Cumbrian hill farmer with twelve poems carved into rocks on this circular route.

3. Shap
Shap Abbey

You’ll find yourself high up if you are heading to Shap. The A6 through the village is 1,397 feet above sea level. The main west coast main railway line also powers over Shap and is 916 feet above sea level. The high-speed line is curvy to tackle the gradients and the high speed trains tilt in a bid to reduce journey times.

The remains of Shap Abbey are a fascinating day out. Built in 1199 it was one of the last to be dissolved by Henry VIII in 1540. The ancient St. Michael’s Church still survives and was built before the Abbey in 1850.

Close by is the stunning Haweswater reservoir. It started off life as a lake but a dam was built to raise the level. In the process the tiny village of Mardale Green was sunk, however it still makes the occasional appearance during a very dry summer! Haweswater is now one of the largest lakes in Lake District.

Shap is home to England’s highest open air swimming pool – but panic not, the water is heated!

Eden benchmarks are a series of sculptures situated the length of the River Eden. In Kirkby Stephen you will find ‘Passage’ by Laura White located in Stenkrith Park.

4. Brough

Brough is basically divided in two. You have Market Brough in the north and Church Brough in the south.

Historically the village was a popular stop on the route from England to Scotland and at one time boasted ten coaching inns.

Market Brough was granted a charter to hold a weekly market in 1330 and has been doing so ever since. Plus, there is a monthly farmers market which is a great place to sample Cumbria’s renowned local produce.

Church Brough is named after St. Michael’s Church which dates back to 1150.

If you are a history buff you must take a visit to Brough Castle. Destroyed in 1174, it was rebuilt by Lady Anne Clifford in the 18th Century. It is once again in a ruined state but makes a great place to explore.

The village is surrounded by breath-taking scenery and a short drive will lead you to High Force Waterfall and Cow Green Reservoir.

5. Lazonby

Several of the towns and villages in the Upper Eden Valley form stops on the Settle and Carlisle Railway line. The route is considered to be one of the most scenic in the world and is well worth a trip. You simply must experience travelling over the magnificent Ribblehead Viaduct. There is a regular service operated by Northern, also you’ll find frequent heritage steam trains travel the route.

If you are travelling to the Eden Valley by train hop off at Lazonby. Another mecca for history lovers. St. Nicholas Church features a wheel cross in the graveyard believed to date back to the tenth century. It has four bells attached. 

If you are looking for a sleepy retreat with glorious countryside and getting back to nature, Lazonby is the place for you.

Just outside Lazonby is another Eden Benchmark sculpture- 'Cypher Piece' by Frances Pelly.

6. Alston


Alston is one of England’s highest market towns at 1000 feet above sea level. The countryside surrounding Alston is stunning but don’t just take our word for it. The area is situated within the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Notable gems include Ashgill Force – the areas highest waterfall. Explore the hills, rivers and moors to your hearts content.

Whitley Castle is walkable from Alston. There you will find a fascinating Roman fort.

It really does feel like stepping back in time when you venture into Alston. There is a narrow-gauge railway that operates steam train rides and the streets are cobbled and lined with traditional independent shops. The attractive market square looks like a scene from a Dickens novel.

You have no shortage of places to choose from if you are looking for a bite to eat. There are hotels, pubs, tea rooms and cafes. You’ll find something to delight every pallet.

Alston is the perfect base for any walking and cycling holiday. The C2C, Walney to Wear and Pennine cycle routes are all accessible and it’s impossible to decide which is the most scenic.

You can even ski in Alston during the winter months at Yad Moss.

7. Nenthead

Nenthead looks down on its rivals and boasts the title of England’s highest village at 1500 ft above sea level. It is also the top in other areas too – it was the first village in England to have electric street lighting. This was because the nearby lead mine had some excess power that needed using.

The mine was the main industry here and in the 18th Century the London Lead Company, owned by a family of Quakers, created the village of Nenthead to house the workers. Such was their Quaker philosophies, they also built a school and the first free library in the country.

The mining industry is no more but the evidence of its past is everywhere. Hundreds of miles of accessible mines still exist. They are worth exploring. You can even visit an 80 metre engine shaft in Rampghill.

Like Alston, Nenthead is ideal for walkers and cyclists. The popular C2C cycle route passes through the village.

8. Melmerby
Melmerby Village Green

The first thing you will notice about the idyllic village is the 11 acre village green at its heart. Horses graze surrounded by fine, red sandstone buildings. The 13th Century Church of St John the Baptist is made of the same material.

No ancient village is complete without a manor house and here you will find the grand Melmerby Hall. The grade II listed gem is now a hotel and wedding venue complete with archery lawn, walled vegetable gardens and a Victorian castle folly!

Drive out of Melmerby and follow the road to Hartside Pass where you can experience a stunning vista across the Solway Firth all the way to Scotland.

This road is part of the Sea to Sea Cycle Route, be warned its steep!

9. Langwathby

Langwathby is another stop on the world-famous Settle to Carlisle Railway.

Another charming and idyllic village, Langwathby boasts the historic St Peter's Church with some parts inside dating back from medieval times.

The Bailey bridge holds the record for the longest lasting temporary bridge in the country – it was built in the 1960s to replace the original that was swept away in the floods – it is still in use today!

Langwathby is easy to get to. You can, of course, arrive by train or if you drive the village is only 5 miles from the M6. It’s a fantastic base to explore the delights of the Eden Valley.

10. Little Salkeld

Little Salkeld Viaduct

Salkeld means spring among the willows. This beautiful village is a big hit with walkers and cyclists. It is a stop on the C2C cycle route.

Just a short distance away you will find Lacys Caves. The caves are accessible to walkers. They were named after Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Lacy who used to own Salkeld Hall in the 1700s. He built the caves as an interesting feature on his estate.

Also, not far from the village is Long Meg And Her Daughters – one of the most impressive stone circles you will find. It probably dates back to around 1500 BC. In total this sacred site is home to 69 ancient stones.

Little Salkeld is also home to Cumbria’s only working water mill. It was built in 1745 and still produces bread and flower and is open to visitors.

We hope this has provided food for thought for some great hidden gems of Eden Valley to visit on your next trip to this wonderful part of the county.




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