South Lakeland is an area less rugged than the high fells, yet it has beautiful rolling countryside and a wealth of attractions, as SANDY KITCHING discovers.


Nestling in the lush Lune Valley, Kirkby Lonsdale has quaint narrow cobbled streets that reveal a magical mixture of 17th and 18th century buildings, charming shops and enticing old fashioned inns.

Kirkby Lonsdale is a place of great contrasts. Art and landscape lovers visit the quaint St Mary's Church, that dates back to Norman times, and wander down to admire the sublime ‘Ruskin’s View’, whilst Devil’s Bridge is a magnet for hundreds of motorcyclists throughout the year.

Artist JMW Turner (1775-1851) painted the River Lune at a spot now called ‘Ruskin’s View’. John Ruskin (1819-1900), a lover of Turner’s work, was so impressed by the picture that he was inspired to eulogise: ‘I do not know in all my own country, still less in France or Italy, a place more naturally divine’. Ruskin’s view is accessed through the churchyard.

Spanning the River Lune to the south and east of Kirkby Lonsdale, the magnificent three-arched Devil’s Bridge probably dates from the 12th or 13th century, and is now a scheduled ancient monument.

There’s much to discover in the town and surrounding area whenever you decide to visit. You’ll find a range of boutiques selling leading brands, whether you are after the latest styles in country clothing and boots, or looking for party wear. Pop into the Kirkby Lonsdale Brewery’s new bar and try one of the many local craft ales.

There are spectacular walks and cycle routes, cultural and sporting events and seasonal festivals and fairs.


There’s much to discover in the Auld Grey town of Kendal and surrounding area with accommodation to suit all budgets, whether you fancy camping in a luxury yurt or eco-pod, or you have your sights set on a relaxing break being pampered in a luxury hotel or spa.

Kendal is often referred to as the 'Gateway to the Lakes', due to its proximity to the M6 and Oxenholme station on the West Coast main railway line.

Positioned on a hill to the east of the river Kent, the imposing ruin of Kendal Castle offers excellent views over the town. Built by William Rufus in the late 12th century, Kendal Castle is only a short walk from the town through pleasant leafy parkland. The castle was a forfeit to the crown in 1215 by King John, but was restored in 1241 and was subsequently inherited by the Parr family. It’s believed to have been the birthplace of Henry VIII's sixth wife Katherine Parr (1512-1548).

Another impressive landmark is the 800 year old Kendal Parish Church. Only three feet narrower than York Minster, its airy interior has five aisles allowing for larger windows that let the light flood in.

This once busy centre of the wool trade is steeped in history and full of old world charm with its narrow cobbled passages and old yards, which were once alive with leather tanning, spinning, weaving and cloth making. For centuries Kendal has been a main manufacturing town producing everything from shoes and carpets to snuff and mint cake.

Walking round the town you will discover individual boutiques, many traditional and contemporary jewellers and inspiring interior furnishing shops, as well as the high street favourites. You can while away a rainy day perusing the shelves of the elegant independent lifestyle shops, such as the delightful Armstrong Ward.

Kendal offers a tasty variety of food shops, local butchers, bakers and specialist delicatessens. Quaint tearooms and cosy coffee shops are dotted about the town, often tucked away down crooked alleyways. If you have a sweet tooth indulge in a hot chocolate at the famous 1657 Chocolate House, served by staff dressed in period costume. And don't forget to stock up on supplies of Kendal Mint Cake!

Kendal's restaurants, cafes and pubs offer a choice of local and international cuisines, ensuring there is something to satisfy everyone’s appetite.

People flock to Kendal’s popular monthly Farmers' Market, from where you can sample the delights of Cumbrian produce.

Kendal's cultural venues are all in convenient walking distance of one another. Abbot Hall Art Gallery has fine collections of 18th, 19th and 20th century paintings and has regular changing exhibitions. The adjacent Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry takes you back in time to discover how our Lakeland ancestors worked and entertained themselves in the past. It's refreshing to see that this traditional museum has avoided the modern museum make-over, and its recreated rooms are filled with authentic atmosphere and the smell of beeswax polish. Exhibits include intricately carved oak furniture made by the Arts and Crafts firm Simpsons of Kendal (

The Brewery Arts Centre is the year round hub for art exhibitions, cinema (including 3D), gigs, dance, comedy and theatre. Housed in the old brewery, it has fine restaurants and bars including the unusual Vats Bar where you can have your pint sitting inside a giant beer barrel (

A walk beside the fast flowing river Kent will bring you to Kendal Museum opposite Kendal train station. Founded in 1796, it is one of the country's oldest museums and is housed in a former wool warehouse. Alfred Wainwright was an Honorary Curator of the Museum and gave up his spare time for 30 years to look after the collections. There are changing exhibitions, as well as displays from the museum’s fascinatingly diverse collections (

Housed in the Friend's Meeting House, the Quaker Tapestry tells the story of 350 years of social history in 77 embroidered panels. It offers fine vegetarian cuisine in its adjacent Tea Room (

Sports enthusiasts will be kept entertained at Lakes Leisure Kendal, which provides facilities for a large range of wet and dry sports. If you need some practice before heading out into the landscape, you can have a go on the dry ski slope or visit Kendal Wall, a 20 metre high indoor climbing wall (


The Staveley area is set in a designated SSSI and the clean, fast flowing, water of the river Kent supports salmon, trout and rare freshwater pearl mussel and white-clawed crayfish. You may be lucky enough to spy an otter or kingfisher as you walk along its banks. Staveley is a thriving village with more than the average village’s quota of superb delis, shops, cafes an antiques shop, and the workshops of RR Stone. At Staveley Mill Yard you will find more than 20 retail enterprises and workshops including Wheelbase, who have a massive range of bikes and cycling gear. Then there are bespoke furniture makers, and artisan baker, cook shop and artists’ studios (

For those with a thirst for real ale, you can sample local brews in the impressive setting of the Hawkshead Brewery Beer Hall (

Travel just south of Kendal to visit the imposing Sizergh Castle, which is still the home of the Strickland family. Sizergh has many tales to tell and certainly feels lived-in, with centuries-old portraits and fine furniture sitting alongside modern family photographs. The Castle has rich and beautiful gardens to explore including a lake, a national collection of hardy ferns and a superb limestone rock garden. The 647-hectare (1,600-acre) estate includes limestone pasture, orchards and semi-natural woodland. (

Foodies will enjoy stopping at nearby Low Sizergh Barn, which boasts an award-winning farm shop brimming with local produce, café, gift shop and a working farm (

Six miles south of Kendal lies Levens Hall, a beautiful mansion that began life as a pele tower in the 14th Century and attracts visitors from around the globe to see the famous topiary. There are ten wonderful acres of gardens at Levens Hall waiting to be explored and enjoyed, including magnificent herbaceous borders and a romantic old orchard (