The Eden Valley, with its attractive scenery and range of attractions, still remains relatively under the radar compared to its Western Lake District neighbour. But we think this quieter, characterful valley is the perfect place to visit for those seeking a bit of tranquillity. With the Pennines to the east, the Lake District fells to the west, and charming market towns and traditional villages dotted about the countryside, The Eden Valley is a spectacular spot for a holiday!
From ancient ruins and grand country houses to wildlife and outdoor adventures, here’s our run down of some of the best things to do in the area.
Looking to stay in the Eden Valley? Browse our cottages of the area.
Lowther Castle and Gardens
More than just a castle! Situated just a few miles south of Penrith, Lowther Castle and Gardens date back to medieval times and once played home to the Earls of Lonsdale, including the infamous Yellow Earl. Left derelict for seventy years, the ruins have now been restored into a gem of a visitor attraction with plenty for all ages to see and do. The gardens alone are worth visiting; it's easy to spend hours admiring the carefully tended Iris, Japanese and Rock Gardens.
For younger family members, The Lost Castle is an adventure playground like no other; a Lowther Castle replica offering mazes, zipwires, slides and a toddlers’ sandpit area. If you're feeling energetic, bikes are available for hire around the uniquely designed cycle path, which leads riders through the historic woodland of Lowther Park, taking in the surrounding landscape of the Eden Valley.
The site is also dog friendly, so no need to leave your furry friend behind.
Long Meg and her Daughters
A bewitching piece of ancient Cumbrian history...
The curiously named Long Meg and her Daughters is a Bronze Age stone circle near the market town of Penrith and was constructed as a part of a megalithic tradition during the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age. One of the biggest of its kind, ancient folklore states that the stones were once a coven of witches turned to stone by a wizard from Scotland. Their crime? Dancing on the Sabbath!
Consisting of 69 stones - Long Meg standing the tallest at four metres high - it's a truly epic sight. It even inspired Lakes poet William Wordsworth, who wrote about its 'awe' and 'power' in his poem The Monument Commonly Called Meg.
Be careful, though - legend has it that if you count the same number of stones more than once – which is claimed to be impossible - it will break the spell, or at least bring you very bad luck!
If you're looking for a little bit of tranquillity whilst taking in some ancient Cumbrian history, look no further than Shap Abbey. Built in 1199, the abbey was one of 32 religious houses in Britain belonging to the Premonstratensian order of canons and is significant as being the last monastery to be dissolved by the Tudor king Henry VIII. As you walk around the ancient ruins, there are information panels to help you learn about monastic life in the 12th century.
The setting is picture-perfect; this unfrequented site lies in a remote area by the River Lowther half a mile west of the charming Shap village and with views of the Eden Valley. Bliss!
Rookin House Activity Centre
Fancy a bit of adrenaline with a scenic backdrop? Well, prepare to get muddy!
Located in the picturesque setting of Troutbeck, just off the A66, Rookin House has loads of activities on offer including paintballing, quad biking, off-road driving, and even human bowling! It’s a great way to let off some steam with the family or a loved one, all with the bonus of magnificent Blencathra in the background.
If you prefer something a little more subdued, don’t worry! There are plenty of other activities on offer such as archery, clay pigeon shooting, fishing and horse riding.
Fan of adventure? See our guide to outdoor activities and adventures in the Lake District.
Penrith and Eden Museum
This informative museum is a great insight into the rich history and culture of the Penrith and Eden area. Here, you can find out about Penrith’s history and its influential people, such as artist Jacob Thompson, whose work is displayed in the Fine Art Collection alongside other artwork.
The museum houses a huge collection of fascinating local artefacts, including objects from the Bronze and Roman eras. If you’ve found something curious on one of your walks, be sure to bring it along to one of the museum’s ‘Finds Days’, where an expert will examine it for you. You may have found an ancient Cumbrian artefact!
Take a look at the other fabulous museums you can visit in the Lake District.
The Almshouses at St Ann's Hospital, Appleby
The Almshouses in Appleby are completely charming with their colourful red doors set upon a cobbled courtyard in the centre of town. The houses were built more than 350 years ago by Lady Anne Clifford, who was famed for her restoration of churches and castles, including the nearby Appleby Castle, her home during the 17th century. During this time, her concern for the town’s poor widows motivated her to build these houses as a refuge, and they are still occupied to this day.
Nestled in the corner of the courtyard is a lovely little chapel. Take a look inside and you’ll find various historic treasures, including the list of rules that the original occupants of the houses were expected to live by!
Situated near the village of Skelton, Hutton-in-the-Forest is an architectural marvel. This Grade I listed country house dates back to the mid-14th century and a walk around the house, with its Medieval, neo-Gothic and Baroque façades, illustrates how traditional English country houses have changed over the centuries. The interiors are just as impressive; rooms such as the Victorian Drawing Room and Medieval Stone Hall are rich in history and include fascinating collections of needlework and tapestry.
The site features an 18th-century walled garden with herbaceous plants, terraces, topiary, dovecote and ponds. Be sure to take a leisurely walk in the lovely woodland area, which is home to wildlife such as birds, roe deer and red squirrels – don’t forget your camera!
Lakeland Bird of Prey Centre
Open April 1st – October 31st
Whether you're a keen 'twitcher' or just a casual nature lover, the Lakeland Bird of Prey Centre is a fascinating way to spend a few hours. It’s also just a quarter of a mile away from Lowther Castle and Gardens, if you decide to make a full day of it. Set in walled gardens and surrounded by unspoiled parkland, the centre hosts an impressive collection of birds from the UK and around the world, including falcons, eagles, vultures, hawks and owls.
Flying demonstrations take place daily between 2pm and 4pm (weather permitting). It’s an opportunity for the birds to fly free and show off! Visitors are also encouraged to take part in supervised handling of the birds – you’ll be amazed as the hawk flies right into your hand!
Love wildlife? Check out our one-day itinerary for seeing wildlife in the Lake District.
If you want to fall in love with the Eden Valley, too, take a look through all of our Eden Valley self-catering cottages.
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