Outhgill is a delightful hamlet set in the area where Cumbria and the Yorkshire Dales overlap, making it an ideal location for exploring the Lakes and the Dales. It is in the narrow strip of the upper Eden Valley between Kirkby Stephen and Garsdale Head. This part of the valley is known as Mallerstang, taking its name from the towering escarpment of Mallerstang Edge. There is a single valley road that runs parallel with the famous Settle-Carlisle railway line, which operates regular services, including steam engines. Despite these twin transport routes through the valley, it is often thought of as one of England’s last wildernesses. The hamlet has a green and a sculpture by Andy Goldsworthy and red squirrels are indigenous to the area. The peaceful environs offer varied walking in a beautiful location.
The vast fell of Mallerstang Edge runs for the length of the valley. The name is applied to the entire fell, the highest point of which is called High Seat. On the opposite side of the valley is the equally enticing Wild Boar Fell with a distinctive table-top-like summit. There are ample walks to be enjoyed, from sedate strolls beside the River Eden to stunning hikes high on the valley cliffs and crags.
Worth a visit is the dramatic sandstone ruin of Pendragon Castle, at Mallerstang. According to legend, the castle was built by Uther Pendragon, father of King Arthur, who is said to have unsuccessfully tried to divert the Eden to create a moat. There is a lot of Arthurian interest in the area and the history of Pendragon has added fuel to the theory that King Arthur’s Round Table was less of an actual table and more of a meeting place. Similarly there are several locations across Cumbria known as a seat or table supporting this theory.
There are numerous fantastic sites to explore, especially for nature-lovers, including the species-rich limestone pavements of Orton Scar and Smardale Gill, the lowland bog of Cliburn Moss and extensive tracts of blanket peat, upland limestone grasslands of Moor House – Upper Teesdale National Nature Reserve. The village of Orton is at the foot of Orton Scar and was once described by guidebook writer Alfred Wainwright as “the loveliest of all Westmorland’s villages”. There is a pub that serves food, as well as a shop and post office, and the famous Kennedys handmade chocolates are produced at the factory in the village. On the second Saturday of every month is the popular Orton farmers’ market, renowned as being one of the best in Britain, with live music and a hog roast as standard.
Kirkby Stephen is a small market town on Wainwright’s famous Coast to Coast footpath and offers plenty of opportunities to get out and explore the area, with stunning surrounding landscape and breathtaking views. There is an open air swimming pool and several great cycle routes on and off road. It offers something a bit different with a collection of permanent sculptures along the River Eden. Eden Arts is also responsible for a sheepfold art project and a poetry path. And if you want to get out in the fresh air and explore at a leisurely pace but feel that you need a bit of help, electric bike hire is also available in the area!
Sedbergh is an interesting market town with good independent shops and is a growing destination for book lovers. To the south of Outhgill the valley opens to meet the Yorkshire Dales. From here you can explore Wensleydale, the Dales National Park and the quiet Howgill Fells favoured by Wainwright.
The vibrant, busy village of Shap has a market hall with curious windows and rounded arches, which dates from a few years after the village was granted its market charter in 1687. There are some great places for eating out – including the award-winning Shap Chippy and the Shap Wells Hotel, which also has a lovely woodland walk with a chance to see red squirrels. Shap is also home to England’s highest open air heated swimming pool, open between May and September.
Appleby-in-Westmorland is a lively and picturesque market town in the heart of beautiful Cumbrian countryside. It is located in the unspoilt Eden Valley and surrounded by outstanding scenery. The town is within easy driving distance of the Lake District, as well as the Pennines, Scottish borders and the Yorkshire Dales. With access to the M6, A66 and rail services, it’s a perfect location for those wishing to make most of their holiday and explore different parts of the region. Tours are regularly available at Appleby’s 17th century motte-and-bailey castle and the River Eden flows by the town’s picturesque, wide main street, which has been described as one of the finest in England. Appleby is well known for its horse fair which attracts thousands of visitors every June. There are lots of independent shops as well as numerous cafes, restaurants and pubs offering tasty refreshments, plus a leisure centre with two swimming pools and a spacious and modern fitness gym. Walks alongside the River Eden can be enjoyed at Bolton, a pretty village about four miles north west of Appleby.
The historic town of Kendal has a great selection of independent and national shops and supermarkets, plus an array of specialist retailers. Attractions include Kendal Castle, a 12th century ruin of the ancient home of the Parr family, with superb views across the town, Abbot Hall Art Gallery, housed in a Grade I listed Georgian villa on the banks of the River Kent, and the Museum of Lakeland Life in the former stable block at Abbot Hall. The Brewery Arts Centre offers theatre, cinema, music, lectures, exhibitions and workshops.
The start of the famous Yorkshire Three Peaks walk is within a 30-minute drive and the peripheral Lakeland valleys and lakes are within a 45-minute drive, including Ullswater, Longsleddale and Haweswater Reservoir.