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


The pretty town of Appleby in Westmorland is blessed with a rich history and charming riverside walk (perfect for picnics).

If you’re hoping to enjoy walking on your holiday to the Eden Valley, you’re in the right place: Appleby is located on The Dales Highway, the Westmorland Way, Lady Anne’s Way and The Pennine Way – not to mention the attractive riverside paths around town for leisurely strolls.

The town is a cyclist’s dream, too – it’s on the North Pennine and Sea-to-Sea (or C2C) cycle routes; while several of the roads surrounding Appleby are part of the National Cycle Network.

While here, visit the indoor swimming pool; check out the town’s market; and visit Appleby Castle, which even offers accommodation! Even the Tourist Information Centre is a site of historical interest: it’s located in the town’s 1596 Moot Hall.

Did you know? 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.

2. Kirkby Stephen

Kirkby Stephen

Next up is the historic town of Kirkby Stephen, with a market charter dating back to 1153. This is a vibrant town, with eclectic independent shops, a lively café scene, and a weekly market held every Monday.

It’s also home to myth and legend: it is said that Uther Pendragon, King Arthur’s father, was poisoned in the nearby Pendragon Castle – its ruins can be visited to this day.

In town, there are pleasant riverside walks to enjoy; with Franks Bridge picnic area a good place to stop and enjoy a picnic. The parks are also worth a visit: choose from Jubilee and Stenkrith, which has a deep river gorge. Don’t miss the Poetry Path, which combines walking with culture: discover a year in the life of a Cumbrian hill farmer with twelve poems carved into rocks on this circular route.

If you’re after a more challenging hike, 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 to bring your waking boots!

3. Shap
Shap Abbey

Standing over 1,300 feet above sea level, the village of Shap offers plenty for a great day out. The remains of Shap Abbey are a must visit: built in 1100, it was one of the last Abbeys 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 – a body of water with an interesting past! It began its life as a lake, but was transformed into a reservoir in 1929. In the process, the tiny village of Mardale Green was flooded and lies at the bottom of the reservoir; it still makes the occasional appearance during dry summers, when the water level drops to reveal the village’s remains.

Did you know? Shap is home to England’s highest open air swimming pool. Panic not, the water is heated!

4. Brough

The village of Brough was once a popular stop on the route from England to Scotland and at one time boasted ten coaching inns. It is historically divided in two, with Market Brough in the north, and Church Brough in the South. The latter is named after St Michael’s Church, which dates back to 1150. The former 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.

For history buffs, a visit to Brough Castle is a must. Destroyed in 1174, it was rebuilt by Lady Anne Clifford in the 18th century; today, it is one again in a ruined state, but makes for 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.

6. Alston

Alston market town

Standing at around 1,000 feet above sea level, the pretty town of Alston shares the title of England’s highest market town with Buxton. 

It really does feel like stepping back in time when you venture into this charming town: its attractive market square looks like a scene from a Dickens novel, while the streets are cobbled and lined with traditional independent shops. There’s even the South Tynedale Railway: a narrow gauge railway which operates steam train rides.

The countryside surrounding this charming market town is simply stunning – but don’t just take our word for it! The area is located within the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Beauty, with notable gems including Ashgill Force – the area’s highest waterfall. Explore the hills, rivers and moors to your hearts content.

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 also walk to the nearby Whitley Castle, which boasts a fascinating Roman Fort.

Did you know? You can even ski in Alston during the winter months at Yad Moss!

7. Nenthead


Nenthead is one of the highest villages in England: standing at around 1,500 feet above sea level, it’s got the views to match its location.

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 philosophy, 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 and are well worth exploring; there’s also a small museum showcasing the area’s industrial history.

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

Did you know? Nenthead 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.

5. Lazonby

If you’re travelling to the Eden Valley by train, hop off at Lazonby to discover a peaceful village surrounded by glorious nature and countryside. It’s located along the Settle to Carlisle railway line, considered to be one of the most scenic in the world and well worth a trip. There’s a regular service operated by Northern, as well as heritage steam train services. Remember to look out of your window as you travel over the magnificent Ribblehead Viaduct!

Lazonby itself is a fascinating destination for history lovers. St. Nicholas Church features a wheel cross in the graveyard, with four bells attached, believed to date back to the tenth century.

Just outside Lazonby stands a sculpture named ‘Cypher Piece’ by Frances Pelly: it’s one of the Eden Benchmark sculptures, a series of ten contemporary stone sculptures across the River Eden.

8. Melmerby
Melmerby Village Green

The first thing you will notice about the idyllic village of Melmerby 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 now offers self-catering accommodation: visitors can hire out the country mansion and live like a lord or lady. There’s an archery lawn, walled vegetable gardens, and a Victorian castle folly. You can even get married here!

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

The charming and idyllic village of Langwathby is another stop on the world-famous Settle to Carlisle Railway. It boasts the historic St Peter's Church with some parts inside dating back from medieval times.

The Bailey bridge across the River Eden holds the record for the longest lasting temporary bridge in the country. Built in the 1960s to replace the original which was swept away in floods, it is still in use today!

Easy to get to and peaceful to visit, Langwathby is accessible by train or car (it’s just 5 miles from the M6) making this a fantastic base from which to discover the delights of the Eden Valley.

10. Little Salkeld

Little Salkeld Viaduct

Located on the C2C cycle route, the beautiful village of Little Salkeld is popular with walkers and cyclists alike. It’s home to Cumbria’s only working water mill: built in 1745, the mill still produces bread and flour, and is open to visitors.

Just a short distance away you will find Lacy’s Caves. Accessible to walkers, they were named after Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Lacy who used to own Salkeld Hall in the 1700s, and commissioned the caves to add interest to his estate.

Also close to the village is Long Meg and her Daughters: possibly one of the most impressive stone circles you will find. It is thought to date back to around 1500BC and is home to a total of 69 ancient stones.

So there you have it: ten hidden gems in the Eden Valley, each well worth a visit on your next trip to this wonderful part of the county.




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