Spring 2024

Lake District bluebells

So far spring 2024 is a slow burner. The weather has not been great meaning the early Easter was a bit of a damp squib. However, you can’t stand in the way of nature and we have been treated to some wonderful displays of spring flowers, including daffodils which seem to get more prolific along roadside verges each year. Next will the fabulous bluebells and there are a number of wooded areas in the central Lakes where they can be admired. The most impressive display for me is at Rannerdale, next to beautiful Crummock Water, where the open valley is normally filled with a blue carpet. Well worth visiting via my Keswick-Borrowdale-Buttermere drive. The other joyful part of spring is the new wildlife and especially the lambs which never fail to please as they bound playfully across the fields.


Something else that seems to get more prolific are roadworks, no doubt these roads are high maintenance due to climate and usage with some of it also due to utility company works. It can be difficult to find details of local road closures but the best website I’ve found for this is Cumberland Council. You can see today or the next 2 weeks, 3 months or 12 months. Worth checking if you’re doing a drive out. It only includes planned closures, emergency closures might well be on the Cumbria Road Watch page on Facebook. The long running intermittent closure of Kirkstone Pass is ongoing from 16-30 April but that should hopefully be the last of it.


One drive I would recommend for this spring is the Penrith – Middle Eden Valley drive. It explores the scenic and unspoilt Eden Valley inbetween the Lake District National Park and the North Pennines Scenic Landscape. There are a number of pretty villages on route as well as some historic houses and prehistoric monuments.


Penrith town

Starting in the historic market town of Penrith which is a hub for northern Cumbria at the intersection of the north-south M6 motorway and east-west A66 trunk road. It is a quaint town with local red sandstone buildings and some good independent shops and eateries. Also some historic buildings such as the 14th century ruined castle and St Andrew’s Church, parts of which are 13th century. From Penrith, head across the M6 on the A66 and soon arrive at Rheged, a fascinating visitor centre built into the countryside and containing various shops and attractions to entertain the family. Then proceed along the A592, following the River Eamont towards Ullswater. Soon you briefly enter the Lake District National Park and reach the impressive Dalemain where you can tour the historic house and attractive gardens. More recent fame has arrived courtesy of its fascination with all things marmalade, including their own World Marmalade Awards festival!

Eden Bridge picnic site

Beyond Dalemain, take the minor road to pretty Dacre village with its ancient church and attractive pub. Then back across the A66 heading north to Greystoke village with its seasonal outdoor public swimming pool which are a feature of this area. Nearby Greystoke Castle, which has nothing to do with Tarzan, is apparently opening up to the public with various attractions in the near future. From there, continue northwards to Hutton-in-the-Forest, a fabulous stately home and gardens which are open to the public. Then turn eastwards, back across the M6 and into the undulating Eden valley with pleasant pastures and good views ahead towards the Pennine hills, before descending to Lazonby village with its station on the famously scenic Settle to Carlisle railway and another outdoor public swimming pool. Just beyond the village you meet the mighty River Eden and a pleasant picnic site adjacent to the river and to Eden Bridge. Here is also one of the Eden Benchmarks, a series of ten stone sculptures commissioned to commemorate the new millennium and located at strategic points along the River Eden.

Long Meg And Her Daughters Stone Circle

Over the historic Eden Bridge is the attractive red sandstone village of Kirkoswald, the historic church has a separate bell tower on an adjacent hill. The road now turns southwards and soon climbs away from the river, through Glassonby village and to St Michael & All Angels Church, another historic and attractive church, relocated here in the 13th century after the original village of Addingham was swept away when the river Eden changed its course. A very peaceful location now, standing in splendid isolation amongst farmland. The Eden valley is well known for its prehistoric sites and not far beyond here are two stone circles, quite close to each other in distance but opposite ends of the spectrum in size. Little Meg is only a few metres across and quite well hidden in a field. Long Meg And Her Daughters are more like 100m across, the many large stones forming the circle are the daughters with Long Meg a large isolated stone watching over them. It is apparently the second largest stone circle in the country and possibly the only drive-through one with a minor access road across the centre!

Beyond there, descend through Little Salkeld village and continue onwards, following the Settle to Carlisle railway line to the village of Langwathby with its large village green, pub and railway station. Beyond the village, a pleasant open road with good surrounding views follows the River Eden and the railway line to Culgaith village, also with a pub and church. A short descent from there leads to the historic National Trust property of Acorn Bank. An impressive house with some wonderful gardens and grounds, including good displays of spring flowers. You can also see the old restored watermill in action at certain times.

Brougham Castle

Now the drive heads westwards, back towards Penrith, crossing the River Eden on another Eden Bridge. On route are the lovely Winderwath Gardens and the ever popular Whinfell Forest Center Parcs resort. Continue along the main A66 for a short distance until you reach Brougham Castle, a 13th century English Heritage property often open to the public. Despite being in ruins it is an impressive sight next to the River Eamont and worth a wonder. An old Roman Fort lies next door. Just beyond you reach the historic Brougham Hall, an ancient building and adjacent chapel with a fascinating history. It was once known as the ‘Windsor of the North’ as travelling monarchs used to stay there. Nowadays it is home to several artisan shops which you can visit.

Mayburgh Henge

Nearby again are two more prehistoric sites, King Arthurs Round Table and Mayburgh Henge. The former has nothing to do with the legendary King Arthur! Preceding his time by a few thousand years. These two henge sites are open to the public and although there isn’t a great deal to see they are impressive circular structures, especially when you consider they were hand built and Mayburgh Henge is estimated to be made of 5 million river cobbles. Both were recognised for their historical importance in 1882 when they were part of a select few English sites included in the Ancient Monuments Protection Act.

The last leg of the drive passes through Eamont Bridge village, over the River Eamont and the A66 and back into Penrith. After all that scenery and history you might well be ready for refreshments at one of the many cafes, pubs and restaurants in the town. A personal favourite is Cranstons in the town which has a lovely cafe and an excellent selection of local produce in the shop.