Located just off junction 40 of the M6 motorway, Penrith is an ideal base for exploring Cumbria. It's a stone's throw from the Lake District National Park, the Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Yorkshire Dales National Park. From grand houses and historical sites to picturesque villages and wonderful walks, we promise this lively market town and the surrounding valleys will fast become one of your favourite destinations.
Castles and cobbled streets
The vibrant market town of Penrith is well worth a visit with its excellent selection of independent shops, tea rooms and eateries, as well as an array of high street stores. Its historic yards, cobbled streets and old alleyways make for an intriguing amble. A walk up to the Beacon includes a chance to explore the ruins of the Medieval Penrith Castle, as well as the opportunity to take in views of the area. Penrith Leisure Centre offers exceptional facilities for sport lovers, and Penrith and Eden Museum tracks the area's heritage and natural history, as well as displaying a good collection of fine art.
A cyclist's dream
Penrith has been designated Cumbria’s first cycling hub, mainly due to its location on the famous Coast-to-Coast Cycleway. However, the Eden Valley has so much to offer in its own right, with a range of well documented circular routes including the famous Lakes and Dales Loop. Other long-distance ways pass through the area, too, including the Walney to Wear and Whitby route and the Pennine Cycleway. If you're just looking for a gentle ride, the rolling hills and quiet roads of the region offer plenty of family-friendly options. You'll find bike hire and repair shops around the town to make sure you're well prepared, wherever you go!
A food lover's paradise
Penrith and the surrounding region is a champion for local produce. The town hosts a lively Saturday market every week and a farmer's market and craft market monthly throughout the year. Nearby, the celebrated Lowther Estate owns The Allium Restaurant and Kitchen Garden Café at Askham Hall and The George and Dragon pub at Clifton, in addition to its Courtyard Café at Lowther Castle. Together, they offer a dining style to suit all occasions, and using ingredients reared, grown or foraged on the estate gives the menus a genuinely local influence.
Entertainment whatever the weather
Less than three miles out of Penrith, Rheged is a centre for arts, culture and events. Its 3D cinema plays the latest releases as well as a programme of independent films. The centre hosts a calendar of events and exhibitions for the whole family and its choice of food outlets, unique shops and galleries make it a lovely place to spend a couple of hours. Rheged also houses engaging indoor and outdoor play areas for children as well as a host of craft activities to keep them entertained on a wet day.
Fuel your adrenaline
Known to many as England's most beautiful Lake, Ullswater nestles in a dramatic valley where rugged mountains and fells plunge steeply into the water below. It is a place where opportunities for outdoor adventures are plentiful. Excellent walking and cycling routes complement the welcoming Glenridding Sailing Club and activity centres such as Rookin House in providing fun-filled adventures whatever your taste.
Immersing in nature
Nestled on the shore of Ullswater, Aira Force is a stunning waterfall, impressive whatever the weather but ferociously beautiful after periods of rain. You can discover it on foot by following the various routes from the National Trust car park, or extend walks to take in the nearby village of Dockray and the surrounding felltops. Kids will enjoy exploring the woodland, and everyone is sure to appreciate the freshly baked cakes served in the National Trust tearoom.
Unearthing the past
From stately homes to historic sites, this corner of Cumbria has so much to discover. History buffs and children alike will enjoy journeying through the complex of passageways and staircases at Brougham Castle. Or head to Dalemain, the much-loved home of the Hasell-McCosh family. Open to the public daily, visitors can enjoy its architecture and mature gardens, as well as home-made refreshments served in the Medieval Hall Tearoom. Owned by the National Trust, Acorn Bank and Watermill provides exploration for the whole family and a few hidden surprises for the kids. Other gems worthy of a visit are the 12th century Shap Abbey, the walled gardens of Hutton in the Forest and Little Salkeld Watermill, one of the country's few working water-powered corn mills.
Gateway to the Pennines
Penrith is a short drive from the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so to visit and not take the trip over the border would be a real shame. One of the best-loved sites in the Pennines is High Cup Nick, a dramatic geological formation at the top of High Cup Gill. It overlooks what many believe to be the best glaciated valley in Northern England. An 8-mile walk from Dufton takes in this dramatic landscape allowing you to witness the grey-blue dolerite crags and the deep chasm below.
Something for everyone
The romantic ruins of Lowther Castle sit in a majestic setting, looming into view as you make your way through 130 acres of the family-owned Lowther Estate. Exhibits track the illustrious history of the estate, while the mature gardens and extensive woodland provide hours of exploration. Kids old and young will love 'The Lost Castle', a mesmerising world of wild play hidden amongst the trees. In the school holidays there is always a packed programme of family events. The Lowther Estate is also home to the Lakeland Bird of Prey Centre, offering visitors the chance to meet an array of magnificent birds from around the world. Daily flying displays, a small gift shop and a vintage tearoom make the centre a must-see.
As pretty as a postcard
The valleys surrounding Penrith are littered with picture-postcard villages that make interesting stop-offs when out and about. Greystoke is a pretty village of 17th century cottages set around the traditional village green with its ancient market cross. It's also where you’ll find Greystoke Castle. Melkinthorpe is home to Larch Cottage Nurseries, an intriguing garden centre with a huge personality. As you enter through its high walls, you’re transported into a romantic Romanesque empire, complete with Italianate ruins and statues. The hamlet is also where you’ll find Abbot Lodge Jersey Ice Cream Farm which is well worth a visit. Lazonby is a lovely village on the River Eden, and its small station allows you to access the Carlisle to Settle Railway. Or head to Little Salkeld for its interesting mill and access to Lacy's Caves and Long Meg Stone Circle.
Oozing artistic flair
Penrith and the Eden Valley pack a punch when it comes to arts and culture. Eden Arts is an artist-led social enterprise that coordinates a packed programme of events and trails showcasing local and international talent. Upfront Puppet Theatre and Gallery (pictured) is not only a unique and intriguing artistic attraction, but it's worthy of a visit for its setting and building alone. Coupled with an exquisite vegetarian restaurant and coffee shop, Upfront makes it high on many visitors' itinerary.