Me and my fiancée Michelle both up at 0800 the boys still sleeping a peek out the curtains the rain is falling heavy typical winter English weather, a hot cup of tea to start the day followed by a lightly toasted piece of bread, smothered in Lurpack butter yum.
Boys awake and up and about both looking like they’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards, hot chocolate for both and cereal for breakfast, whilst we plan the day ahead, taking into account the garbage weather ahead of us.
Few searches through Google to what there is to do? The railway museum in Carnforth before we head to Kirkby Lonsdale maybe? Sadly doesn’t open until 12pm ideally we want to be away before then, make a day of our adventures, although I would like to visit the museum as its where the 1945 movie “Brief Encounter” directed by David Lean starring Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard was filmed, so will be worth a notable visit definitely.
So as we progress to getting ready two adults and two (just) teenagers (big lads) all jostling for space, becoming like a comedy sketch, “to me to you” in a medium sized plastic Lodge, easy big enough for two, but feeling a little squished with these two as well! Boys typically ready without a wash or hairbrush (scruffs) whereas us both having a bath, before getting ready, all the morning pots washed and a brief tidy up, things progressing well.
So on the road and out before 11am not quite the 8am we were aiming for but nether the less we are out and away and heading towards Kirkby Lonsdale just over the Cumbria border a nice little hamlet, oozing oldie world features tiny little streets quaint little rustic shops and cafes, as well as a few really interesting historic places to see.
So after a 20 minute drive, down winding country roads across rolling countryside we reach Kirkby Lonsdale , after driving around aimlessly for 20 minutes trying to park my car, finally spot a place on the road so whip it in there only an hour but enough to have a mooch, we wander down the wonderful streets ladened with old cottages and buildings, dates of construction are on every building 1644, 1697, 1722, 1746, 1801, 1823 etc the age of the town is incredible and relatively unchanged over time, yes a few modern building have appeared but other than that, it’s like stepping back into another era, a by gone time lost in history.
St Mary’s Church
As we wandered around we noticed a large set of wrought-iron gates, as we went across to investigate, we saw beyond the gates the stunning parish Church of St Mary’s dating back to the 12th century! On entering the church through the large solid wooden doors, it unveiled a beautiful architectural masterpiece of a Church, ornate columns, an amazing raised wooden roof along with a huge incredible stain glass window, the whole building just oozed history there was a really nice lady inside, I guess she was the church warden or the verger she was really informative and happy to answer any questions I had, I think the boys enjoyed the church, although they were shocked as they wandered around the graveyard reading the inscriptions, and just how many children were resting in the graves, I tried to explain that from 1800 to about 1870, the major causes of death in children were tuberculosis, diarrhea of infancy, bacillary dysentery, typhoid fever, and the highly contagious diseases of childhood, especially scarlet fever, diphtheria, and lobar pneumonia (oh the power of Google).
Kirkby Lonsdale Brewery
We then wandered back to the car which was parked conveniently right outside the Kirkby Lonsdale Brewery which was established in 2009, so as we had 18 minutes left of our hours parking, we went in for a pint of locally brewed ale, I can say with confidence it was delicious, obviously the two boys both being 13 yes old couldn’t drink so they were bribed with a Nutella pancake dish, once we finished our beers time to head to our next stop Devils Bridge.
Devils Bridge & Ruskins Steps
Being a bit of a history nut and a fully pledged geek, I was really looking forward to visiting this historical site, I’d read up on the bridge and its history including the folklore which intrigued me further. The bridge itself spans the River Lune to the south and east of Kirkby Lonsdale this three-arched bridge is thought to date back to the 12th or 13th century, and is a scheduled ancient monument.
If you look carefully at the bridge you’ll find a deep impression in the stone, known locally as the Devil’s hand print. There is, of course, a tale attached: Once upon a time there was an old woman lived on the banks of the Lune. One night her cow strayed across the river and couldn’t be tempted back. The Devil appeared and offered to build a bridge in exchange for the soul of the first body to cross it. He constructed the bridge himself and left a print in the wet stone.
The woman met him at the bridge, took a bun from her bag and threw it across the bridge. Her small dog went to retrieve it. The devil howled in anger at being tricked before vanishing forever. Makes a great tale but the bridge itself is amazing, in how it was built etc. Underneath amongst the ribs of the bridges arches, the stone masons that built the bridge have all chiselled in their own mark bit like a signature, really was a great place and we’ll worth a visit, after taking in this fine Medieval bridge we strolled alongside the river Lune upstream passing huge colossal ancient Oak Tree’ towering majestically above us, wondering what history they’ve witnessed? We carried on, on an easy level path which follows the river until it comes to ‘The Radical Steps’, 86 stone steps rising from the riverside all the way back up to St. Mary’s churchyard, built in 1819 by local man Francis Pearson, reputedly a bit of a political firebrand, hence the name of the steps…
After this pretty steep hard climb we came across a viewing point to the right… from here we found ourselves overlooking the wide sweep of the river towards the Middleton, Barbon and Leck Fells, a view described by thinker John Ruskin as ‘’one of the loveliest views in England, therefore in the world.’’ It was an amazing view one that you need to take the obligatory photo of. From here we made our way back to the car our next stop was taking us away from Kirkby Lonsdale and up to Kendal to see the infamous castle.
After arriving in Kendal after a relatively short drive, I had to negotiate the endless one-way streets that seem to take you in the oddest of pointless circles? But after driving around like the Griswald family we found the turn off to get to the castle. A small pay and display carpark greeted us which wasn’t working? Tried paying online again not working? So in the end thought sod it and simply parked the car. A steep set of steps greeted us through a wood, quite slippy but given the current weather, as we proceeded through the wood me and Michelle took the sensible pathway whereas the boys opted for the Bear Grylls route up a steep muddy hill through trees and fauna (boys will be boys) the climb is quite a trek up but we’ll worth the climb and effort.
Built around 1200, the stone castle was built to replace the wooden motte and bailey on the opposite side of the river at Castle Howe. This 13th century castle, built on a drumlin (a glacial hill), was the seat of power and administration for the barons of Kendal for over 200 years, most notably the Parr family.
Katherine Parr, the most famous family member and namesake for a local school, became Henry VIII sixth and surviving wife. A feisty and intelligent queen, we’re more than a little proud to say she came from Kendalian stock. But on the death of the last baron in 1571, William Parr, it gradually fell into a ruinous state, and today only parts of the castle wall and one tower remain.
Over three hundred years later, in 1897, celebrations for the diamond jubilee of another strong willed queen – Queen Victoria – involved the purchase of Castle Hill for ‘public enjoyment’, by the Kendal Corporation.
You can stroll around the ruins today and imagine what it must have been like all those years ago. Kendal Castle is also a fantastic spot for a picnic, and a great place to relax in fresh air as you enjoy the wonderful views over our town. (That’s my cut n paste history)
But on walking around this now derelict site you are still transported back to a by gone era lost in time, visual aid boards are all around the site detailing facts about what your looking at! As I explored walking around what was the great hall, then down into the kitchens and where food and drink would of been stored, remains of what was probably a cooking fire complete with a chimney cut through the walls, old reminiscent stairwells for servants to move around silently without disturbing the baron’s of the property, an old dungeon cell, with only a crag of light, the remains of a tower where again, people of stature would of stayed, although the site is now derelict with just a few shapes of buildings remaining its still an incredible place to visit, and to stand quietly for a second in the middle of the court yard and transport yourself back to that time, imagining the smells, the sights the way life was lived and how the land would have been so completely different to the views we see today
Have to say the day has been superb absorbed lots of history all completely free of charge, done over 11000 steps good for the body, the boys have been dragged away from the Xbox and the mobile phones, and actually seen beyond their screens this in itself is a triumph!