Things to do nearby The Coach House (Ainstable)
Ainstable is a small pretty village in the Eden Valley ideally placed for exploring the local and wider area. The historic church is on top of the hill overlooking the village and is open daily for visitors. The Heather Glen provides tasty meals on Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday lunchtime, but you may need to book. There are also 2 pubs in Armathwaite a pleasant 2 mile walk or short drive away. Ainstable’s peaceful rural location mean it is blessed with a good range of walks through lovely pastoral scenery.
The Eden Valley is lesser known than the neighbouring Lake District but no less beautiful; a hidden gem sandwiched between the Pennines to the east and the Lake District Fells to the west it is a rural landscape of lush green countryside, traditional towns and attractive sandstone villages. To the south are the rolling Howgill fells; a favourite place of the great Alfred Wainwright who walked there to escape the crowds. The Settle to Carlisle railway, voted the most scenic line in England, runs through Armathwaite and Langwathby and features the Brief Encounters cafe at the station, ideal for a coffee or a lovely lunch.
Walks in the Eden valley are many and varied, an obvious place to start is the River Eden itself; the best riverside walks can be found at Wetheral and Lazonby with some short but interesting sections around Armathwaite which are easily combined into a circular walk from Ainstable. As an added bonus all the attractive stone villages have great pubs and cafes to visit as you explore. A short drive east at Newbiggin you can get access up on to the fells and over into Geltsdale, wild country with its own special remote beauty. Other walks of note close by include Gelt Woods, where mature beech woodland clings to the steep valley of the River Gelt and a network of paths lead you through the woods, alongside the tumbling river and beneath quarry faces dating back to Roman times. It is a beautiful place to go at any time of year but not to be missed in the autumn when the trees look as if they are on fire. The enigmatic stone circle of Long Meg near Little Salkeld is worthy of a visit or plan it into a longer walk through the lovely rural landscape.
Cyclists will find an extensive network of quiet lanes to explore – but those who like their cycling without gradients might want to give it a miss! Serious road cyclists can tackle routes up to Alston and back down Hartside to Penrith, not a route to be tried in winter but get a nice day and the views are stunning. For flatter routes try exploring the country roads crisscrossing the Solway plain to the east of Carlisle.
Armathwaite and Kirkoswald are both historic sandstone villages worth fitting into your itinerary, they each have 2 popular pubs (you may have to book for evening meals) and well stocked village shops in addition to attractive main streets to amble through. Kirkoswald is unique in that the church bell tower is located on a hill 200 yards from the church itself so villagers could better hear the bells, not only to summon them to church but also as warning of Scots raids. Parts of the church date from the 12th century, there is a sacred spring under the nave and a well in the west wall, so this is not your run of the mill church! Armathwaite makes a perfect destination for a walk from Ainstable with a number of different footpaths taking you across the fields down the valley side and back, all with panoramic views.
Alston is situated high up in the Pennines, surrounded by a unique landscape of moorland, hills, rivers and waterfalls, Alston is England's highest market town. This intriguing town with cobbled streets and fascinating nooks and crannies was the location for the ITV productions of Jane Eyre and Oliver Twist. Take a ride on the lovingly restored steam and diesel engines on the South Tynedale Railway, a round trip from Alston to Kirkhaugh takes around 50 minutes through the beautiful South Tyne valley. Visit The Hub Museum with its interesting local history and bygone transport collection.
Nearby country houses to visit include Hutton in the Forest, linked by legend to the story of Gawain and Green Knight. The gardens are beautiful and extensive with a topiary terrace and low garden overlooking the lake and cascade and the unusual house is built around an ancient pele tower. Visit Dalemain and look out for the mouse house under the stairs as well as enjoying another lovely garden, or time your visit right to experience the marmalade festival, now a popular annual event!
Acorn Bank Garden and Water Mill is well known for its herb collection, traditional fruit orchards and sheltered walled garden. Some rooms in the house are now open to view in this National Trust property which may challenge your expectations of how they display their houses and the tea room features plenty of garden produce in its menu. There is a variety of wildlife to look out for on the woodland walk along Crowdundle Beck towards the restored water mill, plus a wildlife trail to a disused mine and bird hide overlooking feeders and a pond.
Larch Cottage Nursery has an incredibly comprehensive range of plants with many varieties that are rarely found elsewhere, keen gardeners might want to set a budget before they go or risk filling their car with must haves! The plants are displayed in an attractive walled garden and when you have finished browsing enjoy the excellent Italian inspired coffee shop which overlooks the nursery. Make sure you don’t overindulge though, it would be a shame not to have room for an ice cream from Abbott Lodge on your way home. Made from jersey milk from the farm it is completely delicious and always available in an excellent selection of flavours.
The attractive market town of Penrith is the gateway to the northern lake district as well as the Eden Valley; it has a range of independent shops to browse as well as a choice of supermarkets. Penrith has a floodlit driving range plus a pitch and putt at the Golf Centre and Penrith Golf Club is a moorland course high above the town with stunning views towards the Lake District. Just a mile from Penrith is Rheged, located in Europe’s largest grass covered building and home to nine individual shops and 3 cafes reflecting the best of the region, it also houses an exhibition centre and a large 3D cinemas screen featuring topical films. If you fancy making a unique gift or souvenir to take home release your inner artist and have a go at pottery painting; there are a wide range of items to choose from, money boxes to plates, cups to plant pots, this is definitely not an activity just for children – go on, have a go!
The impressive ruins of Lowther Castle stand proud and roofless to the south of Penrith; now run by a charitable trust the extensive gardens are gradually being restored and even the castle ruin itself now contains a garden. An interesting exhibition about the history of the Lowther family plus a shop and restaurant can be found in the stable yard which is almost as large as the castle itself.
The north east Lake District is easily accessed from Penrith, the stunning scenery of Ullswater is ideal for a romantic picnic, wild swim or for taking a boat out on. You can launch your own boat at Howtown or take out temporary membership of Ullswater Yacht Club or boats and canoes can be hired at Pooley Bridge and Glenridding. Ullswater Lake Steamers run between Pooley Bridge, Howtown, Aira Force and Glenridding throughout the year – take a round the lake cruise or use the service to combine with a linear walk round the lake. Aira Force Waterfall is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the Lake District; over 70 feet high with stunning views from the stone bridges above and below the falls and especially good after rain when the falls are at their fullest.
Head north and you are right into the heart of Hadrian’s Wall country; wild and beautiful this landscape is less visited but offers plenty of attractions to visit, walks for all abilities and some wonderful far reaching views. Following Hadrian’s Wall itself offers a good guide for exploring the area; pay to visit one of the museums or just soak up the atmosphere of the wall for free, many sections of the Hadrian’s Wall Path national trail run right alongside the wall, so you will be walking in the very footsteps of the Roman soldiers.
Still on a historical theme visit the ruins of Lanercost Priory with its 13th century church just north east of Brampton or the only remaining part of Wetheral Priory; a 15th century gatehouse just outside Wetheral, another of the pretty sandstone Eden valley villages. Carlisle Castle can trace its origins back to a Roman fort but has been altered by virtually every period of history since, quite a story to trace in a lovely location on the edge of Carlisle city centre. Carlisle also has an unusual sandstone cathedral and a range of shops to suit all tastes in a compact and charming city centre. When the river is low enough the foundations of the roman bridge over the River Eden can be seen under the current Eden Bridge on the edge of Bitts Park, kingfishers, dippers and otters can also be seen here.
The Solway is also a must for anyone interested in wildlife; as well as the usual suspects for estuarine and marsh habitats there are large flocks of geese creating an unmissable a winter spectacle, try Caerlaverock in Scotland or Campfield marsh on the English side. For black grouse, whinchat and short eared owl Geltsdale RSPB reserve is just over the fell on the North Pennines, a lovely spot for a quiet walk even if no rarities are spotted.